Jefferson Memorial

Possession of a Prohibited Weapon in D.C.

There are two different forms of the criminal offense of Possession of a Prohibited Weapon (PPW) in D.C. The first form — PPW(a) — involves the possession of a weapon that is illegal per se. As the D.C. Court of Appeals has put it, some weapons are so highly suspect and devoid of lawful use that their mere possession is forbidden. Worthy v. United States, 420 A.2d 1216 (D.C. 1980). Specifically named in the statute are machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, blackjacks, slingshots, sand clubs, sandbags, switch-blade knives, metal knuckles, or any instrument, attachment or appliance that can be used to silence or muffle the noise of a firearm.

The second form of this offense — PPW(b) — prohibits the possession of an object which, although not inherently dangerous, can become dangerous by its use as a weapon. A furniture leg, for example, has been found to be a dangerous weapon when it was used in an assaultive or otherwise unlawful manner.

“Machine gun” is defined as any firearm that shoots more than one shot without manual reloading by a single pull of the trigger. The term “sawed-off shotgun” means any shotgun with a barrel less than 18 or 20 inches in length. “Shotgun” means a smooth grooved bore firearm using a fixed shotgun shell with either a number of ball shot or a single projectile, and designed or redesigned to be fired from the shoulder. “Firearm” is defined as a weapon, regardless of operability, that is designed as or readily converted into a device that can expel a bullet or other projectile by an action of an explosive.

The offense of possessing a prohibited weapon is punishable as a misdemeanor by up to one year in prison and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. However, defendants who have been previously been convicted of this offense or of a felony, either in D.C. or in another jurisdiction, are subject to punishment of up to 10 years in prison. D.C. Criminal Code § 22-4514. D.C. Criminal Code § 22-4515.