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Dart says task forces should seize illegal guns from people like Aurora shooter

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says task forces should seize guns from people when FOID cards are revoked. | Sun-Times file photo

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Friday proposed raising the fee for state firearm licenses to fund county task forces that would seize guns from people with revoked gun cards.

Dart said the current “red-flag” system for keeping guns out of the hands of felons, the mentally ill and people with orders of protection is “ineffective.”

“This is not rocket science,” Dart said. “This is easy stuff.”

Convicted felon Gary Martin exposed the flaws in the state’s gun laws, Dart said.

Last week, Martin killed five coworkers and wounded five officers at an Aurora warehouse because he was enraged over being fired. He had a handgun even though his state firearm licenses were revoked.

In 2014, Martin got a firearm owner’s identification card, which is required in Illinois to own a gun. Felons aren’t allowed to have FOID cards, but a state police background check using his name and date of birth failed to discover he was sentenced to five years in prison for stabbing a woman in Mississippi.

Later in 2014, Martin applied for a concealed-carry permit, which was denied when his fingerprints were linked to his felony conviction. His FOID card was then revoked, too.

Martin was flagged because he’d submitted his fingerprints to speed up the processing of his concealed-carry permit, but the state doesn’t require fingerprints to apply for a FOID card or a concealed-carry permit.

When his gun permits were revoked, the state police were supposed to send a letter to Martin saying he needed to transfer any firearms he owned to another FOID cardholder or his local police department. The state police also were supposed to notify the Aurora Police Department in an electronic message.

Guns seized by the Cook County sheriff’s office in 2013 during visits to homes of people with revoked gun licenses. | Sun-Times file photo.
Guns seized by the Cook County sheriff’s office in 2013 during visits to homes of people with revoked gun licenses. | Sun-Times file photo.

But the state police say they purged those electronic messages after three years. So they don’t have a record of sending the message — and the Aurora police say they don’t have a record of getting one.

Martin never filed the required Firearm Disposition Record saying what he did with his weapons, authorities say. It doesn’t appear any law enforcement officers went to his home to look for guns, either.

Dart proposes that every county in Illinois form a task force to make sure people like Martin with revoked FOID cards don’t “fall through the cracks” and keep their guns. The state could raise the $10 fee for a FOID card to $15 to pay for officers to visit the homes of scofflaws, he said.

Sheriffs and state’s attorneys would work together to track every revocation and coordinate with the local police agency where the holder of a revoked FOID card lives.

The state police would use their Firearm Transfer Inquiry Program to inform the task forces whether someone with a revoked FOID card had bought firearms and how many. That isn’t being done now and would probably require new legislation to do, Dart said.

For at least five years, Dart has been sending officers out to look for guns owned by people with revoked FOID cards, but he says his officers are operating in the dark because they don’t know if the person has bought a dozen guns or none at all.

Many police departments in Illinois don’t even conduct such home visits to recover guns.

The Illinois State Police revealed Thursday that 10,818 FOID cards revoked statewide last year, but only 2,616 people with revoked cards submitted a Firearm Disposition Record stating what they did with their firearms. And only 10 people across Illinois were charged last year with violating the law requiring them to submit those forms.

“The gist is that everyone knows this system is ineffective and there has been no desire to make it effective,” Dart said.