As a responsibly armed American, you already know how challenging it can be to stay updated on your state’s gun laws.

D.C. residents, you’re in luck. We’ve accumulated some of the most frequently asked questions about your gun laws and are now bringing you the answers! (Not from D.C.? Check the Legal & Second Amendment tab for your state.)

Can You Carry a Gun in D.C.?

Open carry is illegal in D.C., however, anyone with a D.C. Concealed Carry Pistol License (CCPL) may concealed carry. CCPLs require a firearms training course that has been approved by the Metro Police and are issued to residents and non-residents who are at least 21 years old. D.C. does not honor concealed carry licenses from any state or subdivision of the United States.

Does Washington D.C. Have Strict Gun Laws?

In some ways, D.C. could be considered to have strict gun laws. Private party firearms transfers must be conducted through a licensed dealer, who is required by federal law to conduct a background check and keep a record of the sale. There is a 10-day waiting period for handgun purchases.

The Metro Police maintain a roster of “handguns not determined to be unsafe.” All firearms must be registered, and this process acts as a permit to purchase. Individuals cannot possess ammunition without a valid registration of a firearm and may not carry any restricted pistol bullets. Licensed dealers may transfer ammunition only to the registered owner of a firearm of the same caliber or gauge as the ammunition. Ammunition transfer may also occur to a non-resident of the District who provides proof that the weapon is lawfully possessed and is of the same gauge or caliber as the ammunition to be purchased. There is also a 10-round-magazine-capacity restriction for handguns.

Is D.C. a ‘Gun-Free’ Zone?

No, D.C. previously would not permit any licensing for open carry or concealed carry outside of a home or place of business. That law was struck down by federal courts as being unconstitutional. Concealed carry is now allowed with a D.C. CCPL, which is issued to both residents and non-residents that meet requirements. There are areas that are off-limits for CCPL holders.

Where Can You Not Carry a Firearm in Washington D.C.?

There is a long list of locations that are off-limits, even for CCPL holders. They include the following:

  • A person issued a concealed carry license shall not carry more ammunition than is required to fully load the pistol twice, and in no event shall that amount be greater than 20 rounds of ammunition
  • A person issued a concealed carry license may not carry any restricted pistol bullet as that term is defined in the Act
  • The public memorials on the National Mall and along the Tidal Basin, and any area where firearms are prohibited under federal law or by a federal agency or entity, including U.S. Capitol buildings and grounds
  • The White House Complex and its grounds, up to and including the curb of the adjacent sidewalks
  • The U.S. Naval Observatory and its fence line
  • Any place while consuming alcohol or while impaired
  • On the premises of the Smithsonian
  • Any premises, or portion thereof, where alcohol is served, or sold and consumed, on the premises (although there are exceptions for on-premises retailers with specific classes of licenses)
  • A stadium or arena
  • A public gathering or special event open to the public when the organizer has provided notice and posted signage prohibiting the carrying of pistols in advance of the gathering or special event
  • The building and grounds, including any adjacent parking lot, of any child care facility, preschool, public or private elementary or secondary school, or a public or private college or university
  • A building or office occupied by the District of Columbia, its agencies or instrumentalities
  • A hospital or an office where medical or mental health services are the primary services provided
  • A penal institution, secure juvenile residential facility or halfway house
  • A polling place while voting is occurring
  • A public transportation vehicle, including the Metrorail transit system and its stations
  • Within 1,000 feet of a dignitary or high-ranking official of the United States or a state, local or foreign government that is moving under the protection of law enforcement;
  • Within a perimeter of 1,000 feet of a demonstration in a public place posted as off-limits to firearms or by officer’s order
  • Private residential property, unless otherwise authorized by the property owner or person in residential property
  • A place of religious worship, unless the property is posted with conspicuous signage allowing the carrying of a concealed pistol, or the owner or authorized agent communicates such allowance personally to the licensee in advance of entry onto the property
  • Non-residential property that is posted with conspicuous signage prohibiting the carrying of a concealed pistol
  • Any place where the carrying of firearms is prohibited by federal law or state law or regulation

Can You Carry a Gun in the Smithsonian?

No. Per Smithsonian policy, no firearms, other dangerous or deadly weapons, or explosives are permitted on the premises. The prohibition on firearms applies to all visitors, including those with firearms permits, but not to active law enforcement personnel authorized to carry firearms.

What Self-Defense Weapons Are Legal in D.C.?

Concealed carry of handguns is permitted for CCPL holders. Self-defense spray or pepper spray is legal only as a reasonable force to defend a person or his or her property. However, it must be propelled from an aerosol container, and there are restrictions on the chemical mixtures, labeling and dating. In addition, person 18 years or older may possess a stun gun in the District of Columbia, although it may only be used to protect themselves or property. No one other than a law enforcement officer is allowed to possess a stun gun in a building or office occupied by the District of Columbia government; a penal institution; a secure juvenile residential facility; a halfway house; any building that is occupied by a children’s facility, preschool, elementary or secondary school; or any building or grounds in which the owner or occupant clearly posts forbidding the carrying of a stun gun.

Is D.C. a ‘Stand Your Ground’ State?

No. D.C. is neither a stand your ground nor a duty to retreat jurisdiction. The District case law has established a middle ground. You are entitled to claim self-defense: (1) if you actually believe you are in imminent danger of bodily harm and (2) if you have reasonable grounds for that belief. You may use the amount of force which, at the time of the incident, you actually and reasonably believe is necessary to protect yourself (or a third person) from imminent bodily harm.

This may extend to the use of deadly force if you actually and reasonably believe you are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which you can save yourself only by using deadly force against your assailant. You should take reasonable steps to avoid the necessity of taking a human life, so long as those steps are consistent with your own safety. However, you are not required to retreat. Generally, you may not use deadly force to protect your property.

Ready to Learn More About D.C. Gun Laws?

It’s your responsibility as a gun owner to know and understand the laws regarding your concealed carry rights. The USCCA’s Concealed Carry Reciprocity & Gun Laws Map is the ultimate tool for armed citizens like you to stay informed. To learn more about this state’s permit application process, concealed carry restrictions and training requirements, visit D.C.’s gun laws page now…

The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. members and the concealed carry community and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and, as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.