Gun Possession Laws in DC

man holding a gun

Many legal experts believe Washington DC has the strictest gun laws in America. In DC it is not legal to carry a weapon open or concealed. It is illegal to give a gun to someone if you know they cannot legally possess a gun. It is even illegal to drive through DC with a loaded firearm.

Possession of an Unregistered Firearm can result in a one year sentence. Carrying a Pistol Without a License (CPWL) - may result in a fine of $10,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years. It is also illegal to own a "large-capacity magazine" in DC. Metropolitan police seize and recover more than 2200 firearms a year. Crime stats show approximately 4000 arrests for weapons charges in each of the last three years.

The only legal way to transport a gun in Washington, DC is (1) unloaded and (2) with a trigger lock. DC residents can possess a loaded firearm in their home if it is properly registered. However, even in a home, a person cannot own ammunition that does not match the gun that he has lawfully registered. Persons in possession of ammunition that doesn't match the gun they are registered to own may be prosecuted for Unlawful Possession of Ammunition (UA). This crime carries a punishment of up to $1,000 and a year in prison.

Last month DC prosecutors commenced the trial of a prominent Washington, D.C. businessman with a spotless criminal record. Police searched his home and found one misfired and inoperable shotgun shell. The businessman is a hunter that smartly keeps his firearms at his sister's house in Virginia. He said he had the shotgun shell at his DC home as a keepsake. Police searched house because his ex-wife called authorities following a bitter argument. Unmoved, DC prosecutors took his case to trial.

Starting January 2, 2014, D.C. residents were required to renew his firearm registration every three years. Each resident who has registered a firearm must go to police headquarters, pay a $48 fee, be photographed and fingerprinted. D.C. police estimate there are at least 30,000 registered city gun owners. If the registrant does not go to the police station within three months after a set time frame, the registration is revoked.

Things are harder for out of state people in the District. A recent 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Case upheld a federal law confirming that only federally licensed firearms vendors can receive and process handguns purchased or brought from out of state. DC only has one such vendor in the district. The result is that if you move to DC from another state the only lawful way to keep your gun is for this one federally licensed middleman to process and transfer the gun back to you.

District gun laws are so inflexible, that when Meet the Press host, David Gregory handled a gun magazine during a televised debate in Washington, he exposed himself to prosecution. Most legal analysts agree that Gregory violated DC code 7-2506.01 simply by handling the device. The office of the Attorney General thoroughly investigated Gregory but elected not to prosecute him.

In light of these laws, gun possession laws are tried daily in the DC court system. DC prosecutors can be relatively inflexible with these cases. If you are charged with any gun possession law in Washington DC your freedom and liberty depend heavily on your choice of attorney for defense.

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