Illinois gun lobby takes aim at ‘unacceptable’ delays in handling Concealed Carry License applications

The lawsuit alleges state police “routinely” exceed the 90-day requirement to issue or deny a Concealed Carry License for applications with fingerprints and a 120-day requirement for those without fingerprints. State police countered that it “is a time consuming and deliberate process.”

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Firearms on display at Marengo Guns in Marengo in January.

Firearms on display at Marengo Guns in Marengo in January.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s top gun lobbying group filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, accusing the Illinois State Police of undermining a “fundamental right” by dragging their feet on approving licenses to allow people to carry concealed firearms — taking more than a year for some gun owners.

The Illinois State Police countered that the paperwork and background checks for Concealed Carry Licenses “is a time consuming and deliberate process,” and they often need longer than the legally mandated 120-day maximum to preserve Illinois residents’ “safety and security.”

Applications for the licenses have spiked during the pandemic, along with gun sales. At the end of last year, 343,299 licenses had been issued, compared to 90,301 in 2014, according to state police figures.

The Illinois State Rifle Association’s lawsuit alleges the state police “routinely” exceed the 90-day requirement to issue or deny a Concealed Carry License for applications with fingerprints and a 120-day requirement for those without fingerprints.

“The delays are unacceptable and a lawsuit at this point seems to be the only way to get them stopped,” said Richard Pearson, executive director of the firearms owners’ rights organization.

Some of the firearms on display at Marengo Guns in Marengo in January.

Some of the firearms on display at Marengo Guns in Marengo in January.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times file

The average waiting time to get a license is 145 days, according to state police figures from last December. Pearson says he has heard from Illinois gun owners who have had to wait longer than a year. He pegs the average waiting time at 180 to 200 days.

“There are a lot of people worried about their own defense. And they’ve gone through all the training, they’ve gone through numerous background checks, and yet they can’t get their concealed carry card,” Pearson said.

The Illinois State Police declined to comment on the lawsuit specifically, but a spokeswoman defended the agency’s handling of Firearm Owner Identification Cards, which are required to possess guns, and Concealed Carry Licenses, which allow the holder to carry the firearm in unrestricted locations.

“Ensuring that FOID cards and concealed carry permits are promptly issued to Illinois’ citizens lawfully entitled to them is a priority for the Illinois State Police,” said Mindy Carroll, an agency spokeswoman. “For the safety and security of Illinois residents, it is imperative that all FOID and concealed carry applications are reviewed thoroughly and that all relevant background information is rigorously verified and researched.

Guns on display at Kee Firearms and Training in New Lenox.

Guns on display at Kee Firearms and Training in New Lenox in January.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file.

“This is a time consuming and deliberate process. At times, the review process is lengthened due to the volume of applications, background verifications, and other operational considerations.”

Carroll noted that the Illinois State Police has added 25 Firearms Eligibility Analysts since March of last year to process these applications and seven more staff members starting this month.

The lawyer who filed the lawsuit Monday says the agency is firing blanks.

“There’s a state mandate to meet the deadlines. And the courts have said that concealed carry is a fundamental right. And it’s a right that’s being denied to Illinois residents just basically due to bureaucratic inefficiency,” said David Sigale, an Illinois State Rifle Association lawyer.

“So, to just say, ‘Well, too bad, we don’t have the manpower,’ that’s not right. Manpower and funding is not an excuse to deny people’s rights. And I can’t think of any other circumstances where people would allow that.”

The gun lobby’s lawsuit joins a similar case filed last summer in federal court accusing state police of failing to timely address FOID applications, the permit that allows Illinoisans to own a gun in the first place.

“The FOID card issue and the concealed carry issue are two sides of the same coin,” Sigale said. “The right for self defense in public versus in self defense in your home. Both are fundamental.”

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