In the State of Illinois, when your license to own a gun is revoked, you’re supposed to turn it over. It’s an honor system.
So why are 27,000 people in Cook County still holding on to their weapons when they shouldn’t? Only on 2 Wednesday night, CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey sat down with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart — who said it’s time that lawmakers step in.
CBS 2 got a look at all the guns seized by the sheriff’s office since Jan. 1, 2023, including and AK-style weapon that came in during our interview. It’s just a fraction of the guns that should be taken off the streets.
The sheriff’s efforts are illustrated in police body camera footage from last week showing officers coming to remove a gun from a man in Maywood earlier this month.
Officer: “Hey, Sheriff’s police. We have to talk to you…. We have a firearm restraining order we’re going to serve you today.”
Man: “I don’t have a firearm.”
That wasn’t quite true. The southwest suburban man did have a gun in his house, even though his Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card was revoked in 2017 in connection with violating an order of protection. Cook County sheriff’s police found the gun.
It was in the pocket of the man’s shirt.
That man, James Markmann, was charged with one count of felony possession of a firearm while not eligible for a FOID, and one count of misdemeanor possession of ammunition with no FOID.
Meanwhile back in February, Sheriff’s deputies recovered five guns from a south suburban man whose FOID had been suspended after he was indicted on forgery charges.
Even with a dedicated team, Sheriff Tom Dart said police are barely treading water.
“Here we sit doing the minimum,” he said. “I’d say on a good day, the minimum.”
That’s because in Cook County, there are about 750,000 FOID card holders, but as of May 6, more than 37,000 have been revoked. And of that 37,000, a whopping 74%, or roughly 27,000 people have failed to turn their cards and guns over to police, or a third party that is legally able to hold them.
Dart said it’s hard for his team to even make a dent.
“Here you have thousands of weapons in people’s houses,” Dart said. “They’re not supposed to be near them and we’re not taking them away.”
He added, “This is insanity.”
Illinois State Police have offered grants for departments to dedicate more officers to this kind of work. But it’s about $2 million statewide.
“That number needs to be $10 million to $20 million to be serious,” Dart said.
The sheriff is speaking out because he said departments like his need help from lawmakers to appropriate more money towards regional teams that would go after guns. That’s because the backlog will only continue to grow without the funding. The gun recoveries by the sheriff’s office were peaceful, but that’s not always the case.
“This is just really flirting with disaster,” Dart said.
Since 2013, Cook County’s team has handled more than 7,000 cases and taken more than 1,000 firearms off the street. They’ve also secured the safe transfer of thousands of others to third parties.
CBS 2 reached out to the Firearms Safety Subcommittee about Dart’s request. We will keep following up.
Source: CBS News