The Illinois State Police acknowledged lapses Thursday in the agency’s enforcement of the same gun license laws that might have prevented a shooter from killing five people and injuring six others last week in Aurora.
Only one of every four people in the state whose firearm owner’s identification card was revoked last year properly notified the police that they no longer had any weapons — and a minuscule number of owners were punished for not doing so, the state police acknowledged in an unusual and lengthy written statement late Thursday.
They also said they have no record that their agency ever told the Aurora police of the 2014 revocation of the FOID card held by Gary Martin, the gunman in last week’s mass shooting.
They said that doesn’t necessarily mean a letter was never sent to local law enforcement, though, because those records are kept for only three years.
The revealing statement — released almost a week after Martin opened fire at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora — came as officials review what went wrong for Martin to have kept his weapon after his gun license was revoked.
Martin had successfully applied for a FOID card in 2014 after he lied about his criminal background, which included a 1995 aggravated assault conviction in Mississippi that, under state law, should have prevented him from owning any weapons.
When the state police did their own background check on Martin, they didn’t find the conviction on several state and federal databases they checked.
It did turn up five days later, though, in another background check, this one for Martin’s concealed-carry license application. The state police said that’s likely only because, to speed approval of his application for the concealed-carry license, Martin submitted an optional fingerprint.
Martin’s concealed-carry application was denied, and his FOID card was revoked. But the handgun that he bought in the few days between the applications — the one the police say he used in last Friday’s rampage — was never confiscated.
The state police noted that state law requires them to notify local police of a revoked FOID, but local authorities are not required to acknowledge receipt of a letter.
The Aurora Police Department had said earlier this week that it had found no record it was alerted that Martin’s FOID had been revoked five years before the attack.
“Our records have not confirmed notification of a FOID card revocation or the recovery of firearms from the named subject in 2014 or any time since,” the Aurora police said.
The state police said gun-law lapses similar to Martin’s instance are not uncommon.
Once FOID cards are revoked, the card-holders are required to return their license and submit a form — called a Firearm Disposition Record — within 48 hours informing police they have gotten rid of any weapons they owned.
In 2018, about 75 percent of FOID card-holders whose cards were revoked — 8,202 of 10,818 — never told police that they had given up any weapons in their possession. The same year, more than 7,300 of FOID holders never returned their revoked cards, according to the state police.
From 2014 to 2019, there have been just 110 arrests for failure to return a FOID card or for not filling out a Firearm Disposition Record, according to the state police. Last year, there were only 10 arrests.