Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has lashed out against the state's firearm owners identification (FOID) program, which a recent audit found to have serious communication gaps that have allowed individuals deemed mentally unfit to obtain deadly weapons.
The audit found that, in 2010, only three of the state's 102 circuit court clerks relayed information to the Illinois State Police about individuals deemed mentally unfit for firearm ownership, thereby failing to prohibit the issuance of FOID cards.
"[T]he effectiveness of the FOID card program is limited in promoting and protecting the safety of the public," Auditor General William Holland wrote in the report.
Dart told the Chicago Tribune that he was taken aback by the audit's findings:
"How are people going to explain away the fact that a horrific event occurred, and it turns out this person had diagnosed mental health issues and their card was not (taken away or) the information was never forwarded to the state police, so they never had the ability to take the card away?"
The audit also said the program, created in 1968, also has lengthy delays in processing card requests, according to the Associated Press. Further, more than 20,000 FOID cards have been revoked in Illinois between 2008 and 2010, but only 30 percent of those cards were actually recovered.
The state's FOID program issues also affects gun purchases outside of the state, due to the FBI's national criminal background check database. Holland told the Tribune that, because of that communication gap, "the safety of the general public as a whole is at risk."
Monique Bond, a spokesperson for the Illinois State Police, said last month that their FOID department has already begun to work toward improving communication and blocking those deemed "mentally defective" or "intellectually disabled" from purchasing guns and ammunition in Illinois.
As of the end of 2011, roughly 1.4 million Illinoisans are FOID card-carrying gun owners. 78,000 people registered for FOID cards last year alone.
The audit's findings arrive amid gun rights advocates' latest effort to change the fact that the Illinois currently remains the only state in the union without a concealed carry law on the books. Downstate Democrat Rep. Brandon Phelps has sponsored a bill that would allow residents to carry concealed weapons.
"If it was so bad, why isn’t there any other states trying to repeal this? It works," Phelps said earlier this year of his bill.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has repeatedly emphasized that he will veto any concealed carry bill that reaches his desk.