Legal Information: District of Columbia

State Gun Laws

April 5, 2019

I am a victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?

Washington, D.C. law says that a person cannot have a gun if s/he:

  • 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”;
  • is addicted to any controlled substance (drug);
  • has been convicted of a misdemeanor “intrafamily offense” (domestic violence) within the past 5 years, or any similar offense in another state; or
  • is subject to a civil protection order that:
    • was issued after a hearing that the respondent received actual notice of, and at which the respondent had an opportunity to participate; or remained in effect after the respondent failed to appear for a hearing (that s/he was notified of);
    • restrains the respondent from assaulting, harassing, stalking, or threatening the petitioner or any other person named in the order; and
    • requires the respondent to give up possession of any firearms.1

If the abuser falls into any one of these above categories, s/he may be violating D.C. criminal law.

Also, under Washington, D.C. law, a person has to first apply for a registration certificate before legally owning a firearm.  The following additional people (aside from those listed above) should be denied the certificate according to Washington, D.C. law, and therefore, cannot legally possess a firearm:

  • a minor;
  • 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 under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
    • the misdemeanor offense of improper storage of a firearm;
    •  a domestic violence offense (“intrafamily offense”) punishable as a misdemeanor;
  • someone who, within the past 5 years, was acquitted of any criminal charge by reason of insanity;
  • someone who, within the past 5 years, the court says is a "chronic alcoholic" or who was committed to a mental institution unless the person presents a medical certification that s/he has recovered from whatever condition led to his/her commitment;
  • someone who has a civil protection order against him/her or who had one against him/her within the past 5 years in any state (if the order expired or was vacated, s/he must wait five years from the date it ended before being eligible for the registration certificate);
  • someone who has had a history of violent behavior within the 5 years before the application;
  • someone suffering from a physical defect (including blindness), which indicates that the applicant would not be able to possess and use a firearm safely and responsibly; or
  • someone who was found by a court to be negligent in handling a firearm, which caused death or serious injury to another person.2

If any of these situations apply to the abuser, it may be illegal for him/her to have a gun.  Also, federal laws, which apply to all states, restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have a restraining order against him/her that meets certain requirements.  Go to Federal Gun Laws to get more information.

1 DC Code § 22-4503(a)
2 DC Code § 7-2502.03(a)