See our Dealer Regulations policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.
Illinois has no law requiring firearms dealers to obtain a state license or permit. However, Illinois law penalizes anyone who sells or gives a firearm while engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail without being licensed as a federal firearms dealer.1 A person “engaged in the business” means a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to engaging in the activity as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit, but does not include a person who makes occasional repairs of firearms or who occasionally fits special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to firearms.2 “With the principal objective of livelihood and profit” means that the intent underlying the sale or disposition of firearms is predominantly one of obtaining livelihood and pecuniary gain, as opposed to other intents, such as improving or liquidating a personal firearms collection; however, proof of profit is not required as to a person who engages in the regular and repetitive purchase and disposition of firearms for criminal purposes or terrorism. 3
Firearms dealers are also subject to state laws governing gun sales generally.
For laws requiring dealers to:
- Conduct a background check on prospective firearm purchasers, see the Background Checks in Illinois section;
- Only sell handguns that meet certain safety standards, see the Design Safety Standards for Handguns section; and
- Ensure that firearm purchasers own a locking device, see the Locking Devices section.
For a list of laws applicable to both licensed and private firearm sellers, please see the Private Sales in Illinois section.