District of Columbia Gun Laws

Learn about gun control laws, gun permit requirements, and penalties in D.C.

The District of Columbia has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. For many years, the District of Columbia prohibited the carrying of any firearm, either openly or concealed. (DC Code Ann. § 22-4504(a).) The law mandated that even if you obtained a valid registration for your weapon, you were only permitted to keep that firearm in your home, place of business, or for specified recreational purposes.

Court Case Invalidates D.C. Law

In July 2014, The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled unconstitutional the District’s absolute prohibition on the carrying of handguns outside the home in the case  Palmer v. District of Columbia  (2014) WL 3702854. Following the judicial decision, which is currently being challenged on appeal, the District Police Chief approved an order permitting residents to carry a concealed handgun outside the home with “good reason” (for example, lawful self defense), if and only if the handgun is properly registered with the District Police. On October 23, 2014, the Police Department began accepting applications for a Concealed Carry Pistol License. The applications were subject to a waiting period, and as a result the first concealed carry licenses were not issued until January 2015.

Another Court Case Results in No Permits Being Issued

According to the terms of the permit requirement, only those individuals who demonstrated through police reports and other documentations that they experienced violent threats against them were able to obtain a concealed carry permit. As a result, in February 2015, a gun rights advocacy group filed a lawsuit challenging the continued restrictive nature of the new legislation. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the provision requiring applicants to demonstrate “good reason” to carry a concealed weapon is unconstitutional.

In May 2015, a federal district judge determined that the “good reason” clause was in fact unconstitutional and barred the District Police Chief from enforcing the requirement that a person applying for a concealed carry permit prove they have a good reason to need one. However, while the District police department may be currently accepting concealed carry applications, the department does not appear to be issuing any permits, instead citing the need to wait for clarification from the courts.

For more information, see  Open and Concealed Gun Carrying Laws in the District of Columbia.

How to Register Your Firearm in the District of Columbia

To register your firearm, you must apply at the police department headquarters. You will need to fill out an “Application for Firearms Registration Certificate.” Requirements vary based on the type of gun you are registering. See the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department  website  for more information.

How to Apply for a Concealed Carry Permit in the District of Columbia

An application for a concealed carry permit must demonstrate that the applicant:

  • is at least 21 years of age
  • is a suitable person to be licensed
  • meets all the requirements for a person registering a firearm and has obtained a registration certificate for the firearm in question
  • does not currently suffer, nor has suffered in the past five years, from any mental illness or condition creating a substantial risk of danger to the applicant or others
  • has a residence or business in the District of Columbia (or possesses a valid concealed permit issued from another state or federal authority)
  • has completed a 16 hour minimum firearms training course
  • has completed at least two hours of range training, and
  • has completed training on District of Columbia law on firearms and self defense

Additionally, the new legislation requires applicants to explain their need for a concealed carry license by demonstrating a “good reason” to fear injury to themselves or property, or other “proper” reason. The Police Department has asserted that living or working in a high crime area alone is not sufficient to obtain a license. The basis for requesting the license must be submitted in the form of a personal statement, supporting documentation, or notarized statement from a third party.

Does the District of Columbia Recognize Concealed Handgun Licenses From Other States?

No. The District of Columbia does not honor any permit or license from other states

Penalties for Failing to Obtain a Concealed Handgun License

It is illegal to openly carry a handgun in the District of Columbia or to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, unless you are in your own home or place of business. Penalties may include a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in jail, or both. Second and subsequent convictions incur fines of up to $5,000, up to five years in prison, or both.

Getting Legal Help

If you have any questions about whether you are allowed to carry a gun in the District of Columbia, or if you are facing charges for a gun permit violation, consult a qualified criminal defense lawyer.


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