Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Firearms Restraining Order (FRO)?

In many high-profile shootings, family members of the shooters saw their loved ones engage in dangerous behaviors and grew concerned about their risk of harming themselves or other– even before any violence occurred. In fact, it is common for family to be the first to know when loved ones are in crisis in many incidents of interpersonal violence and suicide that take place across this country every day. The Firearms Restraining Order (FRO) offers family members and law enforcement a tool for temporarily preventing access to firearms by these loved ones in crisis.

A FRO is a civil court order, signed by a judge, that temporarily prohibits someone (the “respondent”) who is at risk of hurting themselves or others from possessing or purchasing any firearms.

By intervening to temporarily remove firearms already possessed and prohibit new firearm purchases, the FRO creates safer circumstances for the individual to seek treatment (e.g., for substance abuse, mental disorders) or engage other resources to address the underlying causes of the dangerous behaviors. The FRO is based on the long-standing infrastructure and procedure of domestic violence laws (in place in all 50 states) and involves a court hearing and clearly defined due process protections. Individuals have been able to apply for FROs in Illinois since January 1, 2019.

Why is a FRO needed?

Some individuals in crisis and at risk of harming themselves or others may not be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms because:

  • They haven’t been convicted of a prohibitory crime;
  • They aren’t subject to a domestic violence restraining order; or
  • They don’t meet the criteria for an involuntary hospitalization civil commitment for mental health treatment (IL462-2005), or, if they do, family members are hesitant to commit their loved ones.

A FRO offers family members and law enforcement a judicial pathway for temporarily removing firearms and prohibiting future gun purchases. While a FRO is in effect, an individual in crisis can safely access help and care that could stop a violent situation from occurring.

How does a FRO help people in crisis stay safe?

The FRO helps family members and law enforcement protect a loved one who is dangerous to themselves or others by temporarily prohibiting them from accessing guns. It requires temporary removal of firearms from the subject of the order and prohibits new purchases for the duration of the order. This creates safer circumstances for the individual to seek treatment, stabilize their behavior, or access resources to address the underlying causes of their dangerous behaviors.

How does a FRO work?

A family member or law enforcement officer can request that a Circuit Court in their jurisdiction issue a FRO based on the facts they present through a formal, written application, and/or at a hearing before a judge. This does not involve a criminal complaint, and seeking a FRO does not preclude the petitioner from seeking any other available legal remedy. There are two court processes for obtaining a FRO, depending on whether a petitioner would like to file for an Emergency FRO, or a Six-Month FRO. While the petition processes are different, they serve the same function, to remove firearms from someone at-risk of harming themselves or others.

After the petition is filed, a judge considers the information presented by the petitioner and assesses whether the person is at risk of harming themselves or someone else. If an emergency FRO is issued, the court shall schedule a full hearing, at which both the petitioner and the respondent have an opportunity to be heard, as soon as possible, but not longer than 14 days from the issuance of an emergency FRO.

If a FRO is issued, regardless of which type, the court shall, upon a finding of probable cause that the respondent possesses firearms, issue a search warrant directing law enforcement to seize the respondent’s firearms. Additionally, the respondent will be prohibited from having in their custody or control, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm for the duration of the order. The respondent shall be required to turn over to the local law enforcement agency any FOID Card and concealed carry license in their possession.

What can and cannot a FRO do?

A FRO is a court order that:

  • Orders the respondent of the order to turn over any FOID card and concealed carry license in their possession; and
  • Prohibits the respondent from purchasing or obtaining any guns for the duration of the order.

Additionally, the court shall, upon a finding of probable cause that the respondent possesses firearms, issue a search warrant directing law enforcement to seize the respondent’s firearms.

A FRO only places restrictions on possession of firearms for a defined period of time. It does NOT:

  • Require the surrender of other weapons, such as knives; or
  • Protect the petitioner in other ways, such as by barring contact or keeping the person from coming near the petitioner. For personal protection from a family member or household member, you should proceed under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. See page Information For Victims for more information.

Who can petition for a Firearms Restraining Order?

You can ask (petition) the Court for a Firearm Restraining Order if you are a family member of the respondent. Family members include the respondent’s:

  • Spouse, parents, children, step-children, siblings, or any other person related by blood or present marriage to the respondent.
  • A person sharing a common dwelling with the respondent (roommates).

In addition, law enforcement officers* may petition for a Firearms Restraining Order.

If a person you know is at risk of harming themselves or others with a firearm, even if the person does not currently have access to guns, but you do not fit into the descriptions above, then you can inform someone who does, including law enforcement. An officer may investigate and file a petition if they find that grounds exist.

There are two types of FROs that may be issued in Illinois:

View all forms

Emergency FRO (form): Emergency FROs are also available to family members, and law enforcement. The petitioner may request an Emergency/Ex Parte FRO by filing an affidavit or verified pleading alleging that the respondent poses an immediate and present danger to themselves or others by having a firearm in their custody or control. An emergency hearing will be held on an ex parte basis, that is, without notice to the respondent. This hearing will be held the same day that the petition is filed, or the next day the Court is in session. If a circuit or associate judge finds probable cause to believe that the respondent poses an immediate and present threat of danger, they shall issue an emergency order. The Court shall schedule a full hearing as soon as possible, but no longer than 14 days from the issuance of an emergency FRO, to determine if a Six-Month FRO shall be issued.

Six-Month FRO (form): A Six-Month FRO is available to family members, and law enforcement. After filing a FRO petition using the verified petition, a hearing will be scheduled with the Court within 30 days from the receipt of the petition, in order to determine if a Six-Month FRO should be issued. The respondent shall be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to be heard. The the petitioner must prove by “clear and convincing evidence, that the respondent poses a significant danger of personal injury to himself, herself, or another[.]”. During the scheduled hearing the judge may ask for further evidence and testimony to determine if there are grounds to issue a six-month order. Six-Month FROs may be renewed before they expire if the judge finds the respondent to be an ongoing danger to themselves or others.

How do courts assess “dangerousness”?

A judge determining whether to issue a Six-Month FRO must consider several indicators of dangerousness, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Unlawful and reckless use, display, or brandishing of a firearm by the respondent.
  • Any history of use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force by the respondent against another person.
  • Any prior arrest of the respondent for a felony offense.
  • Evidence of the abuse of controlled substances or alcohol by the respondent.
  • A recent threat of violence or act of violence by the respondent directed toward themselves or another person.
  • A violation of a domestic violence order of protection.
  • Any pattern of violent acts or violent threats, including, but not limited to, threats of violence or acts of violence by the respondent directed toward themselves or others.

What are the effects of a Firearm Restraining Order on the restrained person?

FROs place temporary limits on access to firearms to keep people safe when they are in crisis.

A court issuing a FRO shall, upon a finding of probable cause that the respondent possesses firearms, issue a search warrant directing law enforcement to seize the respondent’s firearms. The respondent of the petition must also turn over their FOID Card and concealed carry license.

The respondent of the petition will be temporarily barred from purchasing firearms while the order is in effect.

If the respondent of the petition violates the restraining order, call the police. They can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor crime.

How do I file a FRO petition as a family member?

If you are a family  member, you may file a petition for either a Six-month FRO or an Emergency FRO by following these general steps:

  • File a verified petition requesting a FRO, and explaining your concerns for the wellbeing of the respondent. This form can be downloaded online and filled out, but must be filed in the Circuit Court of the county in which the respondent resides. Find your court here.
  • If the respondent of the petition is known by the petitioner to have firearms, then when petitioning for any type of FRO, the petitioner must describe the number, types, and locations of any firearms presently believed to be in the respondent of the petition’s possession or control.
  • The judge will decide whether to issue an emergency order on the same day the petition was filed or on the next judicial business day. This emergency order will be in effect until the full hearing can be scheduled, no longer than 14 days from the date of issuance.
  • In the case of a Six-Month FRO petition, the Court will schedule a full hearing within 30 days of the filing of the initial petition. The outcome of this hearing will determine whether or not a Six-Month FRO is needed.
  • The respondent of the petition must be “served” in person with a copy of all Firearms Restraining Order papers. Law enforcement must serve the order to the respondent, which they will do at no cost to the petitioner.
  • Illinois Circuit Courts are required by law to provide simplified forms and clerical support to petitioners, free of charge. Find your court here.

The petitioner must be present at the court hearing. If the the petitioner is not present, no order will be issued. The respondent may or may not be present at the hearing. They are requested to attend the hearing but are not required to do so. At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence on the respondent of the petition’s dangerousness to decide to continue or cancel the order. If the judge decides to extend the emergency order, or grant the Six-Month order, the Firearms Restraining Order will last for six months.

For more detailed instructions see How to File a FRO.

How do I file a FRO petition as a member of law enforcement?

If you are a law enforcement officer, you may file a petition for an Emergency FRO or a Six-month FRO by followng these general steps:

  • File a verified petition requesting a FRO, and explaining that the respondent poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to themselves or another by having access to firearms. This form can be downloaded online and filled out, but must be filed in the Circuit Court of the county in which the respondent resides. Find your court here.
  • If the respondent of the petition is known by the petitioner to have firearms, then when petitioning for any type of FRO, the petitioner must describe the number, types, and locations of any firearms presently believed to be in the respondent of the petition’s possession or control.
  • The judge will decide whether to issue an emergency order on the same day the petition was filed or on the next judicial business day. This emergency order will be in effect until the full hearing can be scheduled, no longer than 14 days from the date of issuance.
  • If the judge issues an Emergency FRO, and you have probable cause that the respondent possesses firearms, request a search warrant.
  • If the judge issues an Emergency FRO, serve the Emergency FRO (and the search warrant if one was issued) on the respondent. And enter the order in the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) as soon as possible. If the petition is made for a Six-month FRO, serve notice of the hearing on the respondent.
  • In the case of a Six-Month FRO petition, the Court will schedule a full hearing within 30 days of the filing of the initial petition.
  • If the judge issues a Six-month FRO, and you have probable cause that the respondent possesses firearms, request a search warrant.
  • If the judge issues a Six-month FRO, and the respondent was not present at the hearing, serve the Six-month FRO on the respondent. If a search warrant was issued with the Six-month FRO, execute the search warrant.
  • Enter the Six-month FRO into LEADS on the same day it was issued.

Can the respondent of the petition contest the FRO?

If the respondent disagrees with the order, they will have the opportunity to state their case at the hearing scheduled by the Court. If the Court sides with the petitioner and grants the FRO, respondents are permitted one written request during the effective period of the order for a hearing to terminate the order. If this hearing is granted, the respondent must attend it, and they will have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence they are no longer a danger to themselves and the community. Respondents can fill out this form to begin the process of terminating the order.

How does a person get their firearms back?

A FRO is a time-limited order. If the FRO is terminated or expired, the firearm or firearms removed and FOID Card and concealed carry license, if unexpired, shall be returned to the respondent. If the firearms, FOID Card, or concealed carry license cannot be returned to the respondent because the respondent cannot be located, fails to respond to requests to retrieve the firearms, or is not lawfully eligible to possess a firearm, upon petition by the local law enforcement agency, the court may order the local law enforcement agency to destroy the firearms, use the firearms for training purposes, or for any other application as deemed appropriate by the local law enforcement agency.

Can an FRO be renewed?

You may request to renew a Six-Month FRO within the three months before the expiration of the original Six-Month FRO. An FRO may not be renewed after its expiration. The petitioner shall bear the same burden of proof and the judge will use the same criteria as when deciding the initial Six-Month order to determine if an FRO is still necessary. Click here to learn more about this process.

Note: The expiration date of a Six-Month FRO is the six-month anniversary of the hearing at which the order was approved. Therefore if the order was approved on March 15, 2018, the petitioner may request to renew the order beginning on June 15, 2018, and the renewal must be approved no later than September 14, 2019.

What if the person requesting the order is under the age of 18?

The State of Illinois has not specified whether a minor can petition for a FRO and has suggested that this is a matter to be decided by judges in individual cases. Contact your Local Circuit Court for more information.

Will there be a filing fee or a court fee?

No. There are no court and filing fees for petitioning for an FRO. This includes fees associated with having law enforcement serve an FRO.

How can a FRO be served?

All types of Firearms Restraining Orders (FROs) can be served by a sheriff, or other local law enforcement agency for free (as required by Illinois law).

Can someone other than Family Members of the Respondent or Law Enforcement Petition for a FRO?

At the moment, only the specified groups are legally able to file an FRO. Contact your Local Local Circuit Court more information.


Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

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