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Know the Laws: Illinois

UPDATED September 19, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Illinois.  A restraining order or criminal conviction may make it illegal for an abuser to have a gun.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.  Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area.

Please consider getting in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find help in your area, please go to the IL Where to Find Help page.

Basic Info and Definitions

back to topWhat is the difference between federal and state gun laws?

In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws."  The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.

One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself.  Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws.  Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well.  You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.

If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws.  Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws.  If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor.  If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor).  For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?  If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.

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back to topWhat is the definition of a felony?

Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. Under IL state law, a felony is a crime that is punishable by death or a sentence of one year or more in a penitentiary.*  However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the courthouse and search the conviction records. 

* 720 ILCS 5/2-7

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back to topI am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

It depends.  Under Illinois law, anyone who has a domestic violence order of protection against him/ her, including an interim order of protection, emergency order of protection, or plenary order of protection, cannot legally have a firearm.  Any firearms in the possession of the abuser must be turned over to a person with a valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card and the abuser must turn over his/her Firearm Owner's Identification Card to the local law enforcement agency. Also, if the abuser is a law enforcement officer ("peace officer"), s/he must surrender any firearms that are used in the performance of his/her duties to the agency's chief law enforcement officer.* 

Also, under Illinois state law, the Department of State Police has the power to deny an application for a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (or to revoke and seize one that was previously issued) if the applicant or holder of the card: 

  1. is subject to an existing order of protection;**
  2. has been convicted of a felony in any state (or a juvenile who was declared delinquent for an offense that would have been a felony if committed by an adult);
  3. has been convicted within the past 5 years of battery, assault, aggravated assault, violation of an order of protection, or a substantially similar offense, in which a firearm was used or possessed;
  4. is under 21 and has been convicted of a misdemeanor (other than a traffic offense or adjudged delinquent);
  5. is under 21 and does not have the written consent of a parent/guardian or whose parent/guardian does not qualify to have a Firearm Owner's Identification Card;
  6. is a drug addict;
  7. was a patient in a a mental health facility within the last 5 years; (Note: If the person was a patient in a mental health facility more than 5 years ago, s/he must have a certification that s/he or she is not a clear and present danger to himself, herself, or others.) However, this restriction does not apply to an active law enforcement officer who did not act in a manner threatening to the officer, another person, or the public as determined by the treating clinical psychologist or physician, and the officer seeks mental health treatment);
  8. has been adjudicated (declared by a judge) as a person with a mental disability;
  9. was involuntarily admitted into a mental health facility;
  10. has a developmental disability;
  11. has an intellectual disability;
  12. has a mental condition that poses a clear and present danger to the applicant, to anyone else or to the community;
  13. intentionally makes a false statement in the Firearm Owner's Identification Card application;
  14. is an undocumented (illegal) immigrant;
  15. is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition by any Illinois state law or by federal law; or
  16. is not a resident of Illinois.***

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict a person's right to have a gun under certain circumstances such as when the abuser has been convicted of certain domestic violence-related crimes or if you have an order of protection against the abuser that meets certain requirements. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* 725 ILCS 5/112A-14(b)(14.5)
** 430 ILCS 65/8.2
*** 430 ILCS 65/8

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Guns and Orders of Protection

back to topI have an emergency/interim order of protection against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive an interim or plenary order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

No.  Under Illinois law, anyone who has an interim or emergency domestic violence order of protection against him/her cannot legally have a firearm.  Any firearms in the possession of the abuser must be turned over to a person with a valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card and the abuser must turn over his/her Firearm Owner's Identification Card to the local law enforcement agency.  Also, if the abuser is a law enforcement officer ("peace officer"), s/he must surrender any firearms that are used in the performance of his/her duties to the agency's chief law enforcement officer.* 

However, if someone has a stalking no contact order issued against him/her, the firearm prohibition may not be included in the order.  Prohibiting the respondent from possessing a Firearm Owner's Identification Card or having/buying firearms is one of many protections that the judge could include but it is up to the judge whether or not to include it.  If it is included in the no contact order, the judge is supposed to take the respondent's Firearm Owner's Identification Card and immediately return it to the Department of State Police Firearm Owner's Identification Card Office.**

* 725 ILCS 5/112A-14(b)(14.5)
** 725 ILCS 21/80(b)(4),(e)

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back to topI have an order of protection against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

Under Illinois law, anyone who has a domestic violence order of protection against him/her, including an interim order of protection, emergency order of protection, or plenary order of protection, cannot legally have a firearm.  Any firearms in the possession of the abuser must be turned over to a person with a valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card and the abuser must turn over his/her Firearm Owner's Identification Card to the local law enforcement agency.  Also, if the abuser is a law enforcement officer ("peace officer"), s/he must surrender any firearms that are used in the performance of his/her duties to the agency's chief law enforcement officer.* 

However, if someone has a stalking no contact order issued against him/her, the firearm prohibition may not be included in the order.  Prohibiting the respondent from possessing a Firearm Owner's Identification Card or having/buying firearms is one of many protections that the judge could include but it is up to the judge whether or not to include it.  If it is included in the no contact order, the judge is supposed to take the respondent's Firearm Owner's Identification Card and immediately return it to the Department of State Police Firearm Owner's Identification Card Office.**

Federal laws, which apply to all states, also restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

State and federal laws that prohibit the abuser from having a gun only apply during the time period that you have an active (valid)  order of protection.  

To speak to someone in your area about local gun laws or to plan for your safety, see IL State and Local Programs to find a program in your area.

* 725 ILCS 5/112A-14(b)(14.5)
** 725 ILCS 21/80(b)(4),(e)

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Guns and Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

IL state law says that anyone who has been convicted of any felony cannot have or buy a gun.*  Additionally, federal laws, which apply to all states, also restrict a person's right to have a gun if s/he has been convicted of certain crimes. Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

* 720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a)

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back to topHow can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access. If you know the exact courthouse where your abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS. Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

 

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The Abuser Isn't Supposed to Have a Gun...Now What?

back to topIf the abuser's gun(s) is taken away, what will happen to it?

If the abuser’s gun(s) is taken away, the court clerk should notify the state police that the abuser cannot have a gun.  The abuser will have to give his/her Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card to the court clerk who will send it to the state police and will either have to give his/her gun(s) to the local law enforcement agency or to the state police. The agency that receives the gun(s) will keep it until the order expires.  If the abuser is a peace officer, s/he will have to give his/her gun(s) to the chief law enforcement executive at his/her job who will keep the gun(s) until the order expires.  If the abuser is in court, he will be ordered by the judge to turn over the guns.  If the abuser is not in court, the judge can issue a warrant that allows the police to seize (forcibly take) the abuser’s gun.*

Once the guns have been turned in or seized, the law enforcement agency should notify the domestic violence unit at the local court that the abuser has followed the order. 

* 750 ILCS 60/214(b)(14.5)

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back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our IL Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Illinois on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our IL State and Local Programs page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.*

* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating Illinois state gun laws?

Under IL state law, anyone who is found to be illegally in possession of a firearm other than a handgun is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and can be punished by jail time of up to 1 year, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.  Anyone who is found to be illegally in possession of a handgun is guilty of a Class 4 felony and can be punished by jail time for 1-3 years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.*

* 720 ILCS 5/24-3.1(b); 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1; 730 ILCS 5/5-9-1

 

 

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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More Information and Where to Get Help

back to topI do not have an order of protection against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

Under Illinois state law, there are other circumstances (aside from being convicted of a crime or having an order of protection against you) under which a person can lose the right to own a gun.  For example, the Department of State Police has the power to deny an application for Firearm Owner's Identification Card (or to revoke and seize one that was previously issued) if the applicant or holder of the card:

  • is under 21 and does not have the written consent of a parent/guardian;
  • is a drug addict;
  • was a patient in a a mental health facility within the last 5 years; (Note: If the person was a patient in a mental health facility more than 5 years ago, s/he must have a certification that s/he or she is not a clear and present danger to himself, herself, or others.) However, this restriction does not apply to an active law enforcement officer who did not act in a manner threatening to the officer, another person, or the public as determined by the treating clinical psychologist or physician, and the officer seeks mental health treatment;
  • has a mental condition that poses a clear and present danger to the applicant, any other person(s) or the community;
  • was involuntarily admitted into a mental health facility;
  • has an intellectual disability;
  • has been adjudicated (declared by a judge) as a person with a mental disability;
  • has a developmental disability;
  • intentionally makes a false statement in the Firearm Owner's Identification Card application;
  • is prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition by any Illinois state law or by federal law;
  • is an undocumented (illegal) immigrant; or
  • is not a resident of Illinois.*

If any of these conditions apply to your situation, please talk to an advocate or lawyer in your area about what steps you can take to enforce this law.  You can find a lawyer or advocate here.

If none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety.  See our Staying Safe page for more information.  You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help.  You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. See our IL State and Local Programs page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in Illinois, you can go to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence website.

* 430 ILCS 65/8

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back to topThe abuser uses a gun for his job. Does the law still apply?

Yes.  Under Illinois state law, the judge can order that an abuser turn in his guns even if the abuser is a law enforcement officer, military employee or government employee.  S/he must give the gun(s) to the chief law enforcement executive at his/her job who will keep the gun(s) until the order expires.*

Furtheremore, there are federal gun laws that make it illegal for anyone convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor to buy or have a gun, even if s/he is a police officer or a military employee. To read more, go to Federal Gun Laws.

If you are confused or not sure whether your abuser can still use their gun for work purposes, you can talk to a family violence advocate in your area or call the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to find out more information: 1-800-903-0111. To find a family violence advocate in your area, please go to our IL State and Local Programs page. 

* 750 ILCS 60/214(b)(14.5)(b)

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back to topI've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area (See our IL State and Local Programs page).
  • You can also contact the National Center on Full Faith and Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2

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