June 9, 2021
By Jacob Huebert
122 days. That’s the average time it took Illinois to process a person’s application to possess a gun last year. It’s far too much time—far longer than state law allows—and unfortunately, a court decision means that the state will likely continue to break its own law and keep denying Illinoisans their Second Amendment rights.
In an order issued today, the federal district court in Chicago declined to grant a preliminary injunction to stop the state of Illinois’s illegal delays in issuing the permits Illinoisans need to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Illinois is one of just two states that require residents to obtain a state license, called a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card, to be allowed to possess any type of firearm. State law requires the Illinois State Police to grant or deny a FOID card application within 30 days of receiving it. For many years, the state has typically taken much longer. The problem became worse in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a surge of applications coming after outbreaks of violence and looting in and around Chicago. Last year, the Illinois State Police admitted that it was taking an average of 122 days to process applications.
The Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit on behalf of individuals who had been waiting longer than 30 days to receive their FOID cards, as well as two organizations whose members are affected, the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation. The lawsuit argues that these illegal delays violate the Second Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.
In today’s order, Judge Mary M. Rowland of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois concluded that the plaintiffs are unlikely to succeed on their claims. Her order stated that “[a]lthough the delays are a burden on the Second Amendment rights of the applicants, they are not so severe as to render the process unconstitutional.” And it concluded that Supreme Court precedents stating that due process requires the government to issue permits to exercise First Amendment rights within a “specific brief time period” should not apply to permits to exercise Second Amendment rights.
We respectfully disagree. Illinois completely denies its residents their Second Amendment rights unless and until state officials get around to issuing them a permit—for no good reason. These delays are not necessary to protect the public. They exist only because the state has long refused to devote the necessary resources to timely process applications. The delays are not a minor infringement of Second Amendment rights but a severe one—one that could cost people their lives as they are denied an effective means of defending their lives, homes, and families.
The plaintiffs are currently determining whether to immediately appeal this decision or to wait for a final judgment. In any event, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit will eventually have to rule on whether the FOID delays violate Illinoisans’ constitutional rights.
Jacob Huebert is a Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.