How to Buy a Gun in Illinois

There are two ways in which a person may legally buy a gun in Illinois. As you can imagine both methods are very heavily regulated by both the state and federal governments. This article will discuss how a new gun owner may buy a gun in Illinois.

The two methods how to buy a gun in Illinois would be to buy from a licensee or buy from a private party. A licensee is more commonly referred to as a gun store or gun dealer, and a private party would be any individual without the necessary state and federal licenses who wish to sell a gun. This article will focus on how a new gun owner may buy a gun in Illinois from a gun store. Another article previously written, How To Sell a Gun in Illinois, explains how private individuals may buy or sell guns to one another.


Step 1 Gun Owner Registration

Every gun owner in Illinois must be registered. This is what is called a Firearm Owner Identification card, or FOID for short. This can be done by going to the Illinois State Police (ISP) Firearm Services Bureau (FSB) website at, when the website actually is working. Or you can call the ISPFSB at 217-782-7980, however, be prepared to be on hold for 2 hours if you do call.

The FOID application will ask for basic information such as name, address, driver’s license number, etc… The fee is $10 plus a convenience fee. The FOID card is currently valid for 10 years, although there are efforts to increase the fees, require fingerprints, and to reduce the term to 5 years.

According to state law, your new FOID card will arrive in the mail within 30 days unless the state determines you to be a prohibited person. However it is not unusual for someone to wait 3 or 4 months, and there is no penalty for the state to not comply with its laws.

You can not buy a firearm from a gun store or a private party without a FOID card. So, please be patient. (That part about patience was complete sarcasm).

Step 2 Buying the Gun

Once you have your FOID card in hand, you can now visit the gun store to buy your gun. Let’s assume you spent the last 3 or 4 months researching the best guns available, while you waited months for your FOID card to arrive. There are some great articles on the internet about choosing the right gun for you. One such article is, What is the Best Gun for Concealed Carry. While this article is specifically written regarding concealed carry guns, it does walk the reader through selection based on size, personal fit, lifestyle, etc… This is all great advice no matter what type of gun you are looking to buy.

After you’ve picked out and paid for your new gun, the dealer will ask you to fill out a federal form, the 4473. Also, the dealer may ask for other information such as occupation and intended use of the gun, which are additional state of Illinois requirements. The dealer is required to keep this 4473 for not less than 20 years and turn these documents over to the police upon request.  Some say the 4473 is a back door gun registry.

Step 3 Taking Possession of the gun.

Ok, goodbye! You can’t take possession yet. You have to wait at least 72 hours to take possession of your new gun. There is a 72 hour “cool down” waiting period in Illinois to buy a new gun. As if the 4 months you waited for your FOID card isn’t a long enough wait! But what’s worse is, it’s not unusual for this waiting period to go longer. I’ve personally waited 5 days before, and have heard as long as 10 days for some people.

In other states, dealers will call the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and receive an instant approval or denial on the background check, but not in Illinois. Most states do not even have anything similar to the FOID card.  In Illinois, the dealers are required to perform a Firearm Transfer Inquiry (FTIP), and the dealer will not release the firearm to you until they receive approval from the ISPFSB.

It is only now that you may take possession of your firearm. If you needed this firearm for self-defense, perhaps looters were in your neighborhood when you decided to buy the gun, receiving your gun 3 months later is no help to anyone.

A right delayed is a right denied. The FOID system has completely collapsed under its own weight and become a bottleneck to nonviolent civilians being able to exercise their right to self-preservation and self-defense.  Now you understand how to buy a gun in Illinois, however, if this process seems like a cumbersome train wreck, many would agree. If you feel this long drawn-out process prevents people from defending themselves and places lives in danger, many would also agree. It is up to each of us, and this includes YOU, to defend your right to self-defense.  Take the next step and join multiple gun rights organizations. Write letters to your elected officials. We can change this if we all work together. There are 2.2 million gun owners in the state of Illinois, if we all speak up then we cannot be ignored. Your voice matters!  #VoidTheFOID


1 thought on “How to Buy a Gun in Illinois”

  1. Thanks for pointing out the need to have a FOID card in order to be able to buy a gun in a gun shop. My husband is interested in buying a gun for self-defense purposes. He wants to ensure that he would be able to secure a gun that would fit his needs while complying to the regulations.

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