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Posted: 1/10/2006 1:42:51 PM EDT
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Governor OKs temporary workers to help clear FOID card backlog


SPRINGFIELD - The Blagojevich administration announced Monday it will hire additional workers in an attempt to eliminate a backlog of gun owner identification card requests.

The move comes three days after the Herald & Review and other Lee Enterprises newspapers reported significant delays in processing the cards, which are required for anyone who owns a gun in Illinois.

The problems triggered complaints from gun owners, who said the state's paperwork woes were causing them to be in violation of state law while they waited for up to 50 days for their Firearms Owners Identification Cards to be approved.

On Monday, Illinois State Police spokesman Lincoln Hampton said the agency received approval Monday from the governor's budget office to immediately hire 10 temporary workers.

"We're looking to hire them right now," Hampton said.

The agency also will start the process of hiring 10 permanent employees, who will eventually replace the temporary workers.

The FOID card, which costs $5, was created in 1968 as a way to identify people who may possess and acquire firearms and ammunition.

About 1.2 million people have FOID cards, which are good for five years.

In response to the delays, the Illinois State Rifle Association, which lobbies the General Assembly on behalf of Illinois gun owners, issued a statement calling for an investigation into the delays.

"Law abiding gun owners put forth a good faith effort to comply with the law," said association Executive Director Richard Pearson of Chatsworth. "Nonetheless, they face felony prosecution because the Illinois State Police cannot, or will not, live up to the agency's legal obligations."

Hampton said the division that handles applications and renewals had lost more than half of its workers through an internal realignment within the state police this year. A year ago there were 17 workers processing an estimated 22,000 FOID cards, compared to seven employees now.

The staff cuts were exacerbated by the busy holiday and hunting season, which traditionally triggers an increase in applications. As of Friday, there were 25,586 cards awaiting processing, Hampton said.

Gun owners who have not received their new or renewed cards continue to be technically committing a felony, but Hampton said earlier that police officers are allowed to use their discretion when dealing with any possible offenses.


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