SPRINGFIELD — Rep. Kathleen Willis’ bill to increase Firearm Owner’s Identification card fees and mandate fingerprinting was not brought to a vote by the Senate before the end of session Sunday.
Willis, a Democrat from Addison, said she remains committed to working on the bill over the summer with hopes of reviving it during the fall veto session, a brief two-week period in November when lawmakers return to the Capitol.
“I always find bills can find ways to be better,” Willis said.
She said she was “extremely disappointed the Senate chose not to “call” the bill.
The push to overhaul and modernize the Firearm Owner’s Identification Act was a response to the Feb. 15 shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora. The shooter, who left five dead and wounded five officers, had his FOID card revoked and was illegally in possession of firearms.
Under Willis’ proposal, both new applications for FOID cards and five-year card renewals would cost $20, up from the current cost of $10. The fees would have gone toward law enforcement revocation efforts.
“The bottom line is we need to fix the revocation system, and there’s no doubt about that,” Willis said.
The increased fees and a mandate that FOID applicants be fingerprinted drew opposition from those who questioned the bill’s constitutionality and believed the increased fees would cost too much.
“I still contend fingerprints at the front end will cut down on the wrong people getting a FOID card,” Willis said.
“When we are dealing with nearly 10,000 FOID cards annually being revoked for a number of reasons, we need to be sure we’re giving the state police the resources and ability to do their job appropriately,” said Rep. Kathleen Willis, an Addison Democrat and the bill’s House chief sponsor.
Willis took questions for more than three hours in the House chamber about ways the law would fix “deficiencies” in the state’s gun revocation process and prevent circumstances similar to those that led to the Henry Pratt Co. shooting in Aurora.
Willis said some of the current deficiencies boil down to people lying about their identity on FOID applications, a problem she said could be countered by the fingerprint requirement since “fingerprints cannot lie.”
Republicans who opposed Senate Bill 1966 pointed to a bill filed by Rep. Keith Wheeler, a Republican from Oswego, that appropriated funds to revocation efforts without requiring a fingerprint mandate. But that bill did not achieve any legislative success.
Lawmakers on both sides agreed that the revocation system needs improvements, but disagreed on what changes should be made.
Willis said she and Wheeler will work over the summer to address FOID revocations.
“I might be slowed down, but I’m not down,” Willis said.
The bill passed the Illinois House in a 62-52 vote Wednesday, May 29.
Rep. Terri Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, said Willis’ bill is a “delay” that doesn’t get the heart of the shooting in Aurora. Additionally, she said, SB1966 determines who can and cannot afford to own firearms and it stands a high chance of being undone if cases challenging FOID are overturned by the courts.
“This bill does absolutely nothing to address the very real issues identified in the tragedy of Aurora,” Bryant said. “The driving force behind this was to fix what happened in Aurora so that we could all get beyond what those problems were.”
Wheeler said he agreed with some of the provisions Willis placed in her bill, but he questioned if the cost to run a task force to recover revoked firearms and cards could far exceed the costs from the State Firearm Revocation Fund.
Recovering firearms is a matter of public safety, he said, adding that he believes revocation efforts should receive more dependable state appropriations.
“There has to be some kind of understanding of what a program is going to cost as we try to implement it,” Wheeler said. “I don’t see how what we’re taking in this bill and moving into that recovery fund is actually going to be enough to do that in year one or two or three.”
Rep. Kambium Buckner, a Chicago Democrat, said he agreed with the intent of the bill and supports Willis’ efforts before turning to his concerns about costs.
He said he is worried the added fees would turn “right of self-defense” into a “luxury” for those who are “economically depressed” and unable to afford the cost of gun ownership.
“I don’t want to see fees adjusted to a point where they become so steep that they may drive a person — who would normally follow a legal process — in a different direction, because they can’t come up with the money we’re now demanding they come up with,” Buckner said.