Washington, D.C., May 20, 2020 - Today, Brady urges the Illinois State Senate to pass SB 1966 during the Senate’s three-day session this week. SB 1966, also known as the “Block Illegal Ownership (BIO) Bill,” expands background checks for gun sales, including by private sellers, and strengthening the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) system by requiring applicants for FOID cards to submit fingerprints and reducing the validity of a FOID card from ten to five years.

Enacting SB 1966 and protecting Illinois communities falls under House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Don Harmon's joint proclamation of topics that "shall be solely" addressed this session. Illinois continues to see unabated gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic and associated “lock down” orders, including 38 people shot in Chicago over the weekend, six of whom died. While crime overall in Chicago has decreased during this pandemic, shootings have increased over April 2019 levels, straining the city and state’s healthcare system while every resource is needed to combat coronavirus, a confluence that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot characterized as “a perfect storm.”

Passing SB 1966 will help to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them and will help to prevent violence and reduce shootings. This clearly furthers the Senate’s goals of examining coronavirus relief and prevention policies.

Brady President Kris Brown shared:

“While Illinois continues to grapple with the effects of coronavirus on its people and economy, the state continues to deal with the ongoing epidemic of gun violence. In fact, guns were the leading cause of death in Illinois last year, over 1,300 people died by firearm across the state in 2018. We desperately need to implement the solutions we know prevent violence to stop this public health crisis.

The policies in SB 1966 are proven to work. They will help to prevent gun violence, save lives and reduce the strain on Illinois’ healthcare systems. It is essential that the Senate recognize this pressing need and act to pass this bill into law. We need action now."

It is impossible to look at gun violence in Illinois without noting that minority communities are disproportionately affected by this public health crisis. In Illinois, Black residents are disproportionately more likely to die by firearm compared to their white counterparts, even as much as five-times more likely based on the latest CDC data. During the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that the same underlying structural inequalities that fuel this disparity are likewise driving the disparate impact of coronavirus on minority communities in Illinois. In Chicago, the death rate from coronavirus infection for African Americans was as much as six times higher than for the city’s white residents. These public health disparities are a large reason why Chicago’s life expectancy gap is one of the largest in the country.

With such clear disparity, the Senate must act.

Brady Illinois State Lead Delphine Cherry shared:

“As a lifelong Illinois resident and a mother who lost two of her children to gun violence here in the Chicago metropolitan area, I have seen first hand the toll that gun violence takes on our communities. And, during this pandemic, I have watched our state’s medical professionals work tirelessly to try and stop the spread of coronavirus while continuing to deal with the effects of gun violence.

We need action to keep our communities and families safe. Ensuring that people who should not legally be allowed to purchase a gun cannot do so through private sales and other loopholes will help to accomplish that goal. This bill will make all of us in Illinois safer and I urge the Senate to pass it into law.”

About the BIO Bill:

The BIO Bill (SB 1966) updates Illinois’ Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card system, a critical public safety system for the purchase and possession of firearms in Illinois. Currently, prohibited purchasers can use existing loopholes in the FOID system to legally purchase firearms, undermining its purpose and the safety of the state. The BIO Bill would close many of these loopholes, importantly requiring a point-of-sale background check for every gun purchase. Currently, a prospective purchaser needs only to provide a private seller with their FOID card in order to conduct a gun transfer, potentially allowing an individual who became prohibited after obtaining that card to purchase a firearm. Individuals who are convicted of a firearms prohibiting offense after obtaining their FOID card are required to surrender their FOID cards and their weapons, but there is no existing mechanism compelling them to do so. In fact, the majority of individuals who become prohibited do not turn in their cards and there may be as many as 30,000 individuals across Illinois who still possess guns despite having their FOID cards revoked. To account for this, the bill creates a special law enforcement task force responsible for removing illegally-owned firearms from individuals who have not surrendered them with their revoked FOID cards. Importantly, the BIO bill will also limit the validity of a FOID card from ten to five years, creating another important buffer between an individual who may have become prohibited after obtaining their FOID card from purchasing a gun.

Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.


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