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 See our Firearm Prohibitions policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue. 

 Federal law prohibits certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, such as felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness.

In Illinois, a person must generally have a valid Firearm Owner’s Identification (“FOID”) card, issued by the Illinois Department of State Police (“DSP”) in order to acquire or possess any firearm or ammunition.1 The FOID card licensing process is designed to identify persons who, for various reasons public safety concerns, are not qualified to acquire or possess firearms or ammunition.2

Illinois law authorizes DSP to deny, or revoke and seize, a 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 (defined in numerous ways)4;
  • A person whose mental condition (meaning a state of mind manifested by violent, suicidal, threatening, or assaultive behavior) is of such a nature that it poses a clear and present danger to self, others, or the community5 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 involuntarily admitted into a mental health facility;
  • A person who intentionally made a false statement on the FOID card application;
  • An alien 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 protection order, 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 any Illinois state statute or 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.7
  • 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.8

In addition, DSP must 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 firearm-prohibiting protective order, including a Firearms Restraining Order.9 (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 Disarming Prohibited Persons in Illinois page. For information about this policy more generally, see the Extreme Risk Protection Orders policy page.

As a condition of probation or conditional discharge, Illinois law also requires a person convicted of a felony or misdemeanor involving the intentional or knowing infliction or threat of bodily harm to refrain from possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon.10 A court may, at its discretion, impose this same condition on a person convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor.11

Illinois law also imposes minimum age restrictions on firearms sold to young people.

Firearm transfers by unlicensed sellers (non-firearms dealers) are not subject to background checks in Illinois, except at gun shows (see the Gun Shows in Illinois section for further information), although unlicensed sellers are generally required to contact DSP to confirm the validity of a purchaser’s FOID card. See the Private Sales in Illinois section for more information.

For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Background Checks in Illinois section.

  1. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2(a)(1), (2).[]
  2. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.[]
  3. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.1.[]
  4. See 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/1.1.[]
  5. “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.[]
  6. 405 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/1-116.[]
  7. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/8.[]
  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.[]
  9. 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/8.2.[]
  10. 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/5-6-3(a)(3).[]
  11. 730 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/5-6-3(b)(18).[]