Gun laws in the District of Columbia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Location of Washington, D.C. in the United States

Gun laws in the District of Columbia regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the American federal district of Washington, D.C.[1]

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant statutes Notes
Permit to purchase? Yes Yes The firearm registration process also serves as a permitting process.
Firearm registration? Yes Yes All firearms must be registered with the Metropolitan Police Department. A background check, online training, and testing of the gun owner are required.
"Assault weapon" law? Yes Yes "Assault weapons" and .50 BMG rifles prohibited.
Magazine Capacity Restriction? Yes Yes Illegal to possess or acquire magazines of more than 10 round capacity.
Owner license required? Yes Yes The firearm registration process also serves as a licensing process.
Carry permits issued? No No Concealed carry prohibited.
Open Carry? No No Open carry prohibited.
NFA weapons restricted? Yes Yes Automatic firearms prohibited.
Peaceable journey laws? No No Federal law (FOPA) applies.

Possession of firearms[edit]

In Washington, D.C., all firearms must be registered with the police, by the terms of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975.

The same law also prohibited the possession of handguns, even in private citizens' own homes, unless they were registered before 1976. However, the handgun ban was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller. The Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment acknowledges and guarantees the right of the individual to possess and carry firearms, and therefore D.C.'s ban on handguns was unconstitutional.[2]

Following the Heller decision, the Washington, D.C. City Council enacted a set of rules regulating the possession of handguns and long guns in citizens' homes. Additional changes were made to the DC laws in 2012 under threat of lawsuits from gun owners and prospective gun owners.[3]

In addition to each firearm being registered with the police, the rules require that D.C. residents undergo a NCIC background check and submit to fingerprinting. The firearms registry photographs the applicant. Residents must take an online gun safety course, and pass a written test on the District's gun laws. Residents must also declare at what address it will be kept. There is a 10-day waiting period from purchase of firearm to possession, and a 30-day period between purchases of successive handguns. Each firearm is registered to an individual only, meaning couples who wish to own firearms must purchase two separate firearms. Handgun registrants must be 21. Long gun registration is allowed for persons 18-21 years of age with a NCIC qualified adult co-registering. Handgun models are limited to any handgun appearing on any one of the California, Massachusetts, Maryland or DC Police "approved rosters" by make/model. Long guns are controlled by an allowed/not-allowed attributes list. Non residents, with a place of business in DC may register a firearm to be maintained at that place of business. [4][5][6]

Handgun and long gun ownership/possession licenses must be resubmitted and reapproved every three years before expiration for each firearm owned.


An individual may not possess ammunition without also holding a valid firearms registration. Until May 2012, registrants were limited to possessing ammunition of the caliber of their registered weapon only. The ammunition laws in DC were relaxed in May 2012 and valid registration holders may now purchase and transport ammunition of any caliber excepting 50BMG (50 BMG weapons are prohibited in DC) and protective armor penetration ammunition. Interstate sale and shipment of ammunition to valid registration holders is legal. In DC, as in jurisdictions such as Massachusetts, any usable constituent part of ammunition is considered ammunition. E.g. Expended casings capable of being reloaded are "ammunition" under current DC police interpretation.

Concealed carry[edit]

The District of Columbia does not permit the concealed carrying of firearms. Open carry is also prohibited. A lawsuit was filed on August 6, 2009, to compel the district to issue permits to carry weapons.[7]


  1. ^ "Washington D.C". 
  2. ^ Mears, Bill (June 26, 2008). "High Court Strikes Down Gun Ban". CNN. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  3. ^ "D.C. Council panel agrees to discard some gun rules". , Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2014.
  4. ^ Falcone, Michael (December 16, 2008). "Washington Council Enacts Tough Gun-Control Measure". The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  5. ^ Richey, Warren (March 26, 2010). "Federal Judge OKs D.C.'s Latest Set of Gun-Control Laws". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  6. ^ Davenport, Christian (September 2, 2009). "Passing D.C.'s Rules to Get a Gun Was Hard, but the Weapon Posed Its Own Test". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  7. ^ SAF Sues District of Columbia over Carrying of Handguns, Second Amendment Foundation press release, Retrieved December 9, 2011.