See our Gun Dealers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
In January 2019, Illinois enacted the “Combating Illegal Gun Trafficking Act,” a law to comprehensively license and regulate firearm dealers in the state.1 This law requires Illinois gun dealers to meet various requirements described below, concerning:
- Dealer licensing;
- Employee training;
- Location restrictions
- Posted notifications;
- Store security; and
Federal law generally requires people who“engage in the business” of dealing firearms to obtain a federal firearms dealer license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF),2 although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing many of its licensees. Federal law states that the term “engaged in the business” means:
Since June 2019, Illinois law has also required any person or entity who “engages in the business” of selling, leasing, or otherwise transferring firearms in the state to have a valid “certificate of license” issued by the Illinois Department of State Police.4
There are several exceptions to this requirement, which allow people to routinely sell, lease, or transfer firearms without a certificate of license in certain circumstances.5. These include:
- Transfers of firearms among immediate family or household members who hold valid FOID Cards;6
- Temporary firearm transfers where firearms are used solely at the location or property where the transfer takes place, such as when a shooting range leases firearms for use at their facility; and
- Temporary firearm transfers for the purposes of safety training by a firearms safety training instructor.7
Qualifications for a License
In order to receive a “certificate of license” from the Department of State Police, a person or entity must:
- Have a valid federal firearms dealer license8;
- Have a valid Illinois Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card ;9; and
- Submit an affidavit stating that each owner, employee, or agent of the licensee who sells or conducts transfers of firearms is at least 21 years old and has a valid FOID Card;10
Dealers are required to renew their certification with the Department of State Police whenever they renew their federal firearms dealer license.11 When renewing a certification, licensees must also submit an affidavit stating that that each owner, employee, or agent of the licensee who sells or conducts transfers of firearms has completed at least 2 hours of training annually regarding legal requirements and responsible business practices related to gun sales and transfers.12
As described above, licensees and their employees must receive at least two hours of training annually regarding legal requirements and responsible business practices related to the sale and transfer of firearms.13 The Department of State Police is authorized to adopt rules regarding this continuing education requirement, and is also directed by law to develop and implement statewide training standards for assisting licensees in recognizing indicators “that would lead a reasonable dealer to refuse sale of a firearm, including, but not limited to, indicators of a straw purchase.”14
Illinois law prohibits certified licensees from opening a new “retail location” within 500 feet of a school, preschool or daycare facility that is already in existence near the location.15 A “retail location” is “a store open to the public from which a certified licensee engages in the business of selling, transferring, or facilitating a sale or transfer of a firearm[,]” but does not include events like gun shows where a licensee engages in business “from time to time.”16
Dealers are required to post a sign in a conspicuous area on their premises displaying the following notification:
The sign may be downloaded from the Department of State Police’s website but must be posted in block letters not less than one inch in height.18
Certified licensees that maintain an inventory of firearms for sale or transfer19 must have an installed alarm monitoring system that notifies local law enforcement regarding any unauthorized intrusion into the premises where a firearm inventory is maintained.20
By January 2, 2021 all certified licensees that operate a retail location21 must also install and maintain a video security system that records areas in the retail location where the dealer’s firearms are stored, handled, sold, or transferred, as well as any entrances and exits.22 These video records must be retained for at least 90 days23
Certified licensees are also required to develop and submit a plan for safe storage of firearms and ammunition during and after retail hours to the Department of State Police, which may reject the plan as inadequate.24 The safe storage plan must supplement security features including “adequate locks, exterior lighting, surveillance cameras, alarm systems, and other anti-theft measures and practices,” and comply with rules established by the Department of State Police.25
Certified licensees are also required to make a photocopy of every buyer or transferee’s valid photo ID whenever a firearm sale transaction takes place, and to attach the photocopy to the documentation detailing the record of sale.26
Certified licensees that operate retail locations must also maintain an electronic recordkeeping system to keep track of their changing firearm inventory by updating the make, model, caliber or gauge, and serial number of each firearm that is received or sold by the licensee.27
This system must record retail gun sales and purchases within 24 hours of the transaction, and must record shipments of firearms from manufacturers or wholesalers either within five business days of the shipment or within 24 hours of the shipment being unpacked and the firearms placed in the dealer’s inventory.28 These records must be retained at least as long as is required by federal law.29
Firearms dealers are also subject to other state laws more generally governing the sale or transfer of firearms by any person. For more information about laws requiring individuals, including gun dealers, to:
- Conduct a background check on prospective firearm purchasers, see the Background Checks in Illinois section;
- Only sell handguns that meet certain safety standards, see the Design Safety Standards in Illinois section; and
- Ensure that firearm purchasers own a locking device, see the Safe Storage in Illinois section.
For a list of laws applicable to both licensed and private firearm sellers, please see the Private Sales in Illinois section.
- See 2017 IL SB 337
- 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1)(A).
- 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(21)(C). See also, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(j) (defining “engaged in the business for the purposes of an Illinois statute that prohibits selling or transferring firearms while engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail without being licensed as a federal firearms dealer). That statute states: A person “engaged in the business” means a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to engaging in the activity as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit, but does not include a person who makes occasional repairs of firearms or who occasionally fits special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms. “With the principal objective of livelihood and profit” means that the intent underlying the sale or disposition of firearms is predominantly one of obtaining livelihood and pecuniary gain, as opposed to other intents, such as improving or liquidating a personal firearms collection; however, proof of profit shall not be required as to a person who engages in the regular and repetitive purchase and disposition of firearms for criminal purposes or terrorism.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-15. See also, 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(j) (defining “engaged in the business for the purposes of an Illinois statute that prohibits selling or transferring firearms while engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail without being licensed as a federal firearms dealer”).
- 430 ILCS 68/5-25
- Illinois law defines “immediate family or household member” to mean a person’s “spouse, child, parent, brother, sister, grandparent, or grandchild, whether of the whole blood or half blood or by adoption, or a person who shares a common dwelling.” People who are not engaged in the business of selling, leasing, or transferring firearms may also more occasionally transfer firearms to other specified family members as a bona fide gift. See 430 ILCS 68/5-25(3); 730 ILCS 5/3-2.7-10; 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 65/3(a-15)(2).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-25.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-10.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-40.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-40. The licensee must submit this affidavit within 30 days when a new owner, employee, or other agent begins selling or conducting transfers of firearms for the licensee. Id. at 68/5-40(b). The affidavit must also contain the name and FOID Card number of each owner, employee, or agent who sells or conducts transfers of firearms for the licensee, and if an owner, employee, or agent is not otherwise a resident of Illinois, the licensee must submit an affidavit stating that the owner, employee, or agent has undergone a background check and is not prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. Id. at 68/5-40(a).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-75.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-40(a); 430 ILCS 68/5-30.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-30.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-60.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-20. The 500 feet restriction is “measured from the nearest corner of the building holding the retail location to the corner of the school, pre-school, or day care facility building nearest the retail location at the time the retail location seeks licensure.” Id.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-5.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-20(b).
- An “inventory” of firearms means “firearms in the possession of an individual or entity for the purpose of sale or transfer.” 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-5.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-50(c).
- A “retail location” is “a store open to the public from which a certified licensee engages in the business of selling, transferring, or facilitating a sale or transfer of a firearm[,]” but does not include events like gun shows where a licensee engages in business “from time to time.” 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-5.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-50(a).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-80.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-55.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-20(a).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-65.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-65; 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 68/5-80; 27 CFR 478.129.