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Legal Information: District of Columbia

State Gun Laws

Updated: 
October 29, 2020

I do not have a protection order against the abuser, and s/he has not been convicted of a crime. Can s/he have a gun?

In Washington, D.C., in addition to convicted criminals and respondents in protection order cases, the following people cannot possess firearms.

It is illegal for to possess a firearm if the person:

  • ​is a “fugitive from justice”; or
  • is addicted to any controlled substance (drug).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:

  • a minor;
  • someone 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 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);
    • the court says is a “chronic alcoholic” (unless the person presents a medical certification that s/he has recovered from alcoholism);
    • voluntarily admitted him/herself to a mental health facility or was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility or to a mental institution by the court;
    • was determined to be an “incapacitated individual” or a “mental defective” by a court; or
    • has had a history of violent behavior;
  • 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 none of these situations apply, you can still make a plan for your safety. See our Staying Safe page for more information. You can also contact your local domestic violence organization for additional help. You may want to talk to them about whether leaving the area - either long term or for a little while - might help improve your safety. See our DC Advocates and Shelters page to find a local domestic violence organization near you.

For additional information on gun laws in the District of Columbia, you can go to the Giffords Law Center website.

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

I've read through all of this information, and I am still confused. What can I do?

Trying to understand both federal and state law can be confusing, but there are people out there who can help you better understand the law and your rights under the law.

  • You can contact the National Center on Protection Orders and Full Faith & Credit to get more information about the federal firearm law and how it applies to you: 1-800-903-0111, ext. 2.
  • You can write to our Email Hotline.
  • You can contact a local domestic violence organization in your area.