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September 30, 2013

Behind the numbers on gun permits

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The issue of gun permits surfaced briefly in the Illinois governor’s race, when a candidate claimed that the Illinois State Police had a backlog of 75,000 gun-owner’s ID applications under Gov. Pat Quinn, forcing hunters to miss entire hunting seasons.

The real number isn’t that high — just 49,000, according to state police. But those numbers belie a bigger headache awaiting the state’s bureaucracy now that lawmakers have set in motion a process to facilitate the carrying of concealed weapons in public, as mandated by a federal court order.

Whereas a few years ago, 1.2 million Illinoisans held Firearm Owners Identification cards, the number has jumped to 1.6 million, state police spokeswoman Monique Bond said. Soon after the court decreed in December that Illinois couldn’t ban public carry anymore, demand for FOID cards jumped precipitously. In January alone, Bond reported, there were 61,000 FOID applications, nearly double the 31,000 in January 2012.

Once the state’s new concealed-carry law is fully in place, state police officials expect 400,000 applications in the first year for the $150 “carry” permits, a number on top of the 49,000 waiting for a $10 FOID which gives them permission to own a gun — permission that’s unique among states.

Guns rights advocates say the numbers prove that the demand is high and broad-based across the nation.

“People say it’s the same ‘gun guys’ buying more guns,” said Todd Vandermyde, the National Rifle Association’s lobbyist in Illinois. “FOID proves that it’s just the opposite.”

How well the state deals with the demand for firearms under the new concealed-carry law depends on a complicated process approved by lawmakers and now being put into place.

Under the new law, those wanting to tote a gun still need the traditional Firearm Owners Identification card — a permit unique among states which allows possession of guns in the home or outside only for hunting, sports shooting or other special purposes. Then, to get a carry permit, 16 hours of training is necessary.

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