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Fingerprinting gun owners in Illinois would help keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them, Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said Thursday.

That's why, Kelly said, the Illinois Senate should give final approval to Senate Bill 1966 that includes a provision that a person applying for or renewing a Firearm Owners Identification Card must submit a set of fingerprints.

"Compliance with FOID laws does not always result in criminal charges," Kelly said. "The goal is to keep guns out of the hands of people prohibited from having them."

Kelly spoke as the state neared the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora. Six people were killed in the shooting, including the shooter. Six others were wounded.

It was later discovered the killer had obtained a FOID card by lying about his criminal background. With the FOID card, he was able to purchase a gun.

Kelly said there are over seven million records in the country that should keep someone from owning a gun. However, they are not readily available, he said.

Gun rights groups have complained that gun owners should not have to submit fingerprints in order to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Kelly said the issue for law enforcement is how to ensure criminals don't get access to firearms.

"The answer is, if you want to be sure of that, then we need to have that fingerprint," he said. "We will be able to do a much more thorough, effective and quicker background check, even for law abiding citizens, if we have that fingerprint. Fingerprints catch bad guys."

The Senate bill narrowly passed the House in May by a 62-52 vote. It did not have the votes to pass the Senate last spring. However, if the Senate did approve the bill, it would go to Gov. JB Pritzker who has indicated support of it.

"This legislation is an affront to every gun owner in this state," said Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle

Association, last May after the bill passed the House. "You should not have to pay money to exercise your constitutional rights. We have a guaranteed right to own a firearm under the constitution, but here in Illinois to exercise that right, you must jump through all kinds of hoops and pay all kinds of money to the state."

Pearson vowed that the ISRA would fight the legislation in court should it be signed into law.

Kelly also said Thursday that the Illinois State Police have engaged in over 200 revocation details since May. Under Illinois law, if a person's FOID card is revoked, they can no longer be in possession of firearms. The details involve law enforcement removing the guns, either through confiscation or seeing that they are turned over to a responsible gun owner. Kelly said the department previously did not engage in those details.

Despite improvements, he said more needs to be done and more resources are needed.

"Without additional resources for both state and local law enforcement to ensure illegal firearms are not possessed by potentially dangerous individuals, the odds still remain too high that more tragedies will occur," Kelly said.


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This article originally ran on herald-review.com.

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