Gun Dealers in the District of Columbia

See our Gun Dealers 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). ⤴︎

Gun Offender Registry in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia has created a gun offender registry, requiring a gun offender to register with the Chief of Police (“Chief”) for a period of two years.1 A “gun offender” is any person: 1) convicted of a gun offense2 within the District; 2) convicted of a gun offense and resides in the District; or 3) who has as a mandatory condition of release a registration requirement in the District.3

The gun offender must register:

  • Within 48 hours of:
    • Release, if the gun offender receives a sentence of imprisonment;
    • The time sentence is imposed, if the sentence does not include imprisonment;
    • Receipt of notice of the obligation to register, if at a time other than sentencing; or
    • Changing the place where he or she resides, works, or attends school in the District or elsewhere;4 and
  • By personally appearing at an office designated by the Chief to sign a statement under oath, verified by documentation, that provides:
    • The gun offender’s name, date of birth, gender, race, height, weight, and eye color;
    • The address where the gun offender resides or expects to reside in the District;
    • Any other legal names of the gun offender;
    • Aliases of the gun offender;
    • The jurisdiction and a description of the offense for which the gun offender was convicted and the date of conviction;
    • Fingerprints of the gun offender;
    • The identification number of the gun offender’s driver’s license or non-driver photo identification card;
    • The name and address of any school the gun offender attends or expects to attend; and
    • The name and address of the gun offender’s expected place of work including the name and phone number of a supervisor.5

During the period in which a gun offender is required to register, he or she also must:

  • No later than 20 calendar days following the one-year anniversary of the gun offender’s initial registration date, personally appear at a place designated by the Chief to verify the required registration information; and
  • If a gun offender required to register under District law is confined to any federal, state, or local correctional facility, residential treatment center, hospital, or institution throughout the 20-day period following the one-year anniversary of the gun offender’s initial registration date, the gun offender shall personally appear to verify required registration information within 48 hours of his or her release.6

If a gun offender neither resides, works, nor attends school in the District, he or she will not be required to comply with the aforementioned reporting and verification provisions.7

A gun offender is required to comply with the registration and verification provisions for a period beginning when he or she is sentenced for a gun offense and continuing until two years after the expiration of any time being served on probation, parole, supervised release, or conditional release, or two years after the gun offender is unconditionally released from a correctional facility, prison, hospital, or other place of confinement, whichever is latest.8 The registration period pauses any time the gun offender fails to register or otherwise fails to comply with registration requirements.9

When a defendant is convicted of a gun offense, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Court”) is required to enter an order certifying that the defendant is a gun offender. As part of that order, the Court will:

  • Advise the gun offender of his or her registration duties under District law;
  • Order the gun offender to report to the Chief to register; and
  • Order the gun offender to comply with the registration requirements under District law.

When a Court orders the release of a gun offender into the community following a period of detention, incarceration, confinement, civil commitment or hospitalization, the Court must provide the gun offender with a copy of the order and require him or her to read and sign it.

For persons who have not been required to comply with the District’s registration requirements but nevertheless qualify, the Court may enter an order certifying that a person convicted of a gun offense within the period for which registration is required is a gun offender and issue an order requiring that person to register and comply with District registration laws. Moreover, any person convicted of a gun offense in a jurisdiction other than the District who is ordered by competent authority in that jurisdiction to register as a gun offender in the District must comply with District registration requirements.

Gun offender registration information may only be made available to other local, state, or federal government agencies. This information will not be made available as a public record.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.02(a).  A longer period of registration may be required by D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.03 (registration period compliance) or § 7-2508.07(b) (mandatory release condition). ⤴︎
  2. “Gun offense” means: 1) a conviction for the sale, purchase, transfer, receipt, acquisition, possession, use, manufacture, carrying, transportation, registration, or licensing of a firearm under District law (D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4501 et seq.), or an attempt or conspiracy to commit any of the aforementioned offenses; 2) a conviction for violating D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01 (the District’s registration requirements), 7-2504.01 (prohibitions on the manufacture of firearms, destructive devices and ammunition and license requirements for gun dealers), 7-2505.01 (prohibitions on certain sales/transfers of firearms, destructive devices and ammunition), or 7-2506.01 (prohibitions on ammunition possession); 3) a conviction for a firearms-related violation of the provisions § 22-402 (assault with a dangerous weapon), § 22-2603.02 (unlawful possession of contraband), or § 22-2803(b) (carjacking);or 4) violations in other jurisdictions of any offense with an element that involves the violations previously listed.  D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.01(3). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.01(2). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.02(a)(1). ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.02(a)(2). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.02(b)(1), (2). ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.02(b)(3). ⤴︎
  8. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2508.03. ⤴︎
  9. Id. ⤴︎

Gun Shows in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia does not specifically regulate gun shows. Generally, firearms may not be transferred in the District until the purchaser has been issued a firearm registration certificate, which requires a background check by the Chief of Police.1

See the District of Columbia Background Checks, Prohibited Purchasers Generally and Registration sections for further information.

See our Gun Shows policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.03, 7-2502.06(a). ⤴︎

Guns in Schools in the District of Columbia

Persons with concealed carry licenses are prohibited from carrying a handgun in the building and grounds, including any adjacent parking lot, of an childcare facility, preschool, public or private elementary or secondary school, or a public or private college or university.1

A licensee may carry a concealed handgun, however, while driving a vehicle into and immediately parking at the locations listed above for the purpose of picking up or dropping off a student or a child. The licensee must secure the concealed pistol in accordance with section 22-4504.02(b), before leaving the parked vehicle.

See our Guns in Schools policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. §  7-2509.07. ⤴︎

Guns in Vehicles in the District of Columbia

Transportation of firearms in a vehicle is permitted in the District if the person is not prohibited from transporting, shipping or receiving a firearm, and is transporting a firearm for a lawful purpose to and from a place where gun possession is a lawful activity.1 The gun must be unloaded, and neither the gun nor any ammunition may be accessible from the passenger compartment.2 If the vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment, the firearm and ammunition must be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console, and the firearm must be unloaded.3

The District prohibits a person from being voluntarily in a motor vehicle if he or she knows that a firearm is in the vehicle, unless the firearm is being lawfully carried or lawfully transported.4 An affirmative defense to this charge may be raised that the defendant, upon learning that a firearm was in the vehicle, had the specific intent to immediately leave the vehicle, but did not have a reasonable opportunity under the circumstances to do so.5

If a firearm is transported in a manner other than in a vehicle, the firearm shall be: 1) unloaded; 2) inside a locked container; and 3) separate from any ammunition.6

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4504.02(a). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4504.02(b)(1). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4504.02(b)(2). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-2511(a). ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-2511(b). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4504.02(c). ⤴︎

Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia prohibits the possession, sale or other transfer of any large capacity ammunition feeding device, regardless of whether the device is attached to a firearm.1 “Large capacity ammunition feeding device” is defined as a magazine, belt, drum, feed strip, or similar device that has a capacity of, or that can be readily restored or converted to accept, more than 10 rounds of ammunition.2

Except in certain narrow circumstances, the District’s Metropolitan Police Department is prohibited from transferring any ammunition feeding device in its possession to any person or entity other than a law enforcement officer or governmental agency for law enforcement purposes.3

See our Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2506.01(b). ⤴︎
  2. Id. The term “large capacity ammunition feeding device” does not include an attached tubular device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition. ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 5-133.16. ⤴︎

Licensing in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia does not have a specific licensing requirement, but the District’s registration system serves the same purpose by limiting who can purchase or own firearms, requiring a background check, and requiring that gun owners meet the standards set by the Chief of Police regarding responsible firearm use and knowledge of District gun laws.1 See the District of Columbia Registration, Background Checks and Prohibited Purchasers Generally sections for further information.

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

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.03, 7-2502.06(a). ⤴︎

Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in the District of Columbia

Home Rule

The District of Columbia has broad authority to regulate firearms. The District derives its delegated legislative powers from the Home Rule Act1, enacted in 1973. Section 1-303.43 incorporates an earlier grant of power (formerly section 1-321; originally section 1-227, enacted in 1906) authorizing the District Council to make and enforce laws regulating firearms and ammunition. The statute provides that:

The Council of the District of Columbia is hereby authorized and empowered to make … all such usual and reasonable police regulations…as the Council may deem necessary for the regulation of firearms, projectiles, explosives, or weapons of any kind in the District of Columbia.

Interpretation

In McIntosh v. Washington, 395 A.2d 744 (D.C. 1978), the District of Columbia Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the District’s Firearms Control Regulations Act of 19752, relating to the use and sale of firearms. Appellants argued that the City Council was without authority to adopt the Act because the legislative history of section 1-147(a)(9)3 of the Home Rule Act, requiring elected Council members to wait 24 months after taking office before enacting certain legislation, demonstrated Congress’ intent to prohibit the District from adopting a comprehensive criminal regulatory scheme. The court rejected this argument, holding that the statute does not limit the District’s authority to enact firearms regulations that do not conflict with existing Congressional regulation for the District.4

The court noted that the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 explicitly provides that Congress has no intent to occupy the field of gun regulation to the exclusion of state law touching on the same subject matter “unless there is a direct and positive conflict between such provision and the law of the State so that the two cannot be reconciled or consistently stand together. [Emphasis added.]”5 Finding no “direct and positive” conflict between the District’s gun control regulations and the Home Rule Act, the court stated:

[A] parallel enactment in a given area cannot be stricken simply because it expands the scope of restrictions imposed by a parent legislative body. The Firearms Act, much like the predecessor gun control regulations upheld in Pistol Ass’n, fits within the general pattern of antecedent congressional enactments.6

In Maryland & District of Columbia Rifle and Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Washington, 442 F.2d 123 (D.C. Cir. 1971), a case decided before enactment of the Home Rule Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a challenge to the District’s local police firearm regulations (D.C. Pol. Reg. Arts. 50-55, subsequently repealed and replaced by D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01 et seq.). The court held that the enactment of firearm legislation for the District by the U.S. Congress did not preempt the District Council’s right to adopt additional firearms regulations pursuant to an act of 1906 authorizing the Council to make and enforce all regulations deemed necessary for the regulation of firearms. The court concluded that the existence of both Congressional and District regulation on the same subject matter was not problematic, as long as the two regulatory schemes did not conflict. The court stated:

The important consideration, we think, is not whether the legislature and municipality have both entered the same field, but whether in doing so they have clashed. Statutory and local regulation may coexist in identical areas although the latter, not inconsistently with the former, exacts additional requirements, or imposes additional penalties.7

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. section 1-201.01 et seq. Pursuant to Article I, section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution, and the Home Rule Act, Congress retains the power to override legislation enacted by the District of Columbia, either by passing a resolution of disapproval before such legislation becomes law, or by passing a bill to modify or repeal it after it goes into effect. §§ 1.206.01 et seq; see Bliley v. Kelly, 23 F.3d 507, 508 (Ct. App. D.C.Cir. 1994). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann.§ 7-2501.01 et seq. ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann.§ 1-206.02(a)(9). ⤴︎
  4. McIntosh, 395 A.2d at 753. ⤴︎
  5. Id. ⤴︎
  6. McIntosh, 395 A.2d at 753. ⤴︎
  7. Maryland & District of Columbia Rifle and Pistol Ass’n, Inc., 442 F.2d at 130. ⤴︎