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dir="ltr" style="font-size: 12px;">Illinois lawmakers have raided funds meant to help the Illinois State Police facilitate gun registrations, concealed-carry licensing and other services and used the money for other purposes without paying it back, according to a gun-rights group.
An investigation conducted by the Illinois State Rifle Association and state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, with the aid of state researchers found the General Assembly has siphoned almost $30 million over the past five state budgets.
A memo from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability sent to Wheeler showed more than $13 million swept from the State Police Firearm Services Fund in fiscal years 2015 through 2019. With another fund having been raided of $15 million, lawmakers took $28.5 million in fees paid for by the state’s more than 2 million Firearm Owners' Identification cardholders.
“It is unconscionable for the Governor and the Legislature to ask for honest gun owners to pay more money for a Constitutional Right when the money they are already paying is going to fund other programs and services,” ISRA President Richard Pearson said. “Our office gets daily calls from people who are having difficulties navigating the FOID card process so it’s no wonder we see these problems, given a significant portion of the money intended to fund the program has been raided for other state programs.”
Illinois residents re-applying for FOID cards and concealed-carry licenses have reported delays. ISP had contracted with an outside vendor in an effort to expedite the renewal process, using money from one of the funds that lawmakers had raided, something Pearson said was a likely an infringement on the Constitutional rights of Illinois residents.
Other licensing program funds were also diverted in sweeps, but Pearson said: “you don’t have a Constitutional right to be a nurse.”
Illinois is one of only three states that require such a card to buy or own a firearm. It costs $10 for 10 years with $6 going to the Wildlife and Fish Fund, $3 to the State Police Firearm Services Fund and $1 for the State Police Services Fund. A five-year concealed-carry license costs $150, with $120 of that going to a state fund that was diverted to other state-funded issues.
News that the funds were raided raises questions about a push to increase FOID fees, Pearson said.
Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Kathleen Willis, D-Addison, would, among other requirements, have halved the ten-year life of the gun-owner license and doubled the cost to $20.
She said in May that the increased cost of the FOID card would be to ensure that the Illinois state police had the funds to properly operate the program.
That bill stalled in the Senate.
(Copyright WBGZ Radio/ www.AltonDailyNews.com)
Pearson didn’t say if ISRA would sue to stop the practice, but said the organization was reviewing its options.
Illinois State Police officials didn’t have an immediate response to the report, but said they would address the issue soon.