Illinois State Police have filed an emergency rule change that aims to broaden the use of clear and present danger reports for those applying for a Firearm Owners Identification card or who currently have one.
The rule change, which was submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, "allows for the use and maintenance of historic clear and present danger information even if the subject was not actively seeking or holding a FOID card at the time a Clear and Present Danger report was made and allows for use of these reports in possible future evaluations."
A clear and present danger request is a mechanism used by local law enforcement officials and school administrators to report to Illinois State Police any individuals who, "if granted access to a firearm or ammunition, pose an actual, imminent threat of substantial bodily harm to themselves or others," the form reads. ISP can then use those reports, if substantiated, to revoke a previously issued FOID card or deny an application.
Highland Park police submitted a clear and present danger report to ISP about the July 4 mass shooting suspect back in September 2019, after conducting a wellbeing check based on a report that he had made a threat to "kill everyone" in the home. Police said the suspect admitted to depression and drug use but when asked if he felt like harming himself or others, he responded no. In that incident, police confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a samurai blade from the home but returned them to the suspect's father later that day after the father said the collection belonged to him.
That same day, Highland Park police sent a clear and present danger report on the incident to ISP, which said last week that the information and evidence submitted was "insufficient" to make a determination at that time. The then-19-year-old suspect's FOID application, submitted three months later and sponsored by his father, was subsequently approved and he was able to legally purchase five weapons in 2020 and 2021, authorities say.
State police said "administrative rules have unnecessarily limited and complicated the ability of the Illinois State Police to consider Clear and Present Danger information over time."
The former rule required a clear and present danger to be "impending," "imminent," "substantial," or "significant." Instead, the new rule uses state law's definition, which requires “physical or verbal behavior, such as violent, suicidal, or assaultive threats, actions, or other behavior."
“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,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement “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. I want to thank the members of the Joint Committee and Director Kelly for taking up this important issue and protecting Illinoisans.”
Emergency rule changes are submitted when an agency "determines a threat to public interest, safety or welfare requires rules to be adopted in less time than would be needed to complete the full proposed rule process." They take effect within 10 days of filing, but remain in effect for no more than 150 days. ISP said it plans to take steps to make the amendments permanent, however.
Data obtained by NBC 5 Investigates showed the clear and present danger report submitted about the Highland Park suspect in 2019 was one of 4,457 sent to ISP that year.
That data shows that ISP has received a total of 28,448 clear and present danger requests between 2015 and July 7 of this year. And as FOID applications have increased, so too have denials and revocations based on those reports.
The number of FOID application denials based on clear and present danger reports has risen tenfold, from 249 in 2015 to 2,348 in 2021. That figure so far this year is 1,551 applications denied - currently on pace to surpass last year's total. The number of revocations based on clear and present danger reports this year so far is 1,003, according to ISP. That's also on track to surpass 2021's total of 1,378, which has risen each year to now more than six times the 228 FOID revocations for clear and present danger that the state saw in 2015.
The increase in revocations and denials based on these kinds of reports has occurred as the sheer number of FOID applications has also skyrocketed. A total of 483,041 FOID applications were submitted in 2020 - nearly three times the 163,172 applications received in 2015.
Experts and advocates believed changes would be coming to the state's FOID process in the wake of the shooting in Highland Park, which left at least seven people dead and more than 40 others wounded.
"I anticipate things will be changing. What will happen, I really can't say," said attorney Michael Johnson, who helps residents navigate Illinois' FOID process.
"There's a lot of cases that fall through the cracks," he added. "I think there has to be a little tightening up of our Firearm Restraining Order Act, how it's handled by local police agencies, how it's helped in notifying families, letting people know that they can use this if need be."
"We have a FOID card process, which I think is great, but it's not perfect and we can do more to tighten it," Gun Violence Prevention PAC President and CEO Kathleen Sances said.
"I think we need to look at retaining those records, that clear and present danger record," she continued. "Making sure that we're retaining records, and also that we're sharing information, so that, you know, if there's a mental health record somewhere, we're making sure that the Illinois State Police has access to that information."