Generally, no person or organization in the District of Columbia may possess or control a firearm unless the person or organization holds a valid registration certificate for the firearm. 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.
Who May Register
Registration certificates may be issued to:
- District residents possessing a handgun for self-defense within the resident’s home or place of business (see the “Registration Requirements for Handguns for Purpose of Self-Defense with in Registrant’s Home” subsection below for detailed regulatory requirements);
- As part of the application process for a license to carry a concealed pistol pursuant to § 7-2509.02;
- An organization that employs at least one commissioned special police officer or employee licensed to carry a firearm whom the organization arms during the employee’s duty hours;
- A retired Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) police officer (in the discretion of the Chief of Police); or
- The Fire Marshal and any member of the District Fire and Arson Investigation Unit designated in writing by the Fire Chief, for the purpose of enforcing the District’s arson and fire safety laws, and in the discretion of the Chief of Police; or
- A firearms instructor, or to an organization that employs a firearms instructor, for the purpose of conducting firearms training.
The following classes of persons are exempt from the District’s registration requirement:
- Any law enforcement officer, agent of the government, or any member of the military authorized to possess a firearm “while on duty in the performance of official authorized functions;”
- Any person holding a dealer’s license; provided that the firearm is acquired in the normal conduct of business, kept at the location described in the dealer’s license, and not kept for private use or protection, or for the protection of his or her business;
- Any nonresident participating in a lawful firearm-related recreational activity in the District, or heading to or from such activity in another jurisdiction (provided that he or she can show proof of his or her participation if so demanded by law enforcement, possession or control of the firearm is lawful in the jurisdiction in which he or she resides, and the weapon is unloaded and not readily accessible);
- Any person who temporarily possesses a firearm registered to another person while in the home of the registrant, provided that the person is not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms and the person reasonably believes that possession of the firearm is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself; or
- Any person who temporarily possesses a firearm while participating in a firearms training and safety class conducted by a firearms instructor.
For a detailed list of the prohibited categories that relate to registration certificates, see the District of Columbia Prohibited Possessors Generally section.
Any person applying for a registration certificate must provide to the Chief of Police:
- His or her full name or any other name by which the applicant is known;
- His or her address and each home address where the applicant has resided during the five-year period immediately preceding the application;
- His or her business or occupation and the addresses of such businesses or places of employment;
- His or her date and place of birth;
- His or her sex;
- Whether (and if so, the reasons) the District, the United States or the government of any state or subdivision of any state has denied or revoked the applicant’s license, registration certificate, or permit pertaining to any firearm;
- A description of the applicant’s role in any mishap involving a firearm, including the date, place, time, circumstances, and the names of the persons injured or killed;
- The caliber, make, model, manufacturer’s identification number, serial number, and any other identifying marks on the firearm;
- The name and address of the person or organization from whom the firearm was obtained, and in the case of a dealer, his or her dealer’s license number;
- Where the firearm will generally be kept;
- Whether the applicant has applied for other registration certificates; and
- Such other information as the Chief determines is necessary to carry out the provisions of the District’s gun registration requirements.
Registration applicants must also be photographed and fingerprinted in order to conduct an efficient and adequate investigation into the applicant’s background. A person submitting a registration application must attest under oath that the information submitted is truthful and sign the application under penalty of perjury.
A person must obtain a registration certificate prior to taking possession of a firearm from a licensed dealer or from any person or organization holding a registration certificate for the firearm. For persons moving into the District, an application for registration shall be filed immediately after a firearm is brought into the District.
District law states that an applicant may be required to bring their firearm in person to be registered. However, note that a federal court ruled in 2015 that the Second Amendment did not permit mandatory inspection of firearms during registration, at least based on the evidentiary record presented by the District to support this requirement at the time.
Once a properly executed application for a registration certificate is received, “the Chief, upon determining through inquiry, investigation, or otherwise, that the applicant is entitled and qualified,” shall approve or deny the application within 60 days, “unless good cause is shown, including non-receipt of information from sources outside the District government….”
Firearms Safety Training
Registration applicants must complete an online firearm safety training course.
Duration & Renewal
The District previously required firearm registrants to renew their registration certificates every three years, but this requirement was struck down under the Second Amendment by a federal appeals court. The appeals court determined that the re-registration requirement was not necessary because “background checks could be conducted at any time without causing the registrations to expire” and because other District laws already require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms, as well as other “relevant changes in their information, such as a new address.”
MPD will revoke a registration certificate if: 1) any of the criteria in D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.03 (prohibited categories and other requirements for a registration certificate) are not met; 2) the registered firearm has become an unregisterable firearm or a destructive device; or 3) the information furnished to the Chief on the application for a registration certificate proves to be intentionally false.
Duties of Registrants
In addition to other registration requirements imposed by District law, each person or organization holding a registration certificate must:
- Notify the Chief in writing of the “loss, theft, or destruction of the registration certificate or of a registered firearm (including the circumstances, if known) immediately upon discovery of such loss, theft, or destruction;”
- Notify the Chief in writing within 30 days of a change in the registrant’s name or address as it appears on the registration certificate;
- Notify the Chief in writing of the “sale, transfer, or other disposition of the firearm within 2 business days of such sale, transfer, or other disposition,” including: 1) identification of the registrant, the firearm and the serial number of the registration certificate; 2) the name, address, and date of birth of the person to whom the firearm has been sold or transferred; and 3) whether the firearm was sold or how it was otherwise transferred or disposed of;
- Return to the Chief the registration certificate for any firearm which is lost, stolen, destroyed, sold or otherwise transferred, at the time he or she notifies the Chief; and
- Have in his or her possession, whenever in possession of a firearm, the registration certificate for the firearm, and exhibit the certificate on demand of a member of the MPD or other law enforcement officer.
Assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, sawed-off shotguns, machine guns, short-barreled rifles, and unsafe firearms. While handguns not registered to the current owner prior to September 24, 1976, are technically unregisterable, a person who seeks to possess a handgun in his or her home or place of business for self-defense, or seeks a permit to carry a concealed handgun, may register a handgun not registered prior to September 24, 1976. Handguns may also be registered to an organization that employs at least one commissioned special police officer or other employee licensed to carry a firearm and that arms the employee with a firearm during the employee’s duty hours, or to a retired MPD officer.
Registration Requirements for Handguns for Purpose of Self-Defense with in Registrant’s Home
In addition to satisfying all other registration requirements, an applicant registering a handgun for self-defense within that person’s home must comply with specific District registration regulations. Such applicants are required to:
- Obtain a registration application from any licensed firearms dealer or the MPD and present the application to a licensed dealer for completion;
- Appear in person at MPD headquarters and:
- Report to the Firearms Registration Section with a completed application, acquire two fingerprint cards, and provide:
- A valid driver’s license or letter from a physician attesting that the applicant has vision as least as good as that required for a driver’s license; and
- Residency verification, such as a District driver’s license or identification card, a current rental agreement, or a deed to property that includes a home;
- If successful on the test, pay all “applicable and reasonable fees” required by the Chief;
- Submit to fingerprinting; and
- Present the approved application to the licensed dealer.
Disclosure or Use of Information
Any record regarding a person who has applied for, received, or had revoked any registration may not be made available as a public record.
See our Registration policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.