Advocates call for updates to gun laws a year after Henry Pratt mass shooting

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AURORA, Ill. — For gun violence prevention advocates, Saturday’s anniversary of the mass shooting at the Henry Pratt plant in Aurora is a somber reminder of how the state failed to protect the five people who were killed.

Gun safety advocate Kathleen Sances said glaring gaps in state law allowed gunman Gary Martin to keep a weapon he never should have had. Martin’s Firearms Owner Identification (FOID) card had been revoked five years before the shooting, but the state never took his guns away.

Because of a previous domestic violence conviction in Mississippi, Martin never should have been granted an Illinois FOID card in the first place. Critics say that’s a huge problem, and are backing a renewed push to “Fix the FOID” law in Illinois.

“We’re no safer than we were one year ago today,” said Sances, the President and CEO of Gun Violence Prevention PAC. “The shooter was a convicted felon and was able to take a gun and keep a gun, what we need to is worry about this at the front end.”

As the law stands, it’s basically the honor system for giving up weapons. A person whose FOID card has been revoked is supposed to notify police that they’ve gotten rid of the gun, but police say they don’t have the resources to follow up on the state’s tens of thousands of cases.

Sances is pushing a bill that would require anyone applying for a FOID card to be fingerprinted for background checks, and make gun owners renew them every five years instead of the current 10. It would also double the fee from $10 to $20.

The fingerprint aspect is a non-starter for State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego), who said it would immediately end up in court if it were to become law.

“There’s going to be litigation immediately upon signing that bill that will prevent virtually all of that bill from going into effect,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said the bill should be split into two parts, noting that both Democrats and Republicans agree that state law should provide a method for revoking FOID cards and then collecting the guns.

State police noted the anniversary of Aurora’s tragedy in Springfield Thursday, saying gunman Gary Martin’s FOID card had been revoked in 2014, but he was never forced to relinquish his gun.

“Firearms should not be in the hands of those who have been barred by law from possessing them,” said Brendan Kelly, Illinois State Police Director.

Kelly says police need more tools and money to deal with a huge state backlog of FOID revocations.

“Without additional resources for both state and local law enforcement to ensure illegal firearms aren’t possessed by dangerous individuals, the odds remain too high that more tragedies will occur,” Kelly said.

That’s why advocates like Sances are discussing the issue again, as we approach the anniversary of the shooting that took five lives in Aurora.

“The way to properly the victims and survivors is to do so with action,” Sances said.

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