The fight to close a loophole in the state's FOID card system

By Ashley McNamee

May 23, 2012 Updated May 25, 2012 at 2:02 PM CDT

The first ever audit of the Illinois Firearm Owners Identification Card reveals what appears to be a broken system for prohibiting the mentally ill from obtaining a gun legally.

This comes as a bill trying to close the loophole is drawing criticism for going too far and infringing on gun owner's rights.

For one family the issue has gone unresolved for long enough.

"One of her friends confirmed she did have a class in Cole Hall and we thought, 'oh no,'" said Mary Kay Mace.

Mace remembers Valentine's Day of 2008 like it was yesterday. It is the day her 19-year-old daughter Ryanne was gunned down by a stranger while attending class at Northern Illinois University.

"She ducked down, he stopped for a minute and someone yelled he was reloading," said Mace. "That's when she got up to run, and he took out his handgun and started shooting."

Steven Kazmierczak, 27, killed five people, including Mace, inside Cole Hall on that cold winter day. He then turned the gun on himself.

"I know his sister was quoted as saying she was surprised he didn't come to kill her. His family was well aware of his problems," she said.

Today, as Mace walks the NIU campus, she clings to the memories of her only child. Almost five years later, she is no closer to understanding what happened or why.

"I wondered how it was that he could get guns, I assumed he got them illegally. As more details came out I heard he passed some background checks and was able to get his guns legally," she said. "I just thought, that's not right, that's not supposed to happen."

Kazmierczak, despite his well documented mental issues, passed the state background check to buy his guns. Illinois law prohibits FOID card possession by those voluntarily or involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility within the last five years.

A recent state audit reveals the process to report those found mentally ill is practically non-existent. The FBI estimates there are more than 100,000 mentally ill gun card holders in Illinois today.

"Is there a need for a change in the law or is there a need in terms of how we process applications?" said St. Sen. Dave Koehler, from Peoria.

Sen. Koehler says majority of the counties across the state didn't know to or simply are not reporting those deemed mentally ill to the state police. He supports the portion of the bill addressing that issue, but not the bill in its entirety.

"It's not just the mental health piece, it's that this bill re-writes a lot of other provisions of the FOID card law," he said.

Koehler says a 90 page house amendment to Senate Bill 1034 would institute a 60 day "waiting period" for new FOID card applicants, require disclosure of your social security number and require immediate notification of a change of address to state police.

It would also increase the number of disqualifying misdemeanors preventing firearm ownership.

For that, the Illinois State Rifle Association's Executive Director calls the bill ridiculous and extreme.

"It may have happened 30 or 40 years ago and now they want to take your FOID card away and apply punishment long after the crime was done," said Richard Pearson.

For Mace, politics aside, she just wants to see a reporting process in place.

"You need to get all the records in there that belong in there because right now anyone of 150,000 mentally ill people can go to a gun store, pass a background check and in 72 hours have a hand gun," she said.

Lawmaker say if the house votes on the bill, it will likely happen Thursday.

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