Legislation would require even more background checks for Illinoisans wanting firearms

A Second Amendment advocate says this latest gun-restriction bill is a tactic to keep firearms out of law-abiding citizens’ hands.

Despite Illinois having nearly four million background checks done on gun owning residents in 2023, Illinoisans who want to buy a firearm would have to undergo state-approved training and three background checks if a proposed bill makes it across the finish line.

A Second Amendment advocate says this latest gun-restriction bill is a tactic to keep firearms out of law-abiding citizens’ hands.

House Bill 3239, sponsored by state Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, would obligate Illinoisans who want to buy a firearm to go through eight hours of training and other requirements. The bill is in the House Judiciary Criminal Committee, which is scheduled to meet in Springfield Tuesday.

William Kirk, president of Washington Gun Law, said the measure woud require residents who want to purchase a firearm to go to their local law enforcement department and go through a background check with fingerprinting.

"Once that permission slip is given to them, they would have 180 days in which they could purchase a firearm. They have to turn that card into the [federal firearms licensee]. The FFL has to take a receipt of it. It’s like a punch-card, you get to buy one per permission slip,” said Kirk. “Illinois also has the goofy [Firearm Owners Identification] card as well, so anyone who has a FOID card has to undergo a background check, then of course anyone who has ever purchased a gun knows that any FFL is going to run you through a federally-mandated background check and then you have to go through a background check when you get your permission slip from local police."

A FOID card is required in Illinois for residents to own or purchase firearms and ammunition. According to numbers from Illinois State Police, over 2.4 million Illinois residents possess FOID cards, nearly 19% of the state's 12.7 million people. The greatest number of these cards have been issued in Cook County, with over 730,000 active cards at the end of 2023. Champaign County had issued 34,144.

"Illinois residents will have to go through a background check, to get a background check to get a background check,” Kirk said.

Illinoisans already undergo some of the most extensive background checks when it comes to firearms. Federal Bureau of Investigations firearm background check data shows Illinois had 248,767 background checks in February. Most of those, or 163,355, were "permit rechecks." That's second in the country next to Kentucky's 321,300 total checks and 294,377 rechecks. The third highest state for February rechecks was Utah with 50,486.

For all of 2023, FBI data show Illinois had 3,961,236 total firearm background checks in the country. That's more than any other state and nearly 300,000 more than Kentucky's 3.6 million total checks.

The mandatory eight-hour class required in the proposed Illinois legislation is a big problem, Kirk said. He’s seen this in other jurisdictions, like California, and what usually happens is the classes have to be state certified.

"State law enforcement gets to certify and say who the instructors are. It's a very limited number of instructors and they don’t allow private companies to be in on it because the government wants a monopoly on it,” said Kirk. “That is another method that they can use to disarm lawful citizens.”

HB3239 would require Illinois residents who want to buy a firearm to undergo eight hours of mandatory training approved by the director of the Illinois State Police.

Kirk said this bill makes it to where Illinois citizens have to seek the government’s permission before exercising an unalienable right. He said HB3239 and the FOID card would likely be struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Students Demand Action of Illinois are proponents of the bill. There are 15 proponents and nearly 1,800 opponents.

On social media, Hirschauer said gun violence is a public health epidemic.

"Gun violence is a complex public health and safety crisis that deserves holistic, multifaceted policy solutions," Hirschauer said in a social media post.

Hirschauer did not immediately respond to The Center Square's request for comment.

Greg Bishop contributed to this report.