Ammunition Regulation in the District of Columbia

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Prohibited Possessors/Registration Requirements

The District of Columbia broadly prohibits the possession of ammunition1. A holder of a valid registration certificate for a firearm may possess ammunition, however ((D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a)(3).)). Licensed firearms dealers, on-duty law enforcement officers, holders of ammunition collector’s certificates, and persons temporarily possessing ammunition while participating in a firearms training and safety class conducted by a firearms instructor also exempt2.

Federal ammunition purchaser prohibitions also apply.

Ammunition Sales Licensing/Regulation

The sale or other transfer of ammunition is strictly regulated. Any person or organization eligible to register a firearm may sell or otherwise transfer ammunition only to a licensed dealer3.

Licensed dealers may sell or otherwise transfer ammunition only if:

  • The sale or transfer is made in person;
  • The purchaser exhibits, at the time of transfer, a valid registration certificate (if the purchaser is a nonresident, he or she must produce proof that the firearm is lawfully possessed in the jurisdiction where such person resides);
  • The ammunition to be transferred is of the same caliber or gauge as the firearm described in the registration certificate (or other similar proof in the case of nonresident); and
  • The purchaser signs a receipt for the ammunition (the dealer must maintain this receipt for at least one year from the date of sale)4.

This does not apply to, inter alia, sales to other licensed dealers and certain law enforcement officers and government agents5.

For additional information about ammunition that must be maintained as part of a dealer’s inventory, see the District Dealer Regulations section.

Owners or managers of establishments where ammunition is stored or kept for sale at wholesale or at both wholesale and retail must pay a license fee of $7606. Owners or managers of establishments where ammunition is kept for sale at retail must pay a license fee of $477.

Minimum Age to Purchase/Possess Ammunition

Because a registration certificate is required for the possession of a firearm8, licensed dealers may only transfer ammunition to valid registration certificate holders9, and persons under age 21 cannot obtain a registration certificate10, persons under age 21 are generally prohibited from possessing or obtaining ammunition.

Federal minimum age requirements may also apply.

Regulation of Unreasonably Dangerous Ammunition

Under District law, a “restricted pistol bullet” is defined as

  • A projectile or projectile core which may be used in a pistol and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium;
  • A full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a pistol and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25% of the total weight of the projectile; or
  • Ammunition for a .50 BMG rifle.11.

Licensed dealers may transfer restricted pistol bullets to only: 1) another licensed dealer; or 2) any law enforcement officer or agent of the District or the United States, when such officer or agent is on duty and acting within the scope of his or her duties when acquiring such ammunition, if the officer or agent has in his or her possession a statement from the head of his or her agency stating that the item is to be used only in official duties.12.

The District prohibits firearm registration certificate holders from possessing restricted pistol bullets13.

Federal law also prohibits certain kinds of armor-piercing ammunition.

Notes
  1. See D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a). ⤴︎
  2. Any licensed dealer may sell ammunition to any person holding an ammunition collector’s certificate on September 24, 1976, provided that the collector’s certificate shall be exhibited to the licensed dealer whenever the collector purchases ammunition for his or her collection, and the collector signs a receipt for the ammunition.  D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(e). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(a). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(d). ⤴︎
  5. Id., D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(b), (e). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 47-2814(e). ⤴︎
  7. Id. ⤴︎
  8. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.06(a). ⤴︎
  9. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(d). ⤴︎
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(a)(1).  See the District of Columbia Minimum Age to Purchase/Possess section for provisions enabling persons between the ages of 18 and 21 to obtain a registration certificate. ⤴︎
  11. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01(13A). ⤴︎
  12. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(b)(2). ⤴︎
  13. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(a)(3). ⤴︎

Assault Weapons in the District of Columbia

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. ⤴︎

Background Checks in the District of Columbia

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

The District of Columbia is not a point of contact jurisdiction for NICS. The District has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.1

The Chief of Police initiates backgrounds checks for the issuance of registration certificates, which are required to own and take possession of a firearm in the District.2

In the District, any private (i.e., unlicensed) firearm seller must have a registration certificate in order to lawfully transfer a firearm;3 private sellers may transfer lawful firearms to only licensed dealers.4 See the District of Columbia Private Sales section for further information.

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

 

Notes
  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map (last visited Apr. 3, 2012). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.03, 7-2502.06(a), 7-2505.02(c). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.01(a). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(a). The District has other transfer restrictions that ostensibly apply to all sellers of firearms, but for practical purposes apply only to licensed dealers. Sellers must wait to deliver a firearm to a purchaser after 10 days have elapsed from the time of application (except for transfers to certain law enforcement officers). D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508. Firearms must be transported safely and lawfully (See D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4504.02.) D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508. Prior to transfer, purchasers must sign in duplicate and deliver to the seller a statement containing his or her full name, address, occupation, color, place of birth, the date and hour of application, the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number of the firearm to be purchased and a statement that the purchaser is not forbidden by D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503 from possessing a firearm. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508. The seller shall, within six hours after such application, sign and attach his or her address and deliver a copy to the Chief of Police, and retain the other copy for six years. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508. ⤴︎

Child Access Prevention in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia requires that no person store or keep a firearm on any premises under his or her control if he or she knows or reasonably should know that a minor (person under age 18)1 is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor, unless such person: 1) keeps the firearm in a securely locked box, secured container, or in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure; or 2) carries the firearm on the person or within such close proximity that he or she can readily retrieve and use it as if he or she carried it on the person.2 A person who violates this requirement is liable for criminally negligent storage of a firearm and subject to a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 180 days, or both punishments.3 If a person violates this requirement and the minor causes injury or death to himself, herself or another person, the criminally negligent registrant shall be subject to a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both punishments.4

These prohibitions will not apply if the minor obtains the firearm as a result of an unlawful entry or burglary to any premises by any person.5

See our Child Access Prevention policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.02(d). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.02(b). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.02(c)(1). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.02(c)(2). ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.02(c)(3). ⤴︎

Concealed Weapons Permitting in the District of Columbia

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

Until 2014, the District of Columbia prohibited the carrying of concealed handguns in public. District of Columbia Code Ann. § 22-4506, which had detailed the requirements for a permit to carry a handgun, was repealed in 2009. Thus, the Chief of Police had no authority to issue a permit to carry. In 2014, a federal court struck down the District’s policy of refusing to issue permits to carry in Palmer v. District of Columbia, 59 F. Supp. 3d 173 (D.D.C. 2014). Subsequently, the District enacted legislation regulating the issuance of concealed carry permits.

The District is a “may issue” jurisdiction, which means that Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (“Chief”) has discretion whether or not to issue a concealed carry permit to person who meets specified criteria. Until 2017, one of the requirements to receive a concealed carry permit in the District was that applicants needed to show a “good reason” to fear injury to his or her person or property. In 2017, that requirement was struck down by a federal appeals court in Wrenn v. District of Columbia, 864 F.3d 650 (D.C. Cir. 2017). The District did not appeal the Wrenn decision,1 and instead dropped enforcement of the “good reason” requirement.2 All other requirements of the District’s “may issue” concealed carry law remain in force, and are described below.

Applicants for a concealed carry permit in the District must:

  • Live or work within the District of Columbia. If the person does not live or work in the District, the permit applicant must live or work in another state and possess a valid concealed carry permit from that state. If an applicant resides in a state that does not issue concealed carry permits, the applicant may apply for a permit provided he or she meets the eligibility criteria for a District resident; and
  • Be a suitable person to be permitted.3

A person who submits an application must certify and demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Chief that he or she:

  • Is at least 21 years of age;
  • Meets all of the requirements for a person registering a firearm (See Registration of Firearms in the District of Columbia for registration criteria), and has obtained a registration certificate for the pistol that the person is applying to carry concealed; and
  • Does not currently suffer from a mental illness or condition that creates a substantial risk that he or she is a danger to himself or herself or others; or if he or she has suffered in the previous 5 years from a mental illness or condition that created a substantial risk that he or she was a danger to himself or herself or others, no longer suffers from a mental illness or condition that creates a substantial risk that he or she is a danger to himself or herself or others.

An applicant is required to appear for an in-person interview at the District police headquarters for verification of the applicant’s identity and verification of the information submitted as part of the application process for a permit.4

Firearm Safety Training

A person applying for a concealed carry permit in the District must certify that he or she has completed at least 2 hours of range training, conducted by an instructor certified by the Chief, that includes live firing exercises. The applicant must also complete a firearms training course certified by the Chief, which includes at least 16 hours of training, and covers the following:

  • Firearm safety;
  • Firearm nomenclature;
  • Basic principles of marksmanship;
  • Care, cleaning, maintenance, loading, unloading, and storage of pistols;
  • Situational awareness, conflict management, and use of deadly force;
  • Selection of pistols and ammunition for defensive purposes; and
  • All applicable District and federal firearms laws, and District law pertaining to self-defense.

A renewal applicant must complete 4 hours of firearm safety training and 2 hours of range practice within the previous 12 months.5

Duration

A permit is valid for not more than 2 years from the date of issue.6

Disclosure or Use of Information

Any record regarding a permit applicant or permittee shall not be made available as a public record.7 However, aggregate data that excludes personal identifying information may be used for the purposes of a public report that law enforcement is required to issue every two years. The report must include:

  • The total number of valid licenses;
  • For the most recent 2-year period:
    • The number of applications for a license received;
    • The number of licenses issued;
    • The number of licenses renewed, suspended, revoked, or denied;
    • The number of licensees convicted of a crime involving a pistol, classified by type of crime;
    • The number of pistols for which a license was issued that were reported lost or stolen; and
    • The number of pistols for which a license was issued that were found or recovered as stolen that were unreported by a licensee as lost or stolen.8

Reciprocity

The District does not recognize permits issued from any other jurisdiction.9 However, a person possessing a valid concealed carry permit from another jurisdiction, or a state that does not issue concealed carry permits, may apply to the District for a concealed carry permit.10

 

Notes
  1. Ann E. Marimow & Peter Jamison, D.C. Will Not Appeal Concealed Carry Gun Ruling to the Supreme Court, Wash. Post, Oct. 5, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-will-not-appeal-gun-law-to-supreme-court/2017/10/05/e0e7c054-a9d0-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html. ⤴︎
  2. Metropolitan Police Department, “Applying for a License to Carry a Handgun,” accessed Apr. 16, 2018, https://mpdc.dc.gov/page/applying-license-carry-handgun (“Pursuant to the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Wrenn v. District of Columbia and Grace v. District of Columbia, applicants for a license to carry a concealed handgun in the District of Columbia no longer need to provide a good reason for carrying a handgun.”). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4506. ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. §  7-2509.02. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. §  7-2509.03. ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2509.03; 22-4506. ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. §  7-2509.09. ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎
  9. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 22-4504, 22-4506. ⤴︎
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4506. ⤴︎

Dealer Regulations in the District of Columbia

See our Dealer Regulations policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

In the District of Columbia, any person or organization that wants to “engage in the business of selling, purchasing, or repairing” firearms or ammunition must obtain a District dealer’s license.1 Any person eligible to register a firearm in the District (and who, if a registrant, has not previously failed to perform any of the duties imposed by law), and any person who is otherwise eligible to engage in the sale of firearms, may obtain a dealer’s license.2 See the District of Columbia Registration section for related information.

Dealer Licensing

Dealer applicants must go through the same background check process established for firearm purchases (see the District of Columbia Background Checks section), indicate the address of the proposed business, note whether they held a license to deal in deadly weapons in the District prior to September 24, 1976 (the effective date of the D.C. Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975), and must provide “[s]uch other information as the Chief [of Police] may require, including fingerprints and photographs.”3 The Chief shall approve or deny an application within 60 days, unless good cause is shown, including non-receipt of information from sources outside the District government.4 The Chief may hold in abeyance an application where there is any firearm revocation proceeding pending against the applicant.5

Licensed dealers may transfer any registerable firearm to any person or organization possessing a registration certificate for such firearm.6 However, a special license is required for a retail dealer to sell, or expose for sale, or have in his or her possession with intent to sell, any handgun, machine gun, or sawed-off shotgun.7 Wholesale dealers do not need a special license to sell such weapons, but are only allowed to sell them to a licensed dealer.8

A dealer’s license is valid for one year from the date of issuance.9

Duties of Licensed Dealers

Licensed dealers shall, among other things, keep at the dealer’s premises a current record in book form of:

  • The name, address, home phone, and date of birth of each employee handling firearms or ammunition;
  • Detailed information about each firearm received into inventory or for repair, or subsequently sold or transferred, including the:
    • Serial number, caliber, make, model, manufacturer’s number, dealer’s identification number, and registration certificate number of the firearm;
    • Name, address, and dealer license number or registration certificate number of the person or organization from whom the firearm was purchased or otherwise received, or to whom the firearm was transferred;
    • Consideration for transfer;
    • Date and time of receipt or delivery and, in the case of repair, return to the person holding the registration certificate; and
    • Nature of the repairs made; and
  • Detailed information about ammunition received into inventory or subsequently sold or transferred, including the:
    • Brand and number of rounds of each caliber or gauge;
    • Name, address, and dealer’s license or registration number of the person or organization from whom received, or to whom sold or transferred;
    • The registration certificate number of the firearm for which the ammunition was sold or transferred, for transferees who are not licensed dealers;
    • Consideration given for the ammunition, or received for the sale or transfer of ammunition; and
    • The date and time of the receipt, sale or transfer of the ammunition.10

These records must be exhibited during normal business hours to any member of the Metropolitan Police Department upon demand.11 For additional requirements regarding the transfer of ammunition, see the District Ammunition Regulation section.

In addition, each licensed dealer must, when required by the Chief in writing, submit on a form and for the periods of time specified any of the aforementioned record information, as well as any other information reasonably obtainable from those records.12 Failure to comply with this requirement will result in revocation of the dealer’s license.13 A license shall also be revoked if the information furnished to the Chief on the application for a dealer’s license proves to be intentionally false.14

Firearms dealers selling handguns and machine guns must keep specific records of transactions for these firearms.15 Purchase records must contain the date of purchase, the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number of the weapon, and the date of sale (once the firearm is sold).16 In addition, sales records must also be signed by both the purchaser and the person effecting the sale, each in the presence of the other, and must contain the date of sale, the name, address, occupation, color, and place of birth of the purchaser, and include a statement by the purchaser that he or she is not prohibited under District law from possessing a firearm.17 One copy of the sales record shall, within seven days, be forwarded by mail to the Chief and a copy retained by the seller for six years.18

Secondhand and junk dealers must also secure the name and address of any person purchasing or otherwise acquiring any firearm.19

Licensed dealers are also obligated to notify the Chief in writing of: 1) the loss, theft, or destruction of the dealer’s license immediately upon discovery of such loss, theft, or destruction; 2) the loss, theft, or destruction of any firearms or ammunition in the dealer’s inventory; or 3) a change in any of the information appearing on the dealer’s license or required to obtain a dealer’s license immediately upon the occurrence of any such change.20

A dealer also must:

  • Display the dealer’s license in a conspicuous place on the premises;21
  • Not display any firearm or ammunition in windows visible from a street or sidewalk;22
  • Not knowingly employ any person in his or her establishment if such person would not be eligible to register a firearm;23 and
  • Keep all firearms and ammunition in a securely locked place “affixed” to the premises except when being shown to a customer or being repaired.24

Strict Liability

Any dealer of a firearm who can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence to have knowingly and willfully engaged in the illegal sale of a firearm shall be held strictly liable in tort 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 firearm in the District, regardless of whether or not the person operating the firearm is the original, illegal purchaser.25 This also applies to firearm manufacturers and importers.26

Furthermore, any individual who can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence to have knowingly and willfully engaged in the illegal sale, loan, lease, or rental of a firearm for money or anything of value shall be held strictly liable in tort 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 firearm in the District, regardless of whether or not the person operating the firearm is the original, illegal purchaser.27

No strict liability action may be brought:

  • When the basis of the strict liability is a firearm originally distributed to a law enforcement agency or a law enforcement officer;
  • By a person who can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence to have committed a self-inflicted injury or who was injured by a firearm while committing a crime, attempting to commit a crime, engaged in criminal activity, or engaged in a delinquent act;
  • By a person who can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence to be engaged in the sale or distribution of illegal narcotics; or
  • By a person who either assumed the risk of the injury that occurred or negligently contributed to the injury that occurred.28

Dealers of assault weapons or machine guns will be held strictly liable in tort for all direct and consequential damages arising from bodily injury or death if the bodily injury or death proximately results from the discharge of the assault weapon or machine gun in the District.29 This also applies to manufacturers and importers of assault weapons and machine guns.30

Location Restrictions

The District of Columbia prohibits retail firearm sales in:

  • Commercial-Residential mixed use districts;31
  • Waterfront Districts;32 and
  • “C-1” Commercial Districts.33

Firearm retail establishments are permitted in a “C-2” Commercial District, provided that no portion of the establishment shall be located within 300 feet of: 1) a residence or Special Purpose District; or 2) a church or other place of worship, public or private school, public library or playground.34

For laws applicable to both licensed and private firearm sellers, please see the Private Sales in the District of Columbia section.

For laws requiring dealers to conduct a background check on prospective firearm purchasers, see the Background Checks in the District of Columbia section.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.01(b). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.02(a). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.02(b). See D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2321 et seq. ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.03(b). ⤴︎
  5. Id. See D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.06 for procedures regarding the denial or revocation of a dealer’s license. ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(c). ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 22-4509, 22-4510. ⤴︎
  8. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4509. ⤴︎
  9. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.02(a). ⤴︎
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.04(a) (3). ⤴︎
  11. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.04(b). ⤴︎
  12. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.04(c). ⤴︎
  13. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.05. ⤴︎
  14. Id. ⤴︎
  15. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4510(a)(4). ⤴︎
  16. Id. ⤴︎
  17. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4510(a)(5). ⤴︎
  18. Id. ⤴︎
  19. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 16, § 1003.7(c). ⤴︎
  20. D.C. Code Ann. § 2504.04(a)(2). ⤴︎
  21. D.C. Code Ann. § 2504.04(a)(1). ⤴︎
  22. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.07(a); D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4510(a)(6). ⤴︎
  23. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.07(b). ⤴︎
  24. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.07(a). ⤴︎
  25. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2531.02(a). ⤴︎
  26. Id. ⤴︎
  27. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2531.02(b). ⤴︎
  28. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2531.03. ⤴︎
  29. ((D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2551.02. ⤴︎
  30. Id. ⤴︎
  31. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 11, § 602.1(i). ⤴︎
  32. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 11, §§ 901.2, 902.1(r). ⤴︎
  33. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 11, § 702.4. ⤴︎
  34. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 11, § 721.3(k). ⤴︎

Design Safety Standards for Handguns in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has established the District Roster of Handguns Determined Not to Be Unsafe (“District Roster”). The District Roster constitutes those handguns that may be manufactured, sold, given, loaned, exposed for sale, transferred or imported into the District and that may be owned or possessed within the District.1 The District Roster must include any handgun:

  • That is on the California Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale (“California Roster,” currently the strongest and most detailed of design safety and testing rosters in the nation) as of January 1, 2009, unless the gun is an unregisterable firearm under District law effective March 31, 2009;
  • That was listed on the California Roster prior to January 1, 2009, which was, or is subsequently, removed from the California Roster for any reason not related to the gun’s safety;
  • Listed on the January 1, 2009, Maryland Department of State Police Official Handgun Roster, unless such handgun is an unregisterable firearm under District law effective March 31, 2009; or
  • Listed on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security Approved Firearms Roster, as of April 2, 2009, unless such handgun is an unregisterable firearm under District law effective March 31, 2009.2

A handgun will be deemed to be included on the District Roster if another handgun type made by the same manufacturer is already listed and the unlisted handgun differs from the listed type only in one or more of the following features:

  • Finish, including, but not limited to, bluing, chrome-plating, oiling, or engraving;
  • The material from which the grips are made;
  • The shape or texture of the grips, so long as the difference in grip shape or texture does not in any way alter the dimensions, material, linkage, or functioning of the magazine well, the barrel, the chamber, or any of the components of the firing mechanism of the handgun; or
  • Any other purely cosmetic feature that does not in any way alter the dimensions, material, linkage, or functioning of the magazine well, the barrel, the chamber, or any of the components of the firing mechanism of the handgun.3

By statute, the District has codified standards for handguns based on the California Roster that may be lawfully sold or owned in the District. In terms somewhat redundant of the District Roster, a pistol that is not on the California Roster as of January 1, 2009,4 may not be manufactured, sold, given, loaned, exposed for sale, transferred or imported into the District.5

A handgun that is not on the California Roster may not be owned or possessed within the District unless that handgun was lawfully owned and registered prior to January 1, 2009.6 A District resident who owns a handgun lawfully registered prior to January 1, 2009 that is not on the California Roster and who wishes to sell or transfer that gun after January 1, 2009, may do so only by selling or transferring ownership of the handgun to a licensed firearms dealer.7

The District Chief of Police has authority to review any additions to or deletions from the California Roster, and is authorized to revise the District’s roster of handguns determined not to be unsafe and prescribe the guns that are permissible under the exemptions listed pursuant to D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.04(e).8

A licensed firearm dealer who retains in his or her inventory, or who otherwise lawfully acquires, any handgun not on the California Roster may sell, loan, give, trade, or otherwise transfer the firearm only to another licensed gun dealer.9

There are limited exceptions to these rules, including:

  • Pistols designed expressly for use in Olympic target shooting events;
  • Certain single-action revolvers;
  • Transfers of firearms for use solely as a prop during the course of a motion picture, television, or video production by an authorized participant in the course of making that production or event;
  • The temporary transfer of a lawfully-owned and registered firearm for the purposes of cleaning, repair, or servicing of the firearm by a licensed firearm dealer; or
  • The possession of a firearm by a non-resident of the District of Columbia while temporarily traveling through the District.10

See our Design Safety Standards for Handguns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2323.1. ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2323.2. ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2323.3. ⤴︎
  4. See Cal. Penal Code §§ 12125-12133. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.04(a). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.04(b). ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.04(c). ⤴︎
  8. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.04(f). ⤴︎
  9. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.04(d). ⤴︎
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.04(e). ⤴︎

Disarming Prohibited Persons in the District of Columbia

Extreme Risk Protection Orders

In 2019, the District of Columbia enacted a law that enables certain individuals to petition a court to remove guns from a person in crisis. The law, called an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO), allows a law enforcement officer, family member, dating partner, household member, or mental health professional to file a petition demonstrating to a judge that an individual poses a danger to himself, herself, or others.1 If the court determines that the petitioner has met the standard of proof, it will issue an order that lasts up to one year. An individual subject to an ERPO (called a respondent) must relinquish his or her guns to law enforcement and will be prohibited from possessing firearms for the duration of the order. A court may also issue a search warrant which directs law enforcement to search for guns, registration certificates, concealed carry licenses, and firearms dealer licenses in the respondent’s possession.2

A temporary ERPO can be obtained without notice to the respondent and, with exceptions, lasts no later than 10 days during which time the court must hold a hearing to determine whether to issue a year-long order.3

The respondent can submit one request during the period of the order to hold a hearing to terminate the order early.4

Read more about Extreme Risk Protective Orders on our policy page.

Other Laws

The District has no other laws specifically requiring the removal of firearms from persons who have become prohibited from possessing them.

A police officer, in the course of a lawful arrest or lawful search, who discovers a dangerous article he or she reasonably believes is a nuisance, must take possession of the article and surrender it to the property clerk of the Metropolitan Police Department.5 A “dangerous article” includes a handgun, machine gun and sawed-off shotgun.6 A dangerous article unlawfully owned, possessed, or carried is a nuisance.7

Notes
  1. 2017 DC B 1068, Act 629 (effective until April 30, 2019); 2017 DC B22-0588, Act A22-0620 (projected law date June 6, 2019). ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4517(b), (c). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4517(a). ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4517(b). ⤴︎

Domestic Violence & Firearms in the District of Columbia

See our Domestic Violence & Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition by certain domestic abusers. Similarly, District law also prohibits the purchase and possession of guns by persons convicted of domestic violence offenses and by those persons subject to civil protection orders.

District law does not: 1) require courts to notify domestic abusers when they become prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law; or 2) explicitly authorize or require the removal of firearms or ammunition: a) at the scene of a domestic violence incident; or b) from the subject of a civil protection order.

Firearm Prohibitions for Domestic Violence Misdemeanants

To obtain a registration certificate, which is required to purchase or possess a firearm or ammunition in the District, an applicant must pass a background check. The applicant will not pass the background check if he or she:

  • Has been convicted within the previous five years of any intrafamily offense punishable as a misdemeanor, including any similar offense in another jurisdiction;1 or
  • Is otherwise ineligible to possess a firearm under D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503 (including convictions within the previous five years for an intrafamily offense in the District, punishable as a misdemeanor, or any similar offense in another jurisdiction).2

Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Protective Orders

The District also will not issue a registration certificate to any person if he or she:

  • Is or has been the respondent in an intrafamily proceeding in which a civil protection order was issued against her or him, or in a proceeding in which a foreign protection order was issued against her or him (an applicant who has been the subject of such an order shall be eligible for registration if the applicant has submitted to the Chief of Police a certified court record establishing that the order has expired or has been rescinded for a period of five years or more);3 or
  • Is ineligible to possess a firearm under D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503 (including any person subject to a final court order restraining him or her from assaulting, harassing, stalking, or threatening a petitioner or any other person named in the order and that requires the person restrained to relinquish possession of any firearms).4
Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(a)(4)(D). “Intrafamily offense” is defined as interpersonal, intimate partner, or intrafamily violence. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01(9B), referencing the definitions for intrafamily offense proceedings under D.C. Code Ann. § 16-1001(8). “Interpersonal violence” means an act punishable as a criminal offense that is committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon a person: 1) with whom the offender shares or has shared a mutual residence; or 2) who is or was married to, in a domestic partnership with, divorced or separated from, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with another person who is or was married to, in a domestic partnership with, divorced or separated from, or in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship with the offender. D.C. Code Ann. § 16-1001(6). “Intimate partner violence” means an act punishable as a criminal offense that is committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon a person: 1) to whom the offender is or was married; 2) with whom the offender is or was in a domestic partnership; or 3) with whom the offender is or was in a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship. D.C. Code Ann. § 16-1001(7). “Intrafamily violence” means an act punishable as a criminal offense that is committed or threatened to be committed by an offender upon a person to whom the offender is related by blood, adoption, legal custody, marriage, or domestic partnership, or with whom the offender has a child in common. D.C. Code Ann. § 16-1001(9). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503(a)(6). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(a)(12). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(a)(9). ⤴︎