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Legal Information: District of Columbia

State Gun Laws

Updated: 
November 1, 2019

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

Under Washington, D.C. law, it is illegal for a person to 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”; or
  • has been convicted of a misdemeanor “intrafamily offense” (domestic violence) within the past five years, or any similar offense in another state.1

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:

  • someone convicted of a felony in any state;
  • someone convicted of or under indictment for a weapons offense (with the exception of certain infractions or misdemeanor weapons offenses);
  • someone under indictment for a crime of violence;
  • someone convicted within the past five years of:
  • someone who, within the past five years, was acquitted of any criminal charge by reason of insanity (unless the person presents a medical certification that s/he has recovered from the insanity).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)

How 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?