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Lawful Possession of a Firearm in DC

In DC, there are numerous ordinances spelling out that a person cannot legally possess any firearm unless it is registered to them in the DC. There are also specific ordinances under the DC Code relating to the use of a firearm in another crime.

In theory, someone can obtain a license to carry a handgun concealed in DC. Previously, no one was allowed to carry a handgun concealed. After a Supreme Court ruling, the law was changed to allow for the issuance of a concealed carry permit, but the Chief of the Police would have to be convinced by the person that there was a specific reason they needed to carry the gun for protection. That requirement has since also been lessened but nonetheless, it is still extremely difficult to get a permit or license to carry a concealed weapon in DC.

Because of the specific ordinances and complicated processing of gun cases in DC, it is essential to work with a gun lawyer who has experienced in a variety of gun cases. It is important to know that they will always put their client first and work hard for a positive outcome in their case.

Legal Gun Possession

In the past, the gun laws in DC said that no one could legally possess a pistol in DC. The Supreme Court struck down that law years ago in the District of Columbia v. Heller case. Ever since the Heller case, there has been a fight to determine how an individual can register and carry a pistol in DC.

Generally, anyone who can lawfully register a pistol in DC can obtain a license to carry. After Heller, the DC Chief of Police made the decisions about who can obtain a license to carry. Unless an individual could convince the Chief of Police that there was a valid and compelling reason to grant them a license to carry, that individual was not going to get that permit. The individual was not going to have a license to carry.

After additional legal decisions by the federal courts, the Chief of Police is now supposed to grant permission for a license to carry when one is legally sought. An individual does not need a very compelling justification for requesting a license to carry. However, there are no gun dealers, gun ranges, or hunting seasons in DC. It is extremely difficult to lawfully obtain and register a handgun in DC.

The law has been evolving and up to this point, it is seen as a practical matter, a theoretical change. Hypothetically, it is now possible to register a pistol in DC and further gain permission to carry it concealed. But that is theoretical.

Unlawful Possession

The gun lawyer begins their approach by looking at the factual circumstances under which the police discovered that the defendant possessed or allegedly possessed the firearm. They will want to know if the firearm was on their person or not, and what the circumstances were. When the police arrest somebody on the street for suspected criminal activity, that person might have a pistol on them. However, in the majority of cases, pistols are found in a home during the execution of a search warrant or during interaction where police respond to some crime in progress and find a gun in a home or even more frequently, in a vehicle.

It is common for individuals who can lawfully possess a gun in a different jurisdiction to visit DC with a gun in their vehicle not realizing that the law is completely different and harsh in DC. They may be pulled over for some traffic infraction or, commonly, they park in a parking garage that is near or underneath a federal building. The investigation is a key start to approaching a case for a DC gun lawyer.

Many parking garages in DC are in a building that is owned or used by the Federal Government or is attached to a federal property such as the Capitol. There are uniformed federal officers or private security officers who look inside the vehicle or ask if there are any firearms in the vehicle. A lawful gun owner from another jurisdiction has likely been told to be honest concerning the presence of firearms when interacting with law enforcement. When someone is dealing with law enforcement and they have a gun with them, they might admit to having a gun because in the jurisdiction they are from, it is okay for them to have that gun.


If someone admits to having a gun they do not legally possess in DC, at that moment, they are arrested. They are taken into custody. They are held in custody until they see a judge, and they may continue to be held in custody for days or even weeks or, in a worst-case scenario, even months, pending the outcome of their case.

The best way to avoid these gun offenses from happening when someone does not live in DC is to simply not bring guns into DC. If an individual is going into DC, and they intend to bring a gun into DC, they should give enough advance time to contact the Metropolitan Police Department and go through the process to have it registered so that when an individual arrives in DC, everything is by the law.

Gun Laws

For those people who live in DC, it is important that they know the gun laws. If someone has a gun in DC that is not registered properly to them, there is a safe harbor provision in the law that allows an individual to contact the police department, have the police come to them at their place of work or residence or they can go to a police station and self-surrender that weapon.

Under the Safe Harbor Act, the police are not allowed to take any identifying information about the person and the person is immune from prosecution for the possession of that gun by turning it in and walking away. It may be prudent to hire an attorney to accompany them to make sure everything is done correctly so there is no possibility that they are charged with any crime. This happens when people move to DC and some years later they become aware of how harsh the gun laws are and realize they have an unregistered gun in their home. There is the possibility that if the police find out about it, they can be charged with a crime.

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