WTTW News Explains: What Are Illinois’ Gun Laws?


Chicago has a reputation as the City of Big Shoulders. For rough-and-tumble politics. And for having a lot of crime, despite strict gun laws.

But what are those laws?

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Most major gun restrictions come from the state, not the city itself.

To purchase and own a gun in Illinois, you must have a Firearm Owner’s Identification, or FOID, card. To qualify for a FOID card, you have to be at least 21 and have never been convicted of a felony. That and other disqualifying crimes would come up in the required background check.

Without a FOID, you can’t legally buy or even use a gun in Illinois, with limited exceptions.

To carry a gun in public, that requires a second official credential: a concealed carry license, which requires completing a training course.

Concealed carry licenses allow someone to carry a loaded gun in permitted places. But even someone with a CCL can’t bring a firearm into a school, government building, CTA train, hospital, bar or anywhere else where the owner has said “no.”

Key in on the word concealed. No flashy holsters. In Illinois, that gun has to be hidden.

Firearm dealers — as in, those who sell guns — have to be certified by the state, too.

Illinois requires 72 hours between when someone applies to buy a gun and when the dealer can deliver it.

The state bans a bunch of guns outright as well, specifically those classified by Illinois as assault weapons.

So, how do Illinois’ so-called strict gun laws stack up?

The Giffords Law Center gives Illinois an A- for having some of the nation’s strictest gun laws. As for our neighbors, Wisconsin gets a C, and Indiana a D-. Iowa, Missouri and Kentucky all score Fs.

Now if gun rights groups did the grading, Illinois would probably get an F. The state is seen as one of the least friendly when it comes to gun ownership.

Either way, gun laws in neighboring states impact Illinois. It’s not like there are border checkpoints.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms reports that in 2022, of the nearly 20,000 firearms recovered and traced in Illinois, less than 40% were actually purchased in state.

The most recent data for Chicago is from 2019, and only about one-third of the recovered and traced firearms were purchased in Illinois.

So, while Chicago is the City of Big Shoulders and rough-and-tumble politics — the correlation between Chicago gun violence and gun laws? That is a little more complicated.

Contact Amanda Vinicky: @AmandaVinicky | [email protected]


A Safer City is supported, in part, by the Sue Ling Gin Foundation Initiative for Reducing Violence in Chicago. 


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