Gun dealers across the nation are viewed as valuable members of their community because of the many services they provide.
Buying and selling guns, transferring firearms, selling ammo, and even providing a shooting range means that scores of firearm owners and gun enthusiasts love these locations and visit them often.
As great as it may sound to fill this role for your community, if you are in the state of Illinois, it is not an easy task.
The 2019 Illinois Gun Dealer Licensing Act (GDLA), signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, created a swath of new regulations for Illinois-based FFL holders. It’s estimated that about half of the federal firearms licensees in the state closed their doors in response to the new regulations designed to reduce gun violence in the state (primarily, in Chicago).
There are several Federal requirements to follow to get your FFL in Illinois as well as several State requirements. At Rocket FFL, we hope to make this process as easy as possible, eliminating as much hassle as we can from the process.
In this article, we will discuss:
- FFL Cost
- Steps to getting your FFL in Illinois
- Federal Requirements for an FFL
- Illinois State Requirements for an FFL
- Illinois Local (City/Town) FFL Requirements
- FAQs and additional resources
FFL Cost in Illinois
How much does an FFL cost? An FFL in Illinois costs between $30-$200 for the first 3 years.
When you fill out an FFL application with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE/ATF), you choose from several license types.
Each of these license types vary in price due to the different functions they allow the licensee to perform. This includes whether the licensee is just trying to enter the business of selling handguns, incorporate gunsmithing, or handle NFA items, for example.
Each of these activities requires a different type of license for which the application fees range in price.
FFL License Cost by Type
To handle NFA items (such as silencers, short-barrel rifles, machine guns, destructive devices, etc.), you must pay additional costs in the form of an SOT license registration.
Steps to Getting Your FFL
To get your FFL in Illinois, you need to:
- Ensure you meet the federal and state requirements for an FFL
- Choose your FFL type
- Take an FFL course
- Submit your FFL application forms
Step 1: Ensure You Meet FFL Federal Requirements
First, you need to make sure that you meet all Federal requirements. Federal firearms licensees in all 50 states (plus DC) must meet these requirements.
Step 2: Choose Your FFL Type
Second, make sure you apply for the appropriate type of FFL. Depending on what you are trying to do with your business, you will need to make sure you choose the type of license that will allow you to lawfully operate your firearms business.
More often than not, you will probably need either a Type 01 license (for most firearms dealers and gunsmiths) or a Type 07 license (for manufacturing). A Type 07 license lets you both manufacture and sell firearms.
To determine what type of FFL best suits your needs, read this article, where we break it down.
Some types of firearms and accessories require you to be an SOT (Special Occupational Taxpayer). You’ll apply as an SOT after being assigned your FFL number. These requirements are from the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA), later updated with Title II of the Gun Control Act.
You’ll need to be an SOT if you plan to sell these NFA items:
- Full-auto machine guns
- Short-barreled rifles (rifles with a barrel shorter than 16″ or an overall length under 26″)
- Short-barreled shotguns (shotguns with a barrel shorter than 18″ or an overall length under 26″)
- Destructive devices (grenades, mines, bombs, etc.)
- Any other weapons (pen guns, specific special handguns, etc.)
The table below describes each FFL License type and which SOT Class you’ll need to apply for after getting your FFL to sell firearms covered under the NFA.
We cover all of the specifics of SOT classes and the NFA in our Get Your FFL Course.
Step 3: Take an FFL Course
Next, take an FFL course from a qualified instructor. The logistics of getting your FFL License can be complex, especially in states such as Illinois. That’s why I developed it based on decades of research and work as an attorney in the firearms industry to help you get your FFL hassle-free.
The below course will not only cover getting your FFL, but it also covers everything you need to know to get your FFL in Illinois.
I’m a firearms attorney that specializes in ATF compliance. I could easily get rich by letting people improperly apply for their dealer licensing and charge a lot of money to go back and fix their mistakes.
But I thought it would be better for my fellow firearms industry entrepreneurs to instead learn how to do it right the first time.
I highly recommend that you get the FFL Course and SOT Course combo. For an extra $10, learn how to apply to buy and sell silencers and Short Barreled Rifles (SBRs) in addition to standard firearms covered by just your FFL.
Step 4: Submit Your FFL Application Forms
Finally, once you’ve made sure you meet all requirements (federal and state), verified the appropriate FFL type for your business, and taken the Rocket FFL course, you are ready to “pull the trigger” and apply for your FFL!
Once you submit all the forms required by the ATF, they will start the process by completing a background check on all “responsible persons” for the business. A responsible person (RP) is someone who is either the sole proprietor, is a partner in the corporation, or will have influence over the practices and policies of the business.
Once all application paperwork is verified as correct, and all background checks are complete, the application is sent to a local ATF field office. An industry operations investigator (IOI) will set up an in-person interview with you to make sure all information is still correct and that you are following all state and local requirements.
After the interview, the IOI will make a recommendation to either approve or deny your FFL application. Assuming you passed, the ATF field office supervisor will then submit the approved application to the Federal Firearms Licensing Center (FFLC), and you will be the next owner of an FFL!
According to ATF.gov, the entire process takes about 60 days from when a completed application was first received. However, depending on the state you are setting up in, the ATF may require multiple forms and extra steps during the process.
But if you took the Rocket FFL course, you’ll have every detail and access to all the necessary forms to quickly apply for your Federal Firearms License.
Federal Requirements for an FFL
The federal requirements for getting an FFL are the same for every state.
To get an FFL, the federal government requires that you:
- Are at least 21 years of age
- Are a US Citizen or legal permanent resident
- Are legally permitted to possess firearms and ammunition (no felony convictions, have not been a psychological patient or controlled substance user, etc.)
- Have a predetermined location for conducting FFL activities (this includes home-based FFLs)
- Have never violated the Gun Control Act (GCA) or related regulations
- Do not make any false statements/claims on your FFL application
Once you satisfy all of these requirements, you can then move on to the state-specific requirements.
Illinois State Requirements for an FFL
Illinois state requirements for an FFL can be broken down into two categories:
- State licensing requirements
- Business registration requirements
Illinois State Licensing Requirements
Once you apply for and receive a valid FFL, you will then need to apply for a Firearms Dealer License Certification (FDLC) from the Illinois State Police. According to 430 ILCS 68, there are several requirements that you must follow during the application process, and subsequent years following initial licensing in order to remain operational.
Before we briefly discuss some of the state requirements for Illinois, know that all information in its entirety is available on the Illinois State Police website. This website includes an FAQ page, a pre-application checklist, and all the information you will need in order to successfully apply for a FDLC.
According to 430 ILCS 68 (signed into law on Jan 18, 2019), there are several requirements you must meet in order to receive your FDLC and to remain licensed. These include, but are not limited to:
- 2 hours of annual training for every license holder and employee of a license holder, covering all legal requirements for business operations
- A business Firearms Owner Identification Card (FOID card) — you must register for this
- Determine whether you plan to operate in a retail or non-retail space
- Follow all appropriate signage requirements
- Follow all video surveillance and alarm system requirements (including an alarm system that notifies local law enforcement of “unauthorized intrusion” into anywhere firearms inventory is stored)
- Maintain a digital record of every firearm that has every been received or sold by the licensee
- Have a signed and notarized affidavit certifying the status of your FFL
- Have all application documents, affidavits, licenses, etc available in digital, uploadable format
Again, this is a partial list of the state requirements of Illinois to receive and maintain your FDLC. The complete pre-application checklist, FAQ page, training programs, and all other necessary information is available on the Illinois State Police website.
Illinois Business Registration Requirements
Like all states, you’ll need to register your business with the State of Illinois.
Even if your business is registered in another state (we suggest this in our Get Your FFL course), you’ll still need to have an official presence in Illinois.
To register your FFL business in Illinois, check out the website available from the Illinois Department of Revenue on how to make it happen.
Illinois Local (City/Town) FFL Requirements
Local zoning requirements are usually one of the biggest problems when applying for an FFL. Most importantly, you must ensure the location you use as a base of operations (often a home-based FFL) allows for a business. This is especially true in Illinois, where certain cities are especially strict on their requirements.
It’s common to inquire about an FFL for a home-based firearms business and be told you can’t operate in a residential area. But don’t give up yet! Business restrictions in certain areas are frequently due to a misunderstanding about the type of business activity held there.
When a zoning department hears “FFL,” they may assume regular retail business and heavy foot traffic (which doesn’t fly in residential locations). But most home-based FFLs don’t have retail-level traffic and only have customers stop by on occasion.
It was also mentioned in the State Licensing Requirements section that you will need to determine whether you will be operating as a retail or non-retail location. When you go to apply for your FDLC, this will determine what you will pay for the application fee.
For retail locations, it is a $1,200 fee, whereas non-retail locations (including some Home-Based FFLs) will only require a $300 fee.
We cover this and more, including requirements for specific business hours, in our Get Your FFL course.
Illinois FFL Summary
Becoming a licensed gun dealer in Illinois can be quite challenging. Not only do you have to apply for your FFL through the ATF, but you also have to apply for a Firearms Dealer License Certification (FDLC) through the Illinois State Police.
However, here at Rocket FFL, we are determined to help you along the way, making it as easy as we possibly can.
As long as you meet the Federal and State requirements, choose the appropriate license type, take our online course, and fill in the proper forms, you’ll be on your way to being the newest owner of a Illinois FFL.
But I’ll warn you — without our course, you can expect to sink a lot of hours into trying to get it right on your own.
With our course, you can, with confidence, fill out your forms and get through the process with ease. Trust me — knowing that you are running your business safely and within all the confines of federal and Illinois state laws will be a massive load off your mind.
So, if you’re ready, let’s get started!
FAQ for Illinois FFL Licensing
How much does it cost to get an FFL in Illinois?
An FFL in Illinois costs anywhere from $30 to $200 for 3 years for the federal license. You’ll also pay $1200 (retail) or $300 (home-based) for your FDLC in the State of Illinois.
Do I need an FFL in Illinois?
Yes, if you plan to sell, transfer, manufacture, or do anything else for profit involving firearms, you are legally required to have an active FFL.
Does Illinois require extra licensing for FFLs?
Yes. Before you are able to sell guns in Illinois, you must also apply for a Firearms Dealer License Certification. You will need to apply for this after you have your FFL.
Do I need to register a business for an FFL in Illinois?
Yes, if you are forming a business for your FFL, it must be registered in Illinois.
Can I get an FFL to save money on guns?
No, you should not get an FFL just to save money on guns. One of the main requirements for getting your FFL is “business intent,” meaning you intend to operate a firearms-related business.
However, you may wait to start your business until after you get your FFL number.
Extra Resources For Getting a Illinois FFL
US Code § 923: Code § 923 covers federal regulations for the import, manufacture, and dealing of firearms and ammunition. This is the federal law that requires those operating firearms businesses to get an FFL.
US CFR § 478.47 – Issuance of license.: This code explains how a Federal Firearms License is issued, including who must assign the license number. It requires the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) to qualify applicants based on a predetermined list of requirements and to issue Federal Firearms Licenses.
If a correctly submitted FFL application has been submitted on ATF Form 7, the Chief of the Federal Firearms Licensing Center (a department at the ATF) must issue the license and assign a serial number to the licensee.
430 ILCS 68: The Illinois “Combating Illegal Gun Trafficking Act” details the requirements you must meet in order to become a legal gun dealer.
Gun Control Act (GCA): The GCA of 1968 establishes stricter laws on the firearms industry than were already present in the NFA. New regulations regarding firearms offenses, firearms/ammunition sales to “prohibited persons,” and federal jurisdiction for “destructive devices” (bombs, grenades, mines, etc.) were created with the GCA.
Starting a Business in Illinois: Check out this website from the Illinois Department of Revenue showing you how to register your new business!
Illinois State Police Website (FDLC Page): This page from the Illinois Police Department lists all requirements that you will have to meet in order to receive your FDLC. It includes an FAQ page, lists all required documentation, shows what forms you will need to fill out, and more! Between our course and this page, you should be able to complete everything no problem!
FFL Types: Use this guide to make sure that you choose the right type of Federal Firearms License for what you want to do.
Home-Based FFL: Don’t want to pay for a storefront but wish to operate as an FFL holder from your home? We explain how to do it from start to finish.