Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence crimes or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
Illinois’ state law firearm prohibitions are generally much broader than federal law and cover many of these gaps:
Under state law in Illinois, a person must generally have a valid license called a Firearm Owner’s Identification (“FOID”) Card, issued by the Illinois Department of State Police (“DSP”) in order to acquire or possess a firearm or ammunition.1 The FOID card licensing process is designed to identify people who, for various public safety reasons, are not eligible to acquire or possess firearms or ammunition.2
Illinois law authorizes DSP to deny an application for a FOID Card (or revoke and seize a previously issued FOID card) if the DSP finds that the current or prospective card holder is (or was at the time of issuance) subject to any of the following disqualifications:
- A person under 21 years of age who has been convicted of a misdemeanor (other than a traffic offense) or adjudged delinquent, or who does not have the written consent of his or her parent or guardian to acquire and possess firearms and ammunition, or whose parent or guardian has revoked such written consent, or whose parent or guardian does not qualify to have a FOID card;
- A person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of Illinois or any other jurisdiction;
- Addicted to narcotics;
- A patient of a mental health facility within the past five years, or a patient in a mental health facility more than 5 years ago (“patient” is defined to include a person who was an inpatient or resident of a mental health facility or a person who received outpatient treatment if he or she was determined to present a clear and present danger3 ) if that person has not received certification by a physician, clinical psychologist, or qualified examiner after a mental health evaluation that he or she is not a clear and present danger to self or others;
- A person who has been adjudicated as mentally disabled (as defined under state law)4;
- A person whose mental condition (meaning a state of mind manifested by violent, suicidal, threatening, or assaultive behavior) is found to pose a clear and present danger to self, others, or the community as evidenced by serious threats of violence or threatening physical or verbal behavior.5 (See our page on Mental Health Reporting in Illinois for details about how this determination is made);
- A person who is “intellectually disabled” (defined by Illinois law as having “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning which exists concurrently with impairment in adaptive behavior and which originates before the age of 18 years”);6)
- A person who has been found to be “developmentally disabled”;
- A person who has been involuntarily admitted in a mental health facility;
- A person who intentionally made a false statement on the FOID card application;
- A person unlawfully present in the United States under the laws of the United States;
- An alien admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa (subject to certain exceptions, including aliens admitted to the U.S. under a non-immigrant visa for lawful hunting or sporting purposes, official representatives of foreign governments, and foreign law enforcement officers in the U.S. on official business);
- A person convicted within the past five years of battery, assault, aggravated assault, violation of a protective order,7 or a substantially similar offense in another jurisdiction, in which a firearm was used or possessed;
- A person convicted of domestic battery, aggravated domestic battery, or a substantially similar offense in another jurisdiction;
- Prohibited from acquiring or possessing firearms or ammunition by federal law;
- A minor subject to a juvenile petition alleging that he or she is a delinquent minor for the commission of an offense that if committed by an adult would be a felony; or
- An adult who had been adjudicated a delinquent minor for the commission of an offense that if committed by an adult would be a felony.8
- A person who is not a resident of the State of Illinois, with limited exceptions for law enforcement officers, security officers, or military personnel permanently assigned in Illinois.9
In addition, DSP must generally deny an application for, or revoke and seize, a FOID card, if DSP finds that the applicant or cardholder is or was at the time of issuance subject to a court protective order, including a Firearms Restraining Order, domestic violence protective order, stalking no contact order, or civil no contact order.10 (Illinois refers to extreme risk protection orders as “Firearms Restraining Orders” or FROs). For more information about the Firearms Restraining Order process in Illinois, see the Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Illinois page. For more information about Domestic Violence-related firearm restrictions in Illinois, see the Domestic Violence & Firearms in Illinois page.
Illinois law also requires, as a condition of probation or conditional discharge, that a person convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor involving the intentional or knowing infliction or threat of bodily harm, or any other misdemeanor that qualifies as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” under federal law refrain from possessing firearms.11 A court may, at its discretion, impose this same condition on people convicted of non-violent misdemeanors too.12
Illinois law also imposes minimum age restrictions on the sale of firearms to young people.
Before transferring a firearm, a person who is not a licensed dealer is generally required to to contact DSP to confirm the validity of the transferee’s FOID card, although an additional background check process is required at gun shows. (See the Universal Background Checks in Illinois and Gun Shows in Illinois sections for more information).
For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Background Check Procedures in Illinois section.
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- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2(a)(1), (2).[↩]
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.[↩]
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.1.[↩]
- See 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.1.[↩]
- “Clear and present danger” means a person who: (1) communicates a serious threat of physical violence against a reasonably identifiable victim or poses a clear and imminent risk of serious physical injury to self or others; or (2) demonstrates threatening physical or verbal behavior, such as violent, suicidal, or assaultive threats, actions, or other behavior. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.1.[↩]
- 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-116.[↩]
- Legislation enacted in 2021 clarified that “protective order” includes “any orders of protection issued under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986, stalking no contact orders issued under the Stalking No Contact Order Act, civil no contact orders issued under the Civil No Contact Order Act, and firearms restraining orders issued under the Firearms Restraining Order Act.” 2021 IL HB 562 (amending 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.1).[↩]
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/8.[↩]
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/8(q). Law enforcement and military officers subject to the limited exception must furnish a driver’s license or state identification card number from their state of residence to DSP.[↩]
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/8.2; 430 ILCS 65/1.1 (defining “protective order”).[↩]
- 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/5-6-3(a)(3), (a)(9).[↩]
- 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/5-6-3(b)(18).[↩]