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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 Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

It depends.  Under Washington, D.C. law, it is illegal (a crime) for the following people to own a firearm.  Anyone who:

  • has been convicted in any court of a felony crime;
  • is not licensed to sell weapons and has been convicted of violating that law;
  • is a "fugitive from justice”;
  • has been convicted of a domestic violence offense (“intrafamily offense”) within the past 5 years, punishable as a misdemeanor, or any similar provision offense in another state.*

Also, under Washington, D.C. law, a person has to first apply for a registration certificate before legally owning a firearm.  The following convicted criminals should be denied the certificate according to the law and, therefore, cannot legally possess a firearm:

  • someone convicted of a felony in any state;
  • someone convicted of (or under indictment for) a crime of violence or a weapons offense (with the exception of certain infractions or misdemeanor weapons offenses);
  • someone convicted within the past 5 years of:
    • a drug crime;
    • assault, stalking, threats to do bodily harm or something similar in another state;
    • two or more incidents of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
    • the misdemeanor offense of improper storage of a firearm;
    • domestic violence offense (“intrafamily offense”) punishable as a misdemeanor; or
  • someone who, within the past 5 years, was acquitted of any criminal charge by reason of insanity.**

* DC Code § 22-4503(a)
** DC Code § 7-2502.03(a)

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back to topHow can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public, but they are not always easy to access.  If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Domestic violence misdemeanor and felony records are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS.  Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

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