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Cook County sheriff’s team taking guns if FOID card is revoked

Thursday, July 25, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
by Frank Main

A new Cook County Sheriff’s team is crisscrossing the suburbs to seize guns from thousands of people whose Firearm Owner’s Identification Cards have been revoked. More than 3,000 people in Cook County have failed to surrender their revoked FOID cards to the state. Sheriff Tom Dart said he thinks many of them continue to possess firearms.

The Chicago Police Department conducts regular missions to recover revoked FOID cards and seize guns from the holders, but there wasn’t a concerted effort to do that in Cook County’s suburbs, Dart said. “The system is broken,” the sheriff said. “The system revokes cards, but the guns are of no consequence. . . . Our strong hope is that we will eliminate tragedies.” FOID cards are supposed to protect the public from dangerous people. Mental illness, felonies and protection orders are grounds for the state to revoke the cards from their holders. It’s illegal to buy guns or ammunition without one. In February, Dart assigned a sergeant and four investigators to a gun team that has recovered about 160 FOID cards and taken more than 160 guns from the cardholders.

In one case, the team recovered more than 35 firearms, including four AR-15 assault rifles, from a suicidal man whose card was revoked. People with revoked FOID cards can’t buy guns from federally licensed firearms dealers. For any gun sale, a store must conduct a background check that will uncover a FOID revocation. But background checks aren’t required for ammunition. Someone buying bullets must simply show a FOID card. A person with a revoked card probably would still be able to buy bullets because the salesperson wouldn’t know it was revoked, Dart said. The sheriff said the bigger problem is that most revoked FOID card holders continue to possess guns. Dart said he persuaded the General Assembly to include new language in the FOID law that would allow sheriffs and municipal police to obtain search warrants to look for guns in the homes of people with revoked FOID cards. Dart called the provision a “hammer” for police to wield when investigators suspect people with revoked cards have guns — but the people insist they don’t. Sheriff’s investigators learn from the State Police whether someone with a revoked FOID card was ever approved to buy a gun after going through a background check at a gun store. If the answer is yes, sheriff’s investigators ask the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for any records of the store selling a firearm to the person. Every week, the State Police alert the sheriff’s gun team of about 10 to 20 new revocations in Cook County. The investigators conduct a basic inquiry into the gun purchasing histories of the people they intend to contact. Then they knock on their doors. On Tuesday, Sgt. Chris Imhof, the team supervisor, and investigator Adrian Sandoval hunted for a dozen people whose FOID cards were revoked. At many addresses, no one answered the door. Other times, a mother or grandmother came to the door and said her son or grandson wasn’t home. Many of the women were cooperative, and in some cases they were able to call the cardholder and arrange a time to surrender it. But a woman in Calumet Park, whose son’s FOID card was revoked because of a drug case, told the officers he wasn’t home and he didn’t have a gun because she threw it into the lake. “I explained to her that’s not the way to do things,” Sandoval said, adding that he found her story questionable. The officers then met a 31-year-old woman at a McDonald’s in Calumet Park and she handed over her FOID card. The woman, whose card also was revoked because of a drug case, had arranged to meet the officers after they went to her mother’s house and she wasn’t there. They finished in Lyons, where a 43-year-old truck driver handed over a FOID card and a duplicate card with a different address — along with ammunition and the barrel of a 9mm pistol. The driver took the day off to meet the officers after they visited his house the day before and he wasn’t there. The officers’ final tally for the day: three recovered FOID cards but no guns. They had visited 10 addresses where their targets weren’t even home. It showed just how time-consuming the work can be. What makes the job rewarding, though, is when the team removes guns from a home where family members are scared of the FOID cardholder, Sandoval said. “We’ve had people say, ‘Thank you, I didn’t want these guns here anymore,’ ” he said.



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