CHICAGO — Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Friday proposed changes that would require local police to confiscate guns from people whose licenses are revoked.
When Gary Martin, 45, opened fire at an Aurora warehouse Feb. 15 — killing five victims and wounding six others — he used a Smith & Wesson handgun he bought in 2014 with a valid Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card.
Martin was later denied a concealed carry license that same year when a background and fingerprinting process revealed a 1995 felony conviction out of Mississippi. His FOID card was revoked. Martin was required to return his handgun — but never did.
On Friday, Illinois State Police said Martin was able to buy his gun in 2014 because Mississippi authorities failed to report his criminal background to the proper database.
That’s one of many loopholes police agencies are now scrambling to close.
Since Martin got his gun in 2014, state police have revoked nearly 50,000 FOID cards. Last year alone, the agency revoked nearly 11,000. Of those, more than 5,000 were in the Chicago area.
But what happens to those people’s guns remains a mystery.
“The system is the honor system, literally,” Dart said. “That’s it.”
When police tell someone that his or her FOID card has been revoked, the person is required to fill out a form saying that all weapons were turned in to local police or a valid FOID card holder.
But according to state police, more than 7,000 people didn’t return that form last year. It’s a misdemeanor, and only 10 people got in trouble.
“It’s insane, and it’s ridiculously dangerous,” Dart said.
Seventy-five percent of people who had their FOID cards revoked last year ignored police altogether. Many never told police what they did with their guns; most kept their FOID cards. And police never followed up.
“This needs to change now,” Dart said, “and people need to get serious about it.”
Dart is now advocating for new legislation that would require county sheriffs, state’s attorneys and local police to work together to go door to door to confiscate weapons when an FOID card is revoked.
Dart said he thinks lawmakers in Springfield will be on board and move quickly given the devastation in Aurora last week.
But rounding up the guns isn’t the only loophole to close.
People who want FOID cards need to undergo background checks. State police use federal databases to make sure applicants don’t have a disqualifying conviction. But those databases often lack crucial information. As many as 25 percent of felonies don’t show up, and state police said roughly 7 million crimes are simply missing.
Mississippi authorities did not respond to requests for comment.
Illinois State Police said Martin’s felony conviction from Mississippi was only entered into the FBI’s system Thursday.