he Illinois State Police solicit grant requests from law enforcement agencies throughout the state each year to perform “firearm enforcement” activities. In other words, the ISP pays for local LEOs to conduct “compliance checks,” confiscating firearms from those who violate the Illinois FOID Act.
While this is not the time or place to debate the constitutionality of the FOID scheme (Guns Save Life has filed a lawsuit challenging it, and a court decision is pending), here are some raw numbers.
According to a press release issued by the ISP on February 24th, 30 agencies have accepted grants to carry out these confiscations in 2022. The agencies carried out 1,115 firearms enforcement checks (call it about three dozen per agency over the entire year). They discovered guns with 472 of those people and “brought them into compliance.”
From the ISP press release:
The enforcement details focus on individuals who have become the subject of a Firearm Restraining Order or Clear and Present Danger, or received a criminal conviction, among other reasons.
“Among other things…” For example, an expired FOID card.
The state of Illinois has 994 police departments. That equates to 3.01% of the agencies receiving grants. Clearly, the vast majority of state agencies aren’t pounding on the ISP’s door for “free money” to conduct gun confiscation raids based on expired FOID cards.
Recently, at several Guns Save Life meetings across the state, we’ve had local sheriffs and police chiefs laugh when asked if they’re doing “FOID enforcement” gun confiscations. While they all said they aren’t doing any gun confiscation runs, one said it extra succinctly. “Hell no, we’re not,” he said. “If they want them that bad they can pick ’em up themselves.”
Is it worth it for the Illinois State Police to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants each year to bring 472 “individuals into compliance” with the FOID Act? Especially since these people were previously registered, card-carrying good guys and gals?
Wouldn’t that money be better spent on details devoted to apprehending recidivist felon gang members in larger cities wielding fully automatic GLOCKs?
Perhaps there’s a simple reason why they prefer going after FOID holders and not hardcore ‘bangers.
At one of our GSL meetings, the leader of an ISP group that conducted some of those “firearm enforcement” details in the past candidly admitted that the ISP officers under him were people just like the rest of us. “We get paid the same to visit the house of an old veteran with an expired FOID card as we did to pay a visit to some genuine bad guy with warrants for his arrest. I don’t have to tell which ones got priority for us from an officer safety standpoint.”
If you’re slow to catch on, it means they treated the old vet with kid gloves. They assisted him in getting his guns to a friend or family member until his FOID was renewed. They may have even assisted that elderly person in navigating the online process of applying for a new FOID card. And, wouldn’t you know it, that took up a significant portion of their day. Then, with a smirk, he said, “Sorry, boss. I didn’t have time for the rest…”
He noted that people with outstanding warrants usually avoid answering the door when 5-0 comes knockin’, so it was still a good day’s work for them. Everyone got home safely and helped someone. Isn’t that the point of policing?
We anticipate a decision on the FOID challenge soon. However, until the FOID Act is overturned and the State of Illinois’ appeals are exhausted, Illinois residents should avoid visits from ISP or any other law enforcement agency by not allowing their FOID cards to expire.