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Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 06:52 pm

Police investigating glitch in FOID system

Can't say why Aurora shooter obtained gun permit

Illinois State Police say they’re trying to determine whether an apparent crack in a system to catch felons before they obtain licenses to buy and possess guns was an isolated case or a bigger issue.

State police in 2014 issued Gary Martin a Firearms Owner and Identification Card, which is required to purchase and own guns in Illinois, even though Martin was convicted of felony assault in Mississippi in 1995 and sentenced to prison. Martin died in a shootout with police on Friday after killing five coworkers at Pratt and Co., the plant where he worked in Aurora, authorities. According to police and media reports, the same pistol Martin bought legally from a dealer after obtaining a FOID card was used in Friday’s killings.

As a felon, Martin wasn’t eligible for a FOID card. Nonetheless, he got one. As of Monday, state police say, standard background checks used to determine whether applicants are eligible for FOID cards still showed Martin has a clean record.

“If you run him today, it’s still not coming up,” said Lt. Joseph Hutchins, state police spokesman. “We’re trying to figure out why it’s not coming up. Obviously, that’s a concern.”

Hutchins said police don’t yet know whether the problem was isolated or whether criminal records from states other than Mississippi also aren’t showing up in FOID background checks. “That is a very good question, and that is a question we are trying to answer,” Hutchins said. “We’re working on that. We’re looking into all of them outside Illinois to see what the issue is. …What other states actually put into their systems, we can’t control that. That’s the thing we’ve got to remember.”

According to media reports, Martin bought his gun from a dealer. When dealers sell guns, they’re supposed to screen buyers through a federal database commonly called an instant-background check. Martin, apparently, came up clean in the federal system, Hutchins said.

“For it to miss both databases, if that’s what you want to call it, that’s a concern,” the lieutenant said. “That’s something we’re working on with the feds.”

Martin was flagged as a felon when he applied for a concealed carry permit after purchasing his pistol. Unlike applicants for FOID cards, people who apply for concealed carry permits are fingerprinted, and that’s when the Mississippi conviction was discovered. Police revoked his FOID card, Martin he didn’t surrender it, and police didn’t take it back.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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