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Illinois governor makes it easier for police to reject gun licenses   

The rule change directs Illinois State Police to more broadly use "clear and present danger" reports to deny or revoke Firearm Owner ID cards.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CN) — Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker on Monday directed the Illinois State Police to submit an emergency rule change to the Illinois Secretary of State's Office, allowing law enforcement more discretion in the application process for Firearm Owner ID cards.

The change directs state police to more broadly use "clear and present danger" reports to bar applicants from receiving a FOID card, or to revoke an existing FOID card.

According to the Illinois State Police, clear and present danger is a status physicians, clinical psychologists, qualified examiners, school administrators, and law enforcement can confer on individuals who they believe, "if granted access to a firearm or ammunition, pose an actual, imminent threat of substantial bodily harm to themselves or others that is articulable and significant, or who will likely act in a manner dangerous to public safety."

Clear and present danger reporting was established in Illinois in 1990, but is separate from the state's Firearms Restraining Order Act of 2019. While the 2019 law allows a state court to prohibit someone from possessing or purchasing a gun, clear and present danger reports are only used to deny or revoke FOID cards.

According to Pritzker's office, additional administrative rules have "unnecessarily limited and complicated" the Illinois State Police's ability to use clear and present danger reports since 2013. The emergency rule change scraps these administrative add-ons, reverting to the statutory definition of clear and present danger.

"The former administrative rule required a clear and present danger to be 'impending, 'imminent', 'substantial' or 'significant,'" according to a press release from the governor's office. "Clear and present danger under state law however is more broadly defined requiring 'physical or verbal behavior, such as violent, suicidal, or assaultive threats, actions, or other behavior...' This emergency rule will now allow the Illinois State Police to consider a broader range of information by simply applying the statutory definition of clear and present danger."

The change also allows police to maintain historic clear and present danger information for individuals when considering their future FOID card applications, even if the individual had no application pending at the time when they received the designation.

"For the sake of public safety, any FOID applicant with prior clear and present danger information needs to have that considered when having their application processed," Pritzker said Monday. "These changes will immediately allow ISP to see a fuller picture of an applicant's history and keep the people of Illinois safe from those who should not be in possession of firearms."

Per Illinois law, emergency rule changes last no more than 150 days. However, Pritzker's office said Monday that the ISP intended to make sure the change was permanent.

"The Illinois State Police plans to submit these changes under the [Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules] proposed rule process as well, with the intention of making these amendments permanent," the press release said.

The move by Pritzker and ISP comes on the heels of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park that killed seven people and left more than 30 wounded. Robert Crimo III, the 21-year-old confessed gunman in the shooting, had a FOID card and legally obtained several weapons between 2020 and 2021, including the rifle he is suspected to have used. ISP admitted that Crimo was able to obtain these weapons legally despite having threatened to "kill everyone" in his home in September 2019.

Highland Park police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from Crimo's home and filed a report determining he posed “a clear and present danger to [himself] or others” when responding to the 2019 incident, but did not arrest him. ISP spokeswoman Delilah Garcia confirmed earlier in July that the agency did receive word about the knives from Highland Park PD, but said at the time Crimo did not have a pending FOID application that the incident could have influenced.

“He didn’t have a pending application, so there was nothing to review at that time when we got that notification. We didn’t know a few months later that something else would happen,” Garcia said on July 5.

The ISP said Crimo applied for a FOID card in December 2019. As he was under 21 at the time, police said he filed the application with the sponsorship of his father, Robert Crimo Jr.

Crimo Jr. has yet to face any charges for sponsoring the application.

The rule change also comes as mass shootings spike nationwide, including the massacre of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May. There have been over 350 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2022, according to the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive, including over 30 in Illinois. Nationwide, mass shootings this year have so far killed more than 400 people and left more than 1,400 wounded.

Data from the Gun Violence Archive also shows that the number of U.S. mass shootings has risen consistently since at least 2014. It reported 272 mass shootings occurred that year, while 2021 saw 692. A Gallup poll released in June showed that 66% of Americans supported stricter gun control laws, the highest support for gun control has been since August 1999.

President Joe Biden signed a bill into law last month that expands the background check system for gun buyers younger than 21 and dedicates $11 billion to mental health programs, and while activists say it's a step in the right direction, it still falls short of the action needed to truly curb gun violence.

"It’s not enough but it’s a step, it’s a break in the log jam," 22-year-old gun control activist David Hogg said in June. Hogg is a survivor of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed 17 lives.

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