According to the D.C. Criminal Code, it is illegal to own or possess a firearm in the District of Columbia if the person: (1) is a drug addict, (2) has ever been convicted of a felony, either in D.C or anywhere else in the United States, (3) has ever been convicted of a firearms charge, (4) has ever been convicted of certain misdemeanor charges (e.g., crimes of domestic violence), or (5) is subject to a civil protection order. This is the offense typically referred to as Felon in Possession of a Firearm. It is also illegal for a third party to provide a firearm to a person the third party knows is not otherwise eligible to possess the firearm. The penalty for being a felon in possession of a firearm is a mandatory minimum term of 1 year imprisonment that cannot be suspended and a maximum of 10 years. Other forms of unlawful possession of a firearm are punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000. D.C. Criminal Code 22-4503.
It against the law to carry a pistol without a license or any deadly or dangerous weapon that is capable of being concealed anywhere in D.C. If the possession is outside the person’s “dwelling place,” business place, or property, the crime is a felony and is subject to a maximum $5,000 fine and/or 5 year imprisonment. Otherwise, it is a misdemeanor subject to a $1000 fine and a maximum 1 year sentence. While this is the current statute, the misdemeanor charge of illegal possession within a person’s home was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008) as violating the Second Amendment. D.C. Criminal Code 22-4504(a).
Possession of Firearm During Crime of Violence (PFCV)
It is illegal to possess a firearm or imitation firearm during a crime of violence. The penalty is a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years without probation or parole and a maximum of 15 years. D.C. Criminal Code 22-4504(b).
Assault with Dangerous Weapon (ADW)
Assault is a crime. If the assault is combined with an intent to commit mayhem (malicious maiming of a person or violent destruction of property) or if the assault is committed with a dangerous weapon, the person can be sentenced to up to 10 years. D.C. Criminal Code 22-402.
It is against the law to possess or sell a firearm in the Washington, DC without a valid registration certificate. The penalty for violating this section is a maximum fine of $1000 and/or a maximum of one year imprisonment. It is a valid defense that the person temporarily possessed the firearm to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to someone. D.C. Criminal Code 7-2502.01
Unlawful Possession of Ammunition (UA)
It is illegal to possess ammunition in the District of Columbia unless the person is: (1) a licensed dealer, (2) a federal or city law enforcement officer acting within scope of duties, or (3) holder of a valid registration certificate of same gauge and caliber as ammunition in possession. It is also illegal to possess, sell or transfer any “large capacity ammunition feeding device.” A person guilty of this charge can be sentenced to a maximum fine of $1000 and/or up to a year imprisonment. D.C. Criminal Code 7-2506.01.
It is against the law to discharge a firearm in the District of Columbia without a special permit from the Chief of Police. It is a valid defense to this charge that the firearm was discharged in self-defense. A person guilty of this charge can be sentenced to a maximum fine of $1000 and/or up to a year imprisonment. D.C. Criminal Code 22-4503.01
Alteration of Identification Numbers
It is illegal to alter, obliterate or otherwise change the serial or identification number on a firearm. Absent proof to the contrary, a person found in possession of a firearm with an altered number will be presumed to have altered the number him- or herself. A person guilty of this charge can be sentenced to a maximum fine of $1000 and/or up to a year imprisonment. D.C. Criminal Code 22-4512.
It is illegal to possess a whole range of “dangerous” weapons, including blackjack, sand club, switchblade, silencer or muffler, dagger, stiletto, or sawed off shotgun. It is also illegal to possess an imitation pistol, dagger, dirk, razor, stiletto or knife with a blade longer than three inches with the intent to use it unlawfully. The penalty for a first-time offender without a prior felony conviction is a maximum fine of $1000 and/or up to a year incarceration. The penalty for a subsequent offense or for an offender with a prior felony conviction in D.C. or any other jurisdiction is imprisonment of up to 10 years. D.C. Criminal Code 22-4514.
Presence in a Motor Vehicle Containing a Firearm
It is against the law to be in a motor vehicle if the person knows that there is also a firearm in the vehicle, unless the firearm is being lawfully carried or transported. It is an affirmative defense that, upon learning of the presence of the firearm, the defendant intended to immediately exit the vehicle. Violation of this provision is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and/or 5 years of imprisonment. If the defendant has previously been convicted of a felony or of carrying a concealed weapon, the penalty for this offense is up to a $10,000 fine and/or 10 years of imprisonment. D.C. Code 7-2507.12.
Failure to Conceal Pistol/Handgun in D.C.
It is illegal for a person with a concealed carry license for a pistol or handgun to carry that that firearm “openly or otherwise in a manner that is not concealed.” D.C. Code § 7-2509.07(e). Similarly, D.C. Municipal Regulation § 2344.1 requires a “licensee” to “carry any pistol in a manner that it is entirely hidden from view of the public when carried on or about a person, or when in a vehicle in such a way that it is entirely hidden from view of the public.”
A “concealed pistol” is defined as a “loaded or unloaded pistol carried on or about a person entirely hidden from view of the public, or carried on or about a person in a vehicle in such a way as it is entirely hidden from view of the public.” D.C. Code § 7-2509.01(2). “Concealed” means “not discernible by ordinary observation.” Abed v. United States, 278 A.3d 114, 127 (D.C. 2022). “On or about a person” means that the pistol was in such proximity to the person as to be convenient of access and within reach.” White v. United States, 714 A.2d 115, 119 (D.C. 1998). (citing Brown, 30 F.2d at 475). The penalty for violating this part of the statute is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 fine. D.C. Code § 7-2509.10(a)(1).