ST. LOUIS — Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders, the I-Team has reported gun sales and buyer background checks keep hitting record highs. In Illinois, that’s accompanied by a flood of new applications for the state’s firearm owner permit program.
July was the third month in a row where gun buyer background checks set a record in Illinois, topping the high numbers of checks earlier in the year, according to the FBI.
Dealers told 5 On Your Side that demand is driven by people who haven’t owned a gun before. In Illinois, those new owners are required to have a Firearm Owner Identification card, or FOID card, before they can buy a gun.
Over 17 days in June, Illinois State Police (ISP) received more than 42,000 FOID applications, a 500% increase over the same time for the previous year.
“It's still about two to two and a half times the average of what we would typically see in a month, looking at it back historically. So when you compare this to previous times, the overall total for June was just shy of 63,000 applications for new FOID cards. That, based on our historical records, is the single highest month in the history of FOID,” said Major Jarod Ingrebrigtsen, public safety services commander with the ISP.
He added that the increase in FOID applications is coming from all over the state.
Ingebrigtsen told 5 On Your Side that right now, the wait time for a FOID application to be processed is up from 25 days to 94, on average.
“The dramatic increase in FOID applications, as well as the firearm transfer inquiries, those two things together, have created significant increase in the workload within the [Firearm Services] Bureau. Over that same period of time, we've seen the transition of personnel away and out of the Bureau to other areas of the state or agency and then you put all that together with the COVID pandemic and then recent current events and that all kinds of factors into the workload increase within our staff,” said Ingrebrigtsen.
Each application goes through 42 steps from start to finish. Members of the Firearm Services Bureau are using telework to get through the flood of applications.
“Those employees, each employee’s working, you know, an average of a week, of over an extra week of overtime every month,” said Ingebrigtsen.
Ingebrigtsen added that, if you’re waiting on a FOID application to be processed, the best way to stay up to date is to visit the Illinois State Police website or use the automated options through their call center.
Applicants will have to log in at the Firearm Services Bureau website in order to check the status of their application. The automated phone system for applicants at 217-782-7980 can also provide information about processing times and application status.