Forcing law-abiding citizens to wait years to obtain a firearm is a blatant violation of their constitutional rights—but in Illinois, it’s been a reality for years. Now, thanks to a case brought by the Goldwater Institute, the state has finally agreed to fix its firearm licensing system to ensure bureaucratic delays can’t deprive law-abiding citizens of their right to bear arms.
Illinois has long required residents to obtain a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card before they may purchase or even possess a firearm—of any kind—in the state. State law says the Illinois State Police must grant or deny a FOID card application within 30 days, but for years officials have ignored that deadline and taken much longer. As of late 2020, the average wait time to receive a FOID card was 122 days—and for some, the wait time has stretched from months into years.
In July 2020, the Goldwater Institute sued the state of Illinois, challenging the state’s failure to process applications for gun licenses.
Last week, the Goldwater Institute resolved the case after the state agreed to ramp up its processing system and clear the backlog that was blocking law abiding people from obtaining firearms to defend themselves. The head of the state police’s Firearms Services Bureau detailed the state’s changes to its licensing process in a declaration filed with the court, and with those improvements in place, the parties agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.
People shouldn’t have to ask for the government’s permission—let alone wait indefinitely—just to be allowed to defend their own lives, families, and homes. But as the Goldwater Institute said in its suit, if the state of Illinois thinks public safety requires checking people’s backgrounds before allowing them to possess even the most basic firearm in their homes, then it must at least follow the law.
“This is a basic civil rights issue. Everyone has a fundamental right to self-defense,” Marine veteran D’Andre Bradley, wrote in a 2020 op-ed for the Chicago Tribune. After serving his country for five years, De’Andre wanted to make sure he could protect his home and family from the violent crime that runs rampant in Chicago, where he lives. But for D’Andre and the three other individual plaintiffs whom the Goldwater Institute represented in the case—all of whom diligently applied for a card and qualified under the law—owning a gun was a virtual impossibility.
“If the state is going to require a license to exercise that right, then it should at least respect its own time limit…respecting my rights is not optional,” D’Andre added.
Now, thanks to the Goldwater Institute, the Illinois government has no choice but to respect the law. It’s a victory for the Second Amendment, and for Illinoisans’ fundamental right to defend their property, their loved ones, and their own lives.