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Know the Laws: District of Columbia

UPDATED May 10, 2016

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Below is information about state gun laws in Washington, D.C.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your state. To find an agency, please go to the DC Where to Find Help page.

Guns and Civil Protection Orders

back to topI have a temporary (ex parte) protection order against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away?

Maybe, but not likely.  Washington, D.C. law does not prohibit an abuser who has a temporary protection order against him/her from possessing a firearm.  However, you may be able to request in your petition for a temporary protection order that the judge prohibit the abuser from possessing a gun while the order is in effect since there is a section where the petitioner can request additional protections.  It may be helpful if you list the known firearms that s/he has (or the possible access to firearms) and specifically request in your paperwork that the abuser be prohibited from possessing firearms while your temporary order is in effect.

Federal law may also prohibit the abuser from having a firearm while a temporary order is in effect unless the judge gave you an ex parte temporary protection order (without advance notice to the abuser), which is commonly done.  However, if the judge scheduled a court hearing and gave notice of the hearing to the abuser before giving you the temporary protection order, it is possible that it is illegal for him/her to have a gun under federal law.  The protection order must also meet certain other requirements, though.  Read I have a final order of protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? (in our Federal Gun Laws section) to find out more.

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back to topI have a civil protection order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

No.  According to Washington, D.C. law, if you have a civil protection order that was issued by a state civil court against the abuser and meets certain requirements, the abuser cannot have a gun in his/her possession, or buy a new gun.

In order for your protection order to qualify under Washington, D.C. law, it must:

  • be issued after a hearing that the respondent received actual notice of, and at which the respondent had an opportunity to participate; or it remained in effect after the respondent failed to appear for a hearing (that s/he was notified of);
  • restrain the respondent from assaulting, harassing, stalking, or threatening you or any other person named in the order; and
  • require the respondent to give up possession of any firearms.*

Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a final protection order against him/her that meets certain requirements even if the judge does not specifically include on the order that s/he cannot have a gun.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

* DC Code § 22-4503(a)(5)

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protection order?

In Washington, D.C., the firearm ban should automatically be written on your civil protection order, informing the abuser that s/he cannot possess, purchase, receive or sell any firearm or ammunition.

You may also want to ask the judge to specifically write in the terms of the order that the abuser must give up his/her firearms.  It also may be helpful if the judge: 

  • requires the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or requires the police to go to the abuser's house and get them;
  • makes it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser;
  • orders that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

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