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FOID is an acronym for Firearm Owners Identification. To legally possess or purchase firearms or ammunition, residents of the state of Illinois are required to have a FOID card. (The term is alternatively pronounced "a foid card" or "an F.O.I.D. card".) The law has been in effect since 1968, and has been subject to amendments both increasing and decreasing its scope since its initial adoption in parallel to the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, which itself was seen as a response to several high profile political assassinations in the 1960s.
The FOID card is issued by the Illinois State Police, who first perform a check of the applicant on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), an electronic database maintained by the FBI. Grounds for disqualification include a conviction for a felony or for an act of domestic violence, a conviction for assault or battery within the last five years, or being the subject of an order of protection. The police also check an Illinois Department of Human Services database, to disqualify any applicant who has been adjudicated as a mental defective, or who has been a patient of a mental institution within the last five years. Mental health professionals are required to inform state authorities about patients who display violent, suicidal or threatening behavior, for inclusion in the Human Services database. The police may also check other sources of information. There are additional requirements for applicants under the age of 21.
A FOID card legally must be granted within 30 days from the date the application is received, unless the applicant does not qualify. However, by January 2006, the backlog had increased and the State Police were taking as long as 50 days, in violation of the law, to issue or deny the FOID. Cards issued on or after June 1, 2008 are valid for ten years; cards issued prior to June 1, 2008 are valid for five years. The application fee for the card is ten dollars. The FOID card will be revoked before its expiration if the individual becomes disqualified as described above.
Illinois law requires that, when a firearm is sold by a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder or at a gun show, the seller perform a dial-up inquiry to the State Police to verify that the buyer's FOID card is valid. This additional check is known as the Firearm Transfer Inquiry Program (FTIP). At the time of the inquiry, the police perform an automated search of several criminal and mental health databases, including the federal NICS database. (Generally, FFLs in all states must request a background check through the NICS before selling a firearm; however in some states non-FFL purchasers who possess certain state-issued firearms permits, e.g., a permit to carry a concealed handgun, may purchase firearms from FFLs without undergoing a point-of-sale NICS check.)
In 2011, in the case of People v. Holmes, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that non-Illinois residents who are permitted to possess a firearm in their home state are not required to have an Illinois FOID card when in possession of firearms or ammunition in Illinois.