Illinois generally requires people to obtain a license called a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card from the Department of State Police, issued pursuant to a background check, in order to acquire or possess firearms within the state of Illinois.1 (See the Licensing in Illinois section for more information about the FOID and licensing process).
If a person who is not a licensed firearms dealer wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person who is not a licensed dealer, the transferor must in most cases, prior to transferring the gun, request to see the transferee’s FOID Card and contact the Department of State Police (DSP) with the transferee’s Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) Card number to verify that the transferee’s FOID Card remains valid.2 The transferor must await approval by DSP before transferring the firearm. Approvals issued by DSP for the purchase of a firearm are valid for 30 days.3 DSP is tasked with maintaining an Internet-based system for unlicensed individuals to use to determine the validity of a FOID Card prior to transferring a firearm to an unlicensed person.4 (In 2021, Illinois also passed legislation5 that will require the State Police to develop and make available by July 1, 2022, a publicly accessible Internet-based system listing the serial numbers of firearms that have been reported stolen so people may check the system prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm to ensure the gun was not reported as stolen).6
Certain firearm transfers are exempt from the requirement of contacting the State Police for a background check, including: (1) a transfer that is a bona fide gift to specified family members;7 (2) transfers that occur at a federally licensed firearm dealer’s place of business, if the licensed dealer conducts a background check on the prospective recipient of the firearm and follows all other applicable federal, state, and local laws as if he or she were the transferor of the firearm (although the dealer is not required to accept the firearm into their own inventory);8 (3) transfers by people acting pursuant to operation of law or a court order;9 and (4) delivery and return of a firearm for service or repair to and from a gunsmith;10
Illinois has a separate background check requirement for firearm transfers that occur on the grounds of a gun show, which similarly require the unlicensed seller, or a licensed gun dealer or gun show promoter or vendor to contact DSP to conduct a background check on the prospective transferee.11 This gun show background check requires a somewhat broader background check inquiry into the transferee’s criminal history and other records, instead of the standard background check described above, which requires DSP to verify whether the transferee’s FOID remains valid. (Because 2021 legislation now requires DSP to continuously monitor relevant databases to determine which FOID card holders have become ineligible due to a criminal conviction or other firearm prohibitor, these checks may be relatively similar in practice). See the Gun Shows in Illinois section for further information about the background check process at gun shows in the state.
An unlicensed seller or transferor who complies with the law by determining the validity of a purchaser’s FOID card, is generally not liable for damages in any civil action arising from the use or misuse by the transferee of the firearm transferred, except for willful or wanton conduct on the part of the seller or transferor.12
Other Illinois gun safety laws apply to all firearm sales, regardless of whether the seller is a licensed dealer, including but not limited to the following:
- Illinois law prohibits any person from knowingly selling firearms or ammunition to individuals who are ineligible to possess a firearm or who do not hold a Firearm Owner’s Identification (“FOID”) card. It is a Class 3 felony, for example, for any person to knowingly sell or give any firearm to any person who has been convicted of a felony.13
- Any person who transfers a firearm, or causes a firearm to be transferred, must keep records of all such transfers for a period of 10 years.14 People who obtain firearms from an unlicensed seller are also required to submit records of the firearm transfer to a federally licensed firearms dealer within 10 days.15 See the Maintaining Sale Records section for more information.
- All firearms sellers must generally comply with statutory waiting periods before completing the delivery of a firearm to a purchaser or transferee.16 See the Waiting Periods section for more details.
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- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2(a). Narrow exceptions to this requirement are listed in 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2(b) through (d).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-10).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-20); see also, 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1.
- 2021 IL HB 562.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-25).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-15)(2). The transferor is generally not required to contact DSP to conduct the background check if the firearm transfer is a bona fide gift to the transferor’s husband, wife, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law.
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-15)(1).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-15)(3).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-15)(5).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a-5), (a-15)(4); 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3.1.
- 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A)(k).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/2(a)(1), (2); 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(a); 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/4; 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A)(d), (k), (C) (9).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(b).
- 430 Ill. Comp. Stat. 65/3(b).
- 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/24-3(A)(g).