DOWNTOWN — Since February, when Gary Martin gunned down five people at an Aurora manufacturing facility with a handgun he was able to get despite the fact his FOID card was revoked in 2014, law enforcement has been more vigilant.
One recent example of that vigilance is the case against James Mather, who was arrested Aug. 9 and charged with felony possession of a firearm without a valid Firearm Owner ID as well as five misdemeanor counts of unlawful use of a weapon, misdemeanor possession of exploding bullets, misdemeanor possession of anabolic steroids and a city violation of possessing a firearm silencer.
FOID cards are regulated by the Illinois State Police, who in the past would send a letter to gun owners whose cards have been revoked, letting them know they had to turn in their weapons to local police. However, most of the time people don’t do that.
According to the State Police, in 2018, more than 10,000 FOID cards were revoked and 75 percent of those were unaccounted for.
Illinois is one of just three states requiring gun owners to have a license to own firearms and buy ammunition.
More and more local agencies are creating teams that go to the revoked FOID cardholders home to retrieve illegal weapons. In the case of Martin, that never happened.
Martin had a 1996 domestic violence conviction in Mississippi on his record but lied on his FOID card application in Illinois. It was only when he applied for a concealed carry permit in 2014, which requires fingerprints, that Illinois officials learned his card was revoked because of his prior conviction. A letter was sent to Martin but he did not turn in his weapons and no law enforcement agency went to retrieve his guns.
In February, Martin killed five employees at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora.
Mather, 33, was charged with domestic battery July 8 and again for domestic battery July 23 in two separate cases. Those cases would automatically prompt the state to revoke his FOID card, although it is unknown if a letter was sent to him or not, as the Illinois State Police does not comment on individual FOID revocation cases.
However, Chicago Police received a tip from an informant about Mather, said spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
“We got information from an informant that there was a large number of guns, an arsenal in his apartment and there was some concern that perhaps they could be sold so we ran the address, ran the person, and that’s when we found he was prohibited,” Guglielmi said.
Chicago Police obtained a search warrant and on Aug. 8 raided Mather’s apartment on the 2900 block of North Western Avenue, finding a trove of guns, ammo and illegal steroids. Mather was not home at the time but was arrested the next day when he returned.
Among the guns recovered were two 9 mm handguns, a 40 caliber firearm, an MP-15 5.56 rifle, a Ruger 10-22 rifle, and a Spikes tactical Crusader Rifle, along with exploding bullets and a firearm silencer.
In that case, Cook County Judge Arthur Willis set Mather’s bond at $5,000, allowing him to walk free by posting a 10 percent deposit bond of $500, despite the two pending domestic battery charges he was facing. That decision was criticized by Guglielmi in an Aug. 15 tweet, which said, “Is this the Chicago you want? For $500, you could walk out of jail after being arrested for possession of this arsenal.”
“Chicago has to make up its mind what type of city it wants,” Guglielmi later told Block Club Chicago. “If those are the types of penalties our system is going to give for gun crimes, then we are probably going to expect higher levels of gun violence.”
On Sept. 10, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office combined the two domestic battery cases against Mather and accepted a plea deal where he was allowed to plead guilty to one count of battery, a move the two victims say was dishonest.
Mather is scheduled to appear in court to face the gun charges Oct. 25.
The Illinois State Police would not comment on the specifics of Mather, but the agency released a statement saying local authorities are contacted if someone with an expired FOID card attempts to purchase a firearm.
When an order of protection is issued, like it was in Mather’s case, the state moves to revoke the FOID as soon as they’re notified of the protection order.
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