How to Buy a Gun in Illinois: Your Complete Guide

Buy a Gun in Illinois Cover

There are many reasons why you’d want to buy a gun in Illinois, including home defense, hunting, and sport shooting. The state has some relatively strict gun laws that prolong the gun-buying process compared to other places in the country, but you shouldn’t have much trouble if you meet the federal qualifications. 

The gist is that you’ll need to register as a firearm owner and wait 72 hours after purchasing your firearm to take possession. These laws might be an inconvenience, but there’s nothing in Illinois state law that should prevent you from buying a gun if you have a clean record.

It’s wise to learn the process of buying a gun in Illinois before showing up at a dealer so you can plan ahead and avoid being disappointed by the requirements. Here’s a look at how you can purchase a firearm in the state of Illinois.

Illinois Firearm Background Checks

The government will always want to see who’s buying a firearm in the United States. Passing a background check is necessary before purchasing a gun anywhere in the country, and Illinois is no different. The process is a little slower here than in other places, though, so be prepared to wait. Here’s how background checks in Illinois work:

Point of Contact State

Illinois is a point of contact state, which means the state uses the NICS database but conducts its own background checks using state records as well. All licensed firearm dealers must contact the Illinois Department of State Police (DSP) before transferring any firearm to a buyer. The DSP will then search for criminal history and mental health concerns to ensure the buyer isn’t disqualified from buying a gun.


Background checks in Illinois are sometimes approved instantly and sometimes take a bit longer. There’s a 72-hour waiting period before you can leave the dealer with the firearm, though, so having an instant system isn’t a priority in the state. This timeline and the background checks will also apply to private sales starting in 2024.

Failed Background Checks

The DSP must approve or deny the background check within 72 hours. Reasons you might fail include felony convictions, mental impairments, drug addictions, and domestic crime convictions. The State Police must report any failed background checks to local law enforcement for them to follow up with the disqualified individual about their reasons for trying to buy a gun. 

Background checks in Illinois work much the same as the rest of the country, except for the 72-hour waiting period. Learning what to expect can put your mind at ease as you attempt to purchase a firearm in the state.

7 Steps to Buying a Gun in Illinois

Buying a gun

There’s an extended timeline when you buy a gun in Illinois because of the legal requirements. You can’t make a spur-of-a-moment decision, since the state’s gun-buying process takes some time to complete. Here’s a look at what you’ll have to do:

1. Get Registered

Every gun owner in Illinois needs to register and receive a Firearm Owner Identification card, or FOID. You can’t buy a gun in Illinois without a FOID, as it’s required to begin your background check and complete the sale. The application form asks for basic information like your name, address, and driver’s license number, and it costs $10.

2. Wait for Your Card

Your FOID will usually arrive in the mail within a month. There are cases, though, where the card doesn’t come for three or four months, and there isn’t much you can do about it. Many gun buyers use this period to research firearms and find the perfect one to meet their needs.

3. Choose a Gun Shop

You can begin visiting gun shops before your FOID card arrives in the mail, but you can’t touch anything. You can, however, read online reviews to find a shop that matches your preferences and wander through these stores. You can start looking for a gun more seriously once your card comes because you can begin handling the firearms inside your chosen gun shop.

4. Fill Out Your Paperwork

There’s some paperwork that goes along with any gun purchase in the United States. ATF Form 4473 is necessary before completing the transaction, although it includes much of the same information as your FOID application. 

5. Buy the Gun 

Gun and Sales Form

You can finally purchase a firearm once you fill out all the necessary paperwork. This point is where the dealer will commence the background check. You can’t leave the premises with the firearm yet, though, because you still have the 72-hour waiting period.

6. Complete the Waiting Period

The 72-hour waiting period comes down to the minute, as your receipt will have the exact time you can pick up your gun. You’ll have to show your identification and sign the 4473 and your receipt before the dealer will release the firearm. You must transfer the weapon to your home in an inaccessible location in your car or inside an enclosed case unless you have a concealed carry permit.

7. Get a Concealed Carry Permit

Open carry is illegal in Illinois, so you’ll need a concealed carry permit if you wish to take your gun off your personal property outside of a case. A 16-hour firearms training course by a state-approved instructor is mandatory before receiving your concealed carry license in the state. Illinois is a shall-issue state, so the Illinois State Police must approve your concealed carry application if you meet the necessary qualifications and take the training course. 

Following these steps is mandatory to get through the gun-buying procedures in Illinois. It’s a good idea to learn about your responsibilities before purchasing a firearm because it can help the process go far more smoothly.

Get the Training You Need

Jumping through these hoops as you buy a gun in Illinois is only part of the challenge. You’ll still have to lock your firearm up anytime you take it anywhere unless you have a concealed carry permit. Getting this license ensures you have the right to freely carry your weapon in a covered location on your body to the shooting range or for personal protection.

Concealed Coalition provides the 16 hours of classroom and live-fire training you need to apply for your concealed carry permit in Illinois. Our state-approved instructors will ensure you’re ready for your license. Contact Concealed Coalition to discuss your firearm educational needs.

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