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District of Columbia Gun Control Laws

The District of Columbia (DC) has a history of strong gun control laws. At one time, it banned the ownership of handguns. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that law in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) when it concluded that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides an individual constitutional right to own and possess firearms in the home for purposes like self-defense. 

In light of Heller and subsequent decisions by the Supreme Court, many state and local gun laws face legal challenges in the courts.

The Code of the District of Columbia (DC Code) includes several restrictions and regulations to control the purchase, possession, and use of firearms. It requires the registration of all firearms with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). The DC Code provides for background checks consistent with federal law during the firearms registration process. Even a private seller must first register the firearm prior to any subsequent sale and transfers can only occur through a licensed dealer.

The following table contains more details about the District of Columbia's gun laws.

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

DC Code. Division I. Title 7. Subtitle J. Chapter 25 DC Code. Division IV. Title 22. Subtitle IV. Chapter 45

Illegal Arms

DC Code prohibits possession of these firearms. Thus, they cannot be registered:

  • Sawed-off shotguns
  • Machine guns
  • Short-barreled rifles
  • An unsafe firearm prohibited under DC Code section 7-2505.04
  • An assault weapon
  • A .50 BMG rifle
  • Ghost guns

Waiting Period

10 days from the date of purchase to the date of delivery.

Who May Not Own

You are not allowed to own a firearm if you:

  • Were convicted of certain weapons offenses or a felony, which includes all crimes punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year
  • Are under indictment for a crime of violence or a weapons offense
  • Are a fugitive from justice
  • Are addicted to any controlled substance
  • Are subject to a court order that requires you to relinquish a firearm or restrains you from harassing, assaulting, or threatening another person
  • Have been found negligent in any firearm mishap causing death or serious injury to another person
  • Are under 21 years of age, unless you are between 18-21 and have an authorized statement from a parent or guardian
  • Have failed to complete a firearms training and safety course approved by the chief of police
You are also not allowed to own a firearm if, in the last 5 years, you have:
  • Been convicted of a narcotics or dangerous drug offense
  • Been convicted of two or more violations of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Been convicted of an intrafamily offense punishable as a misdemeanor
  • Been convicted of a criminal offense of assault, threats of bodily harm, or stalking
  • Been convicted of violation of an extreme risk protection order
  • Been acquitted of any criminal charge by reason of insanity or adjudicated a chronic alcoholic by any court
  • Been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to any mental hospital or institution
  • A history of violent behavior

License Required?

You don't need a license to possess a firearm, but you need to register a firearm and this serves the same purpose. Registrants must reside in D.C. or have a place of business in D.C. Law enforcement officers and members of the Armed Forces with proper identification and authorization are exempt.

Concealed Carry License Required?

Yes. You need a license to carry a concealed pistol or handgun.

Open Carried Allowed?

Open carry is prohibited in Washington D.C.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

To be eligible for a concealed carry license, you must:
  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Live or work in D.C.
  • Not suffer from mental illness or another condition that is likely to create a substantial risk for yourself or others
  • Appear for an in-person interview at the police headquarters
  • Take a firearm safety training course
  • Get a registration certificate for the firearm you are seeking a permit for
  • Be a suitable person to get a permit

Nonresidents with a valid concealed carry permit from another state can apply to get a concealed carry permit.

Machine Gun Laws

Possession, sale, or transfer of machine guns is prohibited in D.C.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

  • Possession of a firearm by a person with a felony conviction is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The minimum sentence for this violation is one year. If the offender has a prior conviction for a crime of violence, the punishment can go up to 15 years. The minimum sentence then becomes three years.
  • You will be sentenced to not less than two years and no more than 10 years in prison if you are in possession of a firearm while you:
    • Are a fugitive from justice
    • Are addicted to controlled substances
    • Are subject to an order for protection and are required by a court order to relinquish possession of a firearm
    • Have been convicted of an intrafamily offense in the past five years
    • Are not licensed to sell weapons and have a conviction under Chapter 45 of the DC code
  • Possessing an unregistered firearm is an offense that is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

The punishment for illegally possessing a gun on or near school grounds is up to double the prison time or fine otherwise authorized to be imposed.

Note: State and local laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Do You Have More Questions About D.C. Gun Laws? Seek Legal Help

D.C. gun laws may vary based on the firearm or weapon at issue and ongoing legal challenges. Lawful gun owners in D.C. must also be aware of laws in neighboring states such as Virginia and Maryland, given their close proximity. It's wise to search for information in more than one place. 

If seeking to understand your rights as a gun owner or facing a criminal charge, consider contacting a D.C. criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney can help you comply with the law or provide a legal defense.

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