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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 The DSP searches 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.3 The DSP must approve the transfer or inform the dealer of the applicant’s ineligibility within the waiting periods set forth by state law, which are 24 hours for long guns and 72 hours for handguns.4 (Note, however, that effective June 2019, the waiting period will be 72 hours for all firearms).5

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.6

Except at gun shows (see the Gun Shows in Illinois section for more information on background check requirements at gun shows), unlicensed gun sellers (i.e., people who do not have a federal firearms dealer license) are not required to conduct background checks in Illinois, but all sellers must be presented with a prospective purchaser’s Firearm Owner’s Identification card.7 Additionally, with limited exceptions, an unlicensed seller who seeks to transfer a firearm to an unlicensed purchaser is generally required to contact the Department of State Police (DSP) with the transferee’s Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card number to determine the validity of the transferee’s FOID Card prior to transferring the gun.8 Federal and state purchaser prohibitions also apply to private firearms transfers.

See our Private Sales policy summary for more on this issue.


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  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at[]
  2. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1.[]
  3. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1.[]
  4. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1; 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A)(g).[]
  5. See 2017 IL S 3256, enacted in 2018.[]
  6. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.3.[]
  7. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a).[]
  8. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-10).[]