Mental Health Reporting in the District of Columbia

See our Mental Health Reporting policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits possession of a firearm or ammunition by any person who has been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or involuntarily “committed to any mental institution.”1 No federal law, however, requires states to report the identities of these individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database, which the FBI uses to perform background checks prior to firearm transfers.

The District of Columbia has no law requiring the reporting of mental health information to NICS.

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers or possessors, see the District of Columbia Background Checks section and the section entitled District of Columbia Prohibited Purchasers Generally.

Notes
  1. 18 U.S.C. § 922(d)(4). ⤴︎

Microstamping & Ballistic Identification in the District of Columbia

Ballistic Identification

The District of Columbia’s Chief of Police must ensure that any handgun to be registered in the District is submitted for a ballistics identification procedure.1

Any applicant seeking to register a handgun in the District must, prior to transfer, present the approved firearm registration application to the licensed firearms dealer selling the handgun and take the handgun directly to the Firearms Registration Section of the District’s Metropolitan Police Department for completion of a ballistic identification procedure, and pay a $12 fee.2 If the applicant purchases from a dealer located in another jurisdiction, the applicant must have that dealer transport the applicant’s handgun to a licensed dealer in the District where the applicant will accept transfer pending completion of a ballistic identification procedure.3

Failure to comply with the ballistics identification requirement will result in the denial of the registration application or revocation of the registration for that handgun, and may subject the handgun owner to criminal charges.4

Microstamping Requirements

The District prohibits licensed dealers from selling or offering for sale any firearm that does not have imbedded into the metal portion of such firearm a unique manufacturer’s identification number or serial number.5

Beginning January 1, 2018, the District will prohibit any licensed dealer from selling or offering for sale any semiautomatic pistol manufactured on or after January 1, 2018 that is not “microstamp-ready.”6 “Microstamp-ready” means manufactured to produce a unique alpha-numeric or geometric code on at least two locations on each expended cartridge case that identifies the make, mode, and serial number of the pistol.7 A semiautomatic pistol will be deemed microstamp-ready if it is:

  • Manufactured in the District of Columbia;
  • Manufactured on or after January 1, 2018, and delivered or caused to be delivered by any manufacturer to a firearms dealer in the District; or
  • Manufactured on or after January 1, 2018, and sold, offered for sale, loaned, given or transferred by a firearms dealer in the District.8

A semiautomatic pistol manufactured after January 1, 2018 that is not microstamp-ready and was acquired outside of the District by a person who was not a District resident at the time of acquisition but who subsequently moved into the District shall be registered if all relevant requirements of the District firearms control laws are met, and may be sold, transferred, or given away but only through a licensed dealer.9 If a dealer lawfully acquires a microstamp-ready semiautomatic pistol that was originally purchased by a non-dealer resident of the District, the dealer shall not sell, offer for sale, loan, give, or transfer that pistol if he or she knows or reasonably should have known that the unique alphanumeric or geometric code associated with that pistol has been changed, altered, removed, or obliterated, excepting for normal wear.10

Beginning January 1, 2018, a manufacturer transferring a pistol to a firearms dealer for sale in the District will be required to certify that the pistol was manufactured on or after January 1, 2018, and that:

  • The pistol will produce a unique alpha-numeric or geometric code on each cartridge case that identifies the make, model, and serial number of the pistol that expended the cartridge casing; and
  • The manufacturer will supply the Chief of Police with the make, model, and serial number of the pistol that expended the cartridge case, when presented with an alpha-numeric or geometric code from a cartridge case, provided, that the cartridge case was recovered as part of a legitimate law enforcement investigation.11

Except for normal wear, the District prohibits any person from changing, altering, removing or obliterating the unique alpha-numeric or geometric code associated with that pistol.12 Replacing a firing pin that has been damaged or worn and is in need of replacement for the safe use of the pistol or for a legitimate sporting purpose shall not alone be evidence that someone has violated this prohibition.13

See our Ballistic Identification and Firearm Microstamping policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(d). A ballistics identification procedure is, generally, a process, approved by the Chief of Police, undertaken to identify markings unique to a particular firearm or the ammunition used by the firearm. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2399.1. ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2320.3(f), (g). ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2320.6. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.08(a). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.08(b).D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2504.08(b). ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(a)(3). ⤴︎
  8. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(b). ⤴︎
  9. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(c)(1). ⤴︎
  10. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(c)(2). ⤴︎
  11. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(e). ⤴︎
  12. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(d)(1). ⤴︎
  13. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.03(d)(2). ⤴︎

Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess in the District of Columbia

Generally, no person under age 21 may obtain a registration certificate, which prevents such individuals from lawfully possessing a firearm (see the District of Columbia Background Checks section and the section entitled District of Columbia Prohibited Purchasers Generally for further information).1 The Chief of Police may, however, issue a registration certificate to an applicant between the ages of 18 and 21 years old, who is otherwise qualified, if the application is accompanied by a notarized statement of the applicant’s parent or guardian verifying that:

  • The applicant has the permission of his or her parent or guardian to own and use the firearm to be registered; and
  • The parent or guardian assumes civil liability for all damages resulting from the actions of the applicant in the use of the firearm to be registered.2

District regulations prohibit the possession of any firearm by a person under age 18.3

The District generally prohibits the sale of any handgun to a purchaser under age 21.4 Moreover, any person who knowingly or intentionally transfers a firearm or ammunition to a person under age 18 is criminally liable for a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years.5

See our Minimum Age to Purchase / Possess Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(a)(1). ⤴︎
  2. Id. Such registration certificate expires on the person’s 21st birthday. ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2301.1. ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4507. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.06(1). See also D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2302.1, 2302.3 (generally prohibiting the transfer of any firearm or ammunition to a person under age 18). ⤴︎

Multiple Purchases & Sales of Firearms in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia previously had a law prohibiting a person from registering more than one handgun in the District during any 30-day period, with a limited exception for new residents.1 However, this “one-handgun-a-month” registration requirement was struck down under the Second Amendment by a federal appeals court in a case known as Heller III. The court did not rule that such a requirement would always be unconstitutional, but determined that the District had not presented adequate evidence to justify its 30-day registration limit on public safety grounds. Heller v. District of Columbia, (“Heller III”), 801 F.3d 264, 279-80 (D.C. Cir. 2015).

See our Restrictions on Multiple Purchases or Sales of Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03(e). See also D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2305.3. ⤴︎

Non-Powder Guns in the District of Columbia

(This section was last updated September 20, 2010.)

The District of Columbia generally prohibits the possession or carrying outside any building of an air rifle, air gun, air pistol, B-B gun or any similar type gun.1 A person may use an air rifle, air gun, air pistol or B-B gun if such use is supervised by a person age 18 or older, for:

  • A theatrical performance or athletic contest;
  • Use at a licensed shooting gallery; or
  • Use at other locations where the use of such guns is authorized by the Chief of Police.2

Persons age 18 or older may transport an air rifle, air gun, air pistol or B-B gun within the District if unloaded and securely wrapped.3

The District also prohibits the sale or other transfer to any person under age 18 of an air rifle, air gun, air pistol, B-B gun or a similar type of gun, or ammunition for such weapons.4 These transfers are lawful if supervised by a person age 18 or older for:

  • A theatrical performance or athletic contest;
  • Use at a licensed shooting gallery; or
  • Transfer at other locations where the use of the item is authorized by the Chief.5

See our Non-Powder Guns policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2301.3. ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2301.5. ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2301.4. ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2302.1. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2302.3. ⤴︎

Other Location Restrictions in the District of Columbia

Persons with concealed carry licenses are prohibited from carrying a handgun in the following locations or under the following circumstances:

  • A building or office occupied by the District of Columbia, its agencies, or instrumentalities;
  • 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;
  • A hospital, or an office where medical or mental health services are the primary services provided;
  • A penal institution, secure juvenile residential facility, or halfway house;
  • A polling place while voting is occurring;
  • A public transportation vehicle, including the Metrorail transit system and its stations;
  • A licensed establishment where alcohol is served, or sold and consumed, on the premises;
  • A stadium or arena;
  • A gathering or special event open to the public if the organizer has provided notice prohibiting the carrying of handguns in advance of the gathering or special event and posted signage at the event;
  • The public memorials on the National Mall and along the Tidal Basin, and any area where firearms are prohibited under federal law or by a federal agency or entity, including U.S. Capitol buildings and grounds;
  • Specific areas around the White House;
  • The U.S. Naval Observatory, its grounds, and certain adjacent areas;
  • When a dignitary or high-ranking government official is moving under the protection of law enforcement under certain circumstances;
  • Within an area no more than 1,000 feet of a demonstration in a public place so long as notice is provided;
  • Any prohibited location or circumstance that the Chief determines by rule; provided, that for spontaneous circumstances, no criminal penalty shall apply unless the licensee has notice of the prohibition and has failed to comply; and
  • A church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship unless authorized by the institution.1

The District also prohibits a person from carrying or having readily accessible a firearm upon the U.S. Capitol Grounds or within any of the Capitol Buildings.2 “Capitol Buildings” are the U.S. Capitol, the Senate and House Office Buildings and garages, the Capitol Power Plant, all subways and enclosed passages connecting two or more of such structures, and the real property underlying and enclosed by any such structure.3

Furthermore, the District prohibits possession of any firearm or ammunition in low-rent public housing4 and allows private persons or entities owning property in the District to prohibit or restrict gun possession on their property.5

Notwithstanding any other District law, a person holding a valid registration certificate for a firearm may carry that firearm:

  • Within the registrant’s home;
  • While it is being used for lawful recreational purposes;
  • While it is kept at the registrant’s place of business; or
  • While it is being transported for a lawful purpose as expressly authorized by District or federal statute and in accordance with the requirements of that statute.6

 

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. §  7-2509.07. ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. § 10-503.16(a)(1)(A). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 10-503.26(1). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 14, § 6500.8(c)(2). ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503.02(b). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4504.01. ⤴︎

Private Sales in the District of Columbia

Private sellers in the District of Columbia must have a registration certificate in order to lawfully transfer a firearm.1 See the District Registration of Firearms section. Even where private sellers are so eligible, they may transfer registerable firearms2 only to licensed dealers.3

In addition, no person may sell a handgun to a person: 1) not of sound mind; 2) prohibited from possessing a firearm by any of the specific prohibited categories under D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503 (see the District of Columbia Prohibited Purchasers Generally section); or 3) under age 21, unless the seller is the parent or guardian of the purchaser.4 Any person who knowingly or intentionally transfers a firearm or ammunition to someone under age 18 shall be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both.5

The District also prohibits the use of firearms or ammunition as security for a mortgage, deposit or pledge, and prohibits loaning, borrowing, giving, or renting a firearm or ammunition to or from another person.6

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

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.01(a). ⤴︎
  2. Unregisterable firearms, such as machine guns, assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles or certain unsafe handguns, among others, cannot be registered and therefore cannot be transferred. See D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.02. ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(a). The District has other transfer restrictions that apply to all sellers of firearms in the district. These appear to apply only to licensed dealers, however. 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. ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4507. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.06(1). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.01. ⤴︎

Prohibited Purchasers Generally in the District of Columbia

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

Federal law prohibits certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, such as felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness.

Generally, no person or organization may possess or control any firearm in the District of Columbia unless the person or organization holds a valid registration certificate.1 Since 1976, the District generally has deemed handguns that were not registered to the current owner prior to September 24, 1976 as unregisterable firearms.2 Handguns may now be registered for the limited purpose of self-defense within the registrant’s home.3

To obtain a registration certificate, an applicant must pass a background check conducted by the Chief of Police (Chief). This background check is in addition to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check required by the Brady Act when purchasing a gun from a federally licensed dealer. The Chief must confirm that the applicant:

  • Meets the District’s age requirements (see the District Minimum Age to Purchase or Possess Firearms section for further information);
  • Has not been convicted of a weapons offense (excluding infractions and some misdemeanors), or a felony (including a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year);
  • Is not under indictment for a crime of violence4 or a weapons offense;
  • Has not been convicted within five years prior to the application of any:
    • Violation in any jurisdiction of any law restricting the use, possession or sale of any narcotic or dangerous drug;
    • A violation of D.C. Code Ann. § 22-407 (threats to do bodily harm) or D.C. Code Ann. § 22-404 (assaults and threats) or any similar law of any other jurisdiction;
    • Two or more violations of D.C. Code Ann. § 50-2201.05(b) (driving under the influence of liquor or drugs), or in any other jurisdiction any law restricting driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
    • Intrafamily offense punishable as a misdemeanor, including any similar provision in the law of another jurisdiction (“Intrafamily offense” means interpersonal, intimate partner, or intrafamily violence.5 );
    • A misdemeanor involving the failure to safely store a firearm or a violation of the state’s child access prevention law (see Child Access Prevention in the District of Columbia for information about this law); or
    • A stalking offense.
  • Within the five years immediately preceding the application:
    • Has not been acquitted of any criminal charge by reason of insanity or has not been adjudicated a chronic alcoholic by any court;
    • Has not been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to any mental hospital or institution; or
    • Has not had a history of violent behavior.
  • Does not appear to suffer from a physical defect which tends to indicate that the applicant would not be able to possess and use a firearm safely and responsibly;
  • Has not been adjudicated negligent in a firearm mishap causing death or serious injury to another human being;
  • Is not otherwise ineligible to possess a handgun under D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503.6 People prohibited from possessing firearms under this section:
    • Have been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
    • Are not licensed to sell weapons and has been convicted of unlawfully selling weapons;
    • Are fugitives from justice;
    • Are addicted to a controlled substance;
    • Are subject to court orders restraining the individuals from assaulting, harassing, stalking, or threatening another person if the order requires the restrained individuals to relinquish possession of any firearms; or
    • Have been convicted within the past 5 years of an intrafamily offense, as defined in D.C. Official Code § 16-1001(8), punishable as a misdemeanor, or any similar provision in the law of another jurisdiction.
  • Is not blind, as defined in D.C. Official Code § 7-1009(1);
  • Has not been the respondent of a domestic violence protection order in the District or another state unless the applicant has submitted to the Chief a certified court record establishing that the order has expired or has been rescinded for a period of 5 years or more;
  • Has completed a firearms training or safety course or class offered free of charge by the Chief; has received firearms training by the U.S. Military; presents evidence of a license issued by another state that requires firearms safety training that is equal to or greater than the training provided by the Chief; or has completed a firearms training or safety course conducted by a firearms instructor that, as determined by the Chief, is equal to or greater than the training offered by the Chief; and
  • Has not been prohibited from possessing or registering a firearm pursuant to certain duties imposed upon registrants such as the duty to report the loss, theft, or destruction of the registration certificate or of a registered firearm.7

In addition, a registration applicant may be disqualified for adjudication of negligence if he or she has had an entry of judgment or a consent order or decree of negligence against him or her in any civil suit concerning the discharge of a firearm resulting in death or serious injury to a human being without regard to the filing of criminal charges, or the finding by a coroner of negligent homicide.8

For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Background Checks in the District of Columbia section.

Notes
  1. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.06(a). If the gun is being brought into the District, an application for registration must be filed immediately after the gun is brought into the District, or within 48 hours if such person personally communicates with the Metropolitan Police Department and provides any information demanded by the Department. Id. ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.02(a)(4). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.02(a)(4)(C). ⤴︎
  4. Crimes of violence are defined by D.C. Code § 23-1331 to include aggravated assault; act of terrorism; arson; assault on a police officer (felony); assault with a dangerous weapon; assault with intent to kill, commit first or second degree sexual abuse, commit child sexual abuse; assault with significant bodily injury; assault with intent to commit any other offense; burglary; carjacking; armed carjacking; child sexual abuse; cruelty to children in the first degree; extortion or blackmail accompanied by threats of violence; gang recruitment, participation, or retention by the use or threatened use of force, coercion, or intimidation; kidnapping; malicious disfigurement; manslaughter; manufacture or possession of a weapon of mass destruction; mayhem; murder; robbery; sexual abuse in the first, second, or third degrees; use, dissemination, or detonation of a weapon of mass destruction; or an attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing offenses. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 16-1001(8). ⤴︎
  6. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03. ⤴︎
  7. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.08. ⤴︎
  8. D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 24, § 2309.1. ⤴︎