July 21, 2020
By Jacob Huebert
For five years, D’Andre Bradley stood ready to defend his country as a U.S. Marine. But today—as violent crime is raging in Chicago—he is limited in his ability to defend his Chicago Heights home and his family, all because the state of Illinois is preventing him from exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms. Now, he’s one of four law-abiding Chicago-area residents who have teamed up with the Goldwater Institute to sue the state of Illinois to ensure that their Second Amendment rights are protected.
Illinois requires its residents to obtain a state license—called a Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) card—before they may purchase or even possess a firearm of any kind. But for Bradley and the other plaintiffs—who diligently applied for a card and qualify under the law—owning a gun is a virtual impossibility because the state has failed to issue cards within the 30 days required under the law. In fact, the state is taking as long as 60 days, 90 days, or even longer to issue licenses.
“This is a basic civil rights issue,” Bradley says. “Everyone has a fundamental right to self-defense. If the state is going to require a license to exercise that right, then it should at least respect its own time limit.”
In a time when violence and looting are widespread in the Chicago area, it’s not surprising that there’s been a surge in applications for FOID cards. On June 2 alone, the state received nearly 5,000 applications. Yet as Illinoisans are desperate to defend themselves, Illinois’s rule is a severe restriction on their Second Amendment rights. In fact, it’s one of only two states that requires a license (the other is Massachusetts). Without an FOID card, an Illinoisan can’t have even the simplest rifle or shotgun for home defense.
What the Law Requires – And How Illinois is Falling Short
State law requires the Illinois State Police to issue a FOID card within 30 days of a receiving a resident’s application, as long as he or she isn’t disqualified by a factor such as a felony conviction or mental illness. Thirty days is a long time to wait just to be allowed to exercise a fundamental individual right. And in a time in which widespread looting and violence in the Chicagoland area is capturing headlines, to people who need to protect themselves from an immediate threat, that delay could be deadly. But at least the law gives the state some deadline, which would seem to be better than no deadline.
The state admits that this problem of long delays in fulfilling applications exists. Recently, the Illinois State Police claimed it was taking an average of 51 days to send out cards, but many applicants report they’ve been waiting much longer.
The state, however, isn’t willing to do anything about this. In fact, it persistently diverts money that should fund the processing of applications to other purposes.
Illinois Should Take Immediate Action
The Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit is asking the courts to order the state to give the individual plaintiffs their FOID cards immediately, and to issue all qualified applicants their cards within 30 days as state law requires. Or, if the state isn’t willing or able to do whatever it takes to process applications on time, then the courts should just strike down the FOID scheme—which is constitutionally questionable in the first place—entirely.
Federal courts have had to step in to protect Illinoisans’ Second Amendment rights more than once in the past decade. The Supreme Court famously ended Chicago’s handgun ban in the landmark McDonald v. City of Chicago decision in 2010. Chicago tried to evade that ruling by promptly passing an ordinance that required individuals to receive training at a firing range before they could own a handgun—and also banned all firing ranges in the city. The U.S. Court of Appeals struck that down in 2011, and in 2012, it struck down a state law that banned Illinoisians from carrying a loaded firearm anywhere.
Now it’s time for the courts to end the FOID card delays that are indefinitely and completely denying thousands of Illinoisans their Second Amendment rights—or just end the FOID scheme altogether.
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