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.

  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.

  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.

  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

  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.

  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 of Gun Owners & Purchasers 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 of Gun Owners or Purchasers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  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.


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

  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. ⤴︎

Locking Devices in the District of Columbia

For sound public safety purposes, the District of Columbia has established a strong, yet non-binding, policy that each firearm registrant should keep any firearm in his or her possession unloaded and either disassembled or secured by a trigger lock, gun safe, locked box, or other secure device.1

The District does not require a locking device to accompany the sale of a firearm, although federal law applies.

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

  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2507.02(a). ⤴︎

Machine Guns & Automatic Firearms in the District of Columbia

The District of Columbia deems machine guns unregisterable, thereby prohibiting possession of these firearms.1 Unregisterable firearms cannot be sold or transferred in the District.2 The District defines a machine gun as:

[A]ny firearm which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term “machine gun” shall also include the frame or receiver of any such firearm, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a firearm into a machine gun, and any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.3

District law also provides that any manufacturer, importer or dealer of a machine gun 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 a[]…machine gun 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…machine gun in the District of Columbia.4

Any defense available in a strict liability action is available as a defense to an action brought under the District’s machine gun strict liability laws.5

Federal law requires machine guns to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and generally prohibits the transfer or possession of machine guns manufactured after May 19, 1986.6 In December 2018, ATF finalized a rule to include bump stocks within the definition of a machine gun subject to this federal law, meaning that bump stocks will be generally banned as of March 26, 2019.7

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

  1. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.02(a)(2). See also D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4514(a) (prohibiting possession of a machine gun in the District). ⤴︎
  2. D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2505.01, 7-2505.02(a). ⤴︎
  3. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2501.01(10). ⤴︎
  4. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2551.02. ⤴︎
  5. D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2551.03(d). ⤴︎
  6. 18 U.S.C. § 922(o); 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). ⤴︎
  7. Bump-Stock-Type Devices, 83 Fed. Reg. 66,514 (Dec. 26, 2018) (to be codified at 27 C.F.R. pts. 447, 478, 479). ⤴︎