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 Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Illinois is a point of contact state for the NICS.1 Federally licensed firearms dealers in the state are required to contact the Illinois Department of State Police (“DSP”) for a background check before transferring any firearm.2 Illinois law establishes the DSP as the point of contact for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System3 and directs DSP to search its criminal history record information files, the FBI and NICS databases, and the files of the Department of Human Services relating to mental health and developmental disabilities to verify that prospective purchasers are not prohibited from possessing a firearm when contacted by a licensed gun dealer or a gun show promoter or vendor.4 The DSP must generally approve the transfer or inform the dealer of the applicant’s ineligibility within the waiting period set forth by state law.5

Illinois law similarly requires the Illinois State Police to conduct background checks using these same databases when determining whether to approve a person’s application for a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card. (See the Licensing in Illinois and Universal Background Checks in Illinois pages for more information about this process). Legislation enacted in 2021 also expressly requires the State Police to continuously monitor relevant state and federal databases as allowed by state and federal law for “firearms prohibitors,” such as criminal history and court records that would prohibit a person from possessing a firearm legally, and to “correlate those records” with FOID Card holders to ensure that people issued FOID Cards remain eligible to possess firearms and retain their FOID.6

Illinois requires DSP to report to local law enforcement the name and address of any person who attempts to purchase a firearm who is disqualified from doing so.7

Unlicensed gun sellers (i.e., people who do not have a federal firearms dealer license) are generally required to use an Internet portal maintained by the State Police to verify the validity of a purchaser or transferee’s FOID Card, unless they conduct the sale through a licensed gun dealer or gun show vendor or promoter, who is instead required to conduct the background check instead.8.))

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  1. See 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1(e)(1); Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map.[]
  2. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1.[]
  3. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1(e)(1).[]
  4. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1.[]
  5. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1; 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A)(g).[]
  6. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/8.5.[]
  7. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.3.[]
  8. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a), (a-10), (a-15), (a-20); see also, 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1.[]