The Honorable John Ashcroft April 7, 2004
United States Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Ashcroft:
The State of Illinois is committed to continuing our partnership with your office and-the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the fight against domestic terrorism and street crime. The Illinois State Police has been a Point of Contact state with the National Instant Check System (NICS) since the system's inception in 1998, providing background checks for licensed firearm dealers on every gun transaction in Illinois. We look forward to continuing that role into the future, but warn that recent changes to the system could have grave consequences when it comes to our statewide efforts to combat crime.
The information gathered and retained in the Illinois Firearms Owners Identification (FOID) system is vital, not only as speedy verification for firearms dealers that individual buyers have legal authority to own guns, but also as a critical investigative tool for law enforcement in their efforts to track and identify illegal gun trafficking activities. The Illinois State Police are able to check historical FOID information to locate the points of purchase of guns used in crime and identify patterns where straw purchasers are falsifying information and conducting illegal firearms transactions.
Under new restrictions contained in HR 2763, law enforcement officials now must destroy records from
NICS background checks within 24 hours. The rules deny officials charged with protecting the public the ability to conduct thorough investigations of illegal gun trafficking and limit our ability to audit the accuracy of checks.
I urge you to repeal the 24-hour record retention limit. At a time when street gangs torment our
communities and terrorists seek new ways to wreak tragedy on the American public, undermining the work of law enforcement should be the furthest thing from the minds of our leaders. Only criminals stand to gain from the destruction of firearm transaction data.
I appreciate your careful consideration of this critical issue.
Rod R. Blagojevich
Governor of the State of Illinois