FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

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District Of Columbia Gun Laws

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Introduction

Perhaps no other state (district) has shaped our thinking about firearms, and handguns in particular, more than Washington, D.C. It was just 2008, when SCOTUS determined that the right to keep and bear arms set forth in the Second Amendment was an individual right, not a collective right. The district is just 68 square miles and has about 680,000 residents. It is bordered by Maryland to the southeast, northeast and northwest. Virginia shares its border to the southwest.

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A. State Constitution

Washington D.C. does not have a constitutional provision for the right to bear arms.

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B. Scope of Preemption

Washington D.C. does not have a preemption statute, however the code states otherwise:

“The Council of the District of Columbia is hereby authorized and empowered to make, and the Mayor of the District of Columbia is hereby authorized and empowered to enforce, all such usual and reasonable police regulations, in addition to those already made under §§ 1-303.01 to 1-303.03 as the Council may deem necessary for the regulation of firearms, projectiles, explosives, or weapons of any kind in the District of Columbia.”

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C. Reciprocal Carry

Washington D.C. will not recognize another state’s license to carry a firearm, however, per the D.C. Official Code § 22-4504:

“(a) No person shall carry within the District of Columbia either openly or concealed on or about their person, a pistol, or any deadly or dangerous weapon capable of being so concealed. Whoever violates this section shall be punished as provided in § 22-4515, except that:

(1) A person who violates this section by carrying a pistol or any deadly or dangerous weapon, in a place other than the person’s dwelling place, place of business, or on other land possessed by the person, shall be fined not more than $ 5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both; or

(2) If the violation of this section occurs after a person has been convicted in the District of Columbia of a violation of this section or of a felony, either in the District of Columbia or another jurisdiction, the person shall be fined not more than $ 10,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.

(a-1) Except as otherwise permitted by law, no person shall carry within the District of Columbia a rifle or shotgun. A person who violates this subsection shall be subject to the criminal penalties set forth in subsection (a)(1) and (2) of this section.”

There are exceptions for legally registered firearms and authority to carry a firearm in certain places and for certain purposes. D.C. Official Code § 22-4504.01.

“Notwithstanding any other law, a person holding a valid registration for a firearm may carry the 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.

VI.Transporting Firearms

District transport law:

§22-4504.02. Lawful transportation of firearms.

(a) Any person who is not otherwise prohibited by the law from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be permitted to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry the firearm [see § 22-4504.01, above] to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry the firearm if the firearm is transported in accordance with this section.

(b)(1) If the transportation of the firearm is by a vehicle, the firearm shall be unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported shall be readily accessible or directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the transporting vehicle.

(2) If the transporting vehicle does not have a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment, the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console, and the firearm shall be unloaded.

(c) If the transportation of the firearm is 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.”

Washington D.C.’s most current reciprocity information may be referenced online. [http://gunla.ws/dc1]

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D. Duty to Inform Officers

Yes. Washington, D.C. requires a licensee to possess the license and registration certificate for the pistol being carried. If a LEO initiates an investigative stop of a licensee carrying a pistol, the licensee must immediately disclose to the LEO that he or she is carrying a concealed pistol and present the license and registration certificate. [http://gunla.ws/idlt]

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E. Criminal Provisions

Under Washington D.C.’s law, a license to carry a handgun does not permit carry in any of the following places or circumstances, whether it is issued in Washington D.C., or carry is pursuant to a reciprocity agreement with his/her state of license:

  • No person or organization in the District shall possess or control any firearm, unless the person or organization holds a valid registration certificate for the firearm
  • Anyone carrying a firearm registered with the District of Columbia shall keep such firearm in his possession unloaded and either disassembled or secured by a trigger lock, gun safe, locked box, or other similar device
  • Any area within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, including:
    • A day care center
    • An elementary school
    • A vocational school
    • A secondary school
    • A college
    • A junior college
    • A university
  • A public swimming pool
  • A video arcade
  • A hospital, or an office where medical or mental health services are the primary services provided
  • A polling place while voting is occuring
  • A public transportation vehicle, including the Metrorail transit system and its stations
  • A stadium or arena
  • A youth center
  • A public library
  • In and around public housing as defined in section 3(1) of the United States Housing Act of 1937, approved August 22, 1974 (88 Stat. 654; 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(b))
  • In or around housing that is owned, operated, or financially assisted by the District of Columbia Housing Authority
  • No person shall keep or have in his or her possession any firearm:
    • Any assault style rifle
    • If convicted in any court of a crime punishable for a term of 1 year or more
    • If not licensed under § 22-4510 to sell weapons
    • Is a fugitive from justice
    • Is addicted to any controlled substance as defined in § 48-901.02(4)
    • Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from assaulting, harassing, stalking, or threatening any other person named in the order; and requires the person to relinquish possession of any firearms
    • If convicted of a drug offense or making threats to commit bodily harm within the last five years.
    • Has been convicted of an intrafamily offense, as defined in § 16-1001, or a substantially similar offense in another jurisdiction.
  • Any property under the control of the District of Columbia which the District has prohibited or restricted carrying of a firearm
  • Any private property where the owner has prohibited the carrying of a firearm
  • One may transport a firearm, provided that:
    • For any lawful purpose from any place where he or she may lawfully possess and carry the firearm to any other place where he/she may lawfully possess and carry the firearm.
    • If the transportation of the firearm is by a vehicle, the firearm shall be unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported shall be readily accessible or directly accessible from the passenger compartment of the transporting vehicle (i.e. in a trunk).

For a list of places where carrying firearms is prohibited, see:

[http://gunla.ws/dc2]

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F. NFA Items

All NFA items are prohibited in Washington D.C.

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G. Self-defense Laws

Washington D.C. does not have a Castle Doctrine or SYG law. There is a duty to retreat when attacked, and You may use deadly force in self-defense only as a last resort, if retreating is impossible or cannot be done safely.

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H. Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

Washington D.C. prohibits carrying firearms in vehicles without a permit unless the firearm is unloaded, stored separately from ammunition, and neither the firearm nor ammunition are accessible from the passenger compartment. [http://gunla.ws/k1sx]

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I. Universal Background Checks

Background checks are mandatory for all firearm sales, and transfers between private parties, except between family members, must go through a licensed dealer. This only applies to sales made within the District of Columbia. Sales made by District of Columbia firearms owners outside of the District of Columbia must only conform to that state’s transfer law. [http://gunla.ws/3y8t]

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J. High Capacity Magazine Ban

The intrastate manufacture, sale, and possession of magazines capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds is prohibited. [http://gunla.ws/at9e]

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K. Waiting Period

Washington D.C. imposes a ten (10) day waiting period before purchasing a firearm.

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L. Do “No Gun Signs” Have the Force of Law?

Yes. If a property or establishment has a “No Guns” sign or the person in lawful possession communicates to you that guns are not allowed, you are prohibited from carrying on the property or into the establishment. Failure to obey such signs or verbal warnings constitutes trespass. [http://gunla.ws/jdan]

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M. Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Yes. D.C. law states you cannot carry in a place that serves alcohol but gives exemptions to places that hold a Class C/R or D/R license. These are restaurant licenses for food and beverages with spirits, beer and wine allowed for sale on the premises for consumption. D.C. forbids a licensed carrier from consuming or being under the influence when carrying.

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N. Open Carry

Open carry is illegal in the District of Columbia.

Note: On July 25, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a permanent injunction stopping the local Washington, D.C. government from denying people the right to carry concealed handguns in the nation’s capital unless they could convince local officials they had a special and compelling need to protect themselves (the ‘good reason’ requirement). However, the decision was put on hold to allow D.C. to appeal. D.C. filed its appeal for rehearing on August 24, 2017. A decision from the rehearing is currently pending.  [http://gunla.ws/m46h]

 

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More