CHICAGO (CBS) — Nearly three weeks after a shooter with a revoked firearm license killed five people at a factory in Aurora, Illinois State Police have unveiled a laundry list of changes designed to make it easier for police to make sure people don’t keep their guns after losing their licenses.
A four-page list of changes released by Illinois State Police on Wednesday was described as the “first steps” in an effort to improve enforcement of Firearm Owner’s Identification card revocations.
“While the weaknesses of our nation’s background check system remain daunting, we must take whatever steps we can, large and small, to strengthen the fabric of these systems because any improvement could be the one that makes the difference,” Illinois State Police Acting Director Brendan Kelly said in a statement. “While we simply cannot do it alone, we must increase sharing of information, the quality and value of information shared, and most importantly enforcement. Mailed letters are not enough.”
The changes come on the heels of the Lake County Sheriff’s office announcing it would send out teams of detectives to recover revoked FOID cards and concealed carry permits when they learn the state has pulled someone’s license. They also will make sure anyone with a revoked license does not possess any guns.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart also proposed raising FOID card fees to pay for county task forces to seize guns when licenses are revoked. Dart has said the current system for handling revoked FOID cards is broken and unreliable.
“The system is the honor system; literally, that’s it. There’s nothing else,” Dart said last month.
When the state revokes someone’s FOID card, state police send a notice to the license holder and to local police. The law requires anyone whose FOID card is revoked to surrender their license to local police within 48 hours, and complete a “firearm disposition record” form listing what they have done with each of their firearms. Guns can either be transferred to another FOID card holder, or surrendered to police or the courts.
Among the changes being implemented by Illinois State Police: local police department’s and sheriff’s offices will be given greater access to the list of people whose FOID cards have been revoked, as well as a list of all guns purchased by someone who has lost their license. Local authorities also will be told why a person on the list has lost their license, and whether the license holder has submitted the required firearm disposition record.
State police also will “triage” its list of revoked gun licenses to identify “the highest risk individuals,” and work with local police to make sure they don’t have any guns.
The changes come in the wake of a deadly workplace shooting in Aurora on Feb. 15. Gary Martin, a disgruntled employee of Henry Pratt Company, opened fire at the factory after learning he was being fired, and shot six employees. Five died, one was wounded. He also shot five police officers who responded to the shooting, before officers killed Martin at the scene.
Martin had his FOID card revoked in 2014, but never gave up his gun.
When Martin applied for a Firearm Owner’s Identification card in 2014, an Illinois State Police criminal background check did not reveal his 1995 conviction for aggravated assault in Mississippi. The conviction wasn’t discovered until five days later, in a new background check after Martin applied for a concealed carry license, and submitted his fingerprints to speed up the application.
Illinois State Police revealed Martin’s Mississippi arrest did not show up in databases, because his Mississippi state identification number did not appear in databases until Thursday, more than two decades after he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault involving a former girlfriend.
State police also acknowledged lapses in enforcement of FOID card laws, after a review of how Martin was allowed to keep his gun after his FOID card was revoked. That gun was the weapon Martin used in the mass shooting.