The District of Columbia deems assault weapons unregisterable, thereby prohibiting possession of these firearms.1 Unregisterable firearms cannot be sold or transferred in the District.2 The District has created a list of banned firearms under the definition of “assault weapon.”3

The District also includes within its definition of “assault weapon”:

  • A semiautomatic, rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
    • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
    • A thumbhole stock;
    • A folding or telescoping stock;
    • A grenade launcher or flare launcher;
    • A flash suppressor; or
    • A forward pistol grip;
  • A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
    • A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;
    • A second handgrip;
    • A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel; or
    • The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip;
  • A semiautomatic shotgun that has one or more of the following:
    • A folding or telescoping stock;
    • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
    • A thumbhole stock; or
    • A vertical handgrip; and
  • A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine; and
  • Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder; unless it also has an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition; and
  • Any firearm that the Chief of Police may designate as an assault weapon by rule, based on a determination that the firearm would reasonably pose the same or similar danger to the health, safety, and security of the residents of the District as those weapons mentioned above.4

Antique firearms (i.e., firearms manufactured prior to 1899), and certain pistols that are designed expressly for use in Olympic target shooting events, are exempt.5

District law provides that any manufacturer, importer or dealer of an assault weapon will be held strictly liable for any direct and consequential damages resulting from injuries or death caused by these weapons:

Any manufacturer, importer, or dealer of an assault weapon…shall be held strictly liable in tort, without regard to fault or proof of defect, for all direct and consequential damages that arise from bodily injury or death if the bodily injury or death proximately results from the discharge of the assault weapon…in the District of Columbia.6

The assault weapons encompassed by the strict liability law are defined under D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01(3A).7 The following exceptions apply to the District’s strict liability law:

  • No assault weapon originally distributed to a law enforcement agency or a law enforcement officer shall provide the basis for liability;
  • No action may be brought by a person injured by an assault weapon while committing a crime;
  • The statute may not limit in scope any cause of action available to a person injured by an assault weapon;
  • Any defense available in a strict liability action is available as a defense to an action brought under the District’s assault weapons strict liability laws; and
  • Recovery is not allowed for a self-inflicted injury that results from a reckless, wanton, or willful discharge of an assault weapon.8

See our Assault Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.02(a)(6). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2505.01, 7-2505.02(a). ⤴︎
  3. See D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01(3A)(A). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7- 2501.01(3A). In those instances where the term “assault weapon” refers to a firearms manufacturer or description without including a specific model reference, the term shall be interpreted to include only those firearms produced by such manufacturer, or possessing such description, that share characteristics similar to other enumerated firearms under D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2501.01(3A)(A)(i)(I) – 7-2501.01(3A)(A)(i)(III), or possess any of the enumerated characteristics listed in D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2501.01(3A)(A)(i)(IV) – 7-2501.01(3A)(A)(i)(VIII) and D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2501.01(3A)(A)(ii) – (iii). D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2324.2. A firearm produced by a manufacturer or that possesses a description included in the definition of “assault weapon” by statute, but which does not share characteristics similar to those enumerated firearms or characteristics similar to other firearms described in D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2324.2, may be registered, provided that the firearm is not otherwise prohibited from registration under District or Federal law or regulation. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2324.3. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2551.02. ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2551.01(1). ⤴︎
  8. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2551.03. ⤴︎