Still More on Gun Ownership Statistics – Examining Illinois FOID Card Applications

In my ongoing series of posts about gun ownership statistics, I have looked at majors surveys like Gallup and the General Social Survey, and considered a study of the validity of such surveys. Here I want to take up a suggestion by a commenter on my original post.

@BostonTea84 wrote:

There are at least six states that require a government-issued permission slip to lawfully own firearms, including Illinois. The number of active Illinois FOID cards continues to grow, not shrink.

So, I did a little quick and dirty examination of Firearm Owners’ Identification (FOID) card data, some of which is available on the Illinois government website (2002-2011) and some I got from the TTAG blog (2012-2013).

Looking at the trend in FOID card applications, we see year-over-year increases in 8 of 11 years from 2002-2013. Applications decreased in 2005 and 2006, and then against in 2010, but immediately rebounded. The linear trend over this time period is distinctly inclining.

Line chart constructed by Sandra Stroud Yamane

Of course, if the increasing number of FOID Card applications simply mirrors the increasing population in the state then we cannot conclude anything about a growing interest in firearm ownership in the state. So, I pulled population data on Illinois from the U.S. Census Bureau and examined the per capita rate of FOID Card applications.

The fact that the line in this chart essentially mirrors that in the chart above makes clear that the growing number of FOID cards is not attributable to an increase in the state population.

Line chart constructed by Sandra Stroud Yamane
Line chart constructed by Sandra Stroud Yamane

This FOID card data is a good indicator of interest in gun ownership, especially the trends, and one that is less sensitive to under-reporting than surveys of gun ownership.

Of course, FOID cards are not equivalent with gun ownership. I know someone personally who possessed a gun in Illinois for years before getting a FOID card. There may be alot of otherwise law-abiding people in the City of Chicago who owned guns during the gun ban years and are now getting FOID cards in the wake of the McDonald Supreme Court decision. Moreover, I’m sure there are others in the state who continue to own guns without getting a FOID card.

But the growing demand for FOID cards is notable, and the extent of the growth significant AND ONGOING, as indicated by the warning posted on the Illinois State Police FOID card inquiry site (as of 2/3/17):

Currently the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau is experiencing a record number of Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card applications each month.

Screen cap on 2/3/17:



  1. I found an Excel chart on an Illinois Open Carry site that stated, by locality, that there were about 1.1 million FOIDs in Illinois in 2007, or roughly ten percent of the population. Given the cards last ten years (a State FOID FAQ site) then roughly half of the 2007 applications could be renewals, i.e., ten percent of 1.1 million. The other hundred thousand would be new applications? Wow. That would suggest a ten percent annual growth rate? One could probably do a little math and infer the growth rate in absolute terms by subtracting out the estimates of renewals, assuming a 100% renewal rate, and comparing to the total Illinois population.

    I sent the links and excel file to David.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Registration is ALWAYS the first step in confiscation. This was seen time after time in the 20th century. Turkey, Germany, Soviet Union, Cambodia just to name a few. Look it up.


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