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Understanding Firearm Transportation Laws in Washington, D.C.: A Guide for Gun Owners Inside and Outside the District

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Gun Laws

Gun ownership comes with its own set of responsibilities, and when you are a gun owner residing outside or inside Washington, D.C., navigating the city’s stringent firearm laws can be a challenge. Not knowing the District’s  law can easily lead to a law-abiding citizen in one state becoming a felon within D.C. The purpose of this blog is to explore the ins and outs of bringing a firearm that is registered in another jurisdiction into the District and the legal landscape surrounding this type of firearm transportation.

Is it Illegal to Carry an Unlicensed Firearm in Washington, D.C.?

The short answer is yes. One of the critical aspects of D.C.’s firearm laws is the criminal statute, D.C. § 22–4504, specifically addressing carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL). This statute is at the core of ensuring responsible and legal firearm ownership within the District. In D.C., it is a felony to carry a pistol without a license. If you are arrested for this charge the consequences can be severe. Under D.C. law, carrying a pistol without a license – outside of your home –  carries a max penalty of 5 years and or a $12,500 fine and is prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s office. If the firearm was recovered within your home or business the maximum penalty is 1 year and or a $2,500.00 fine and is also prosecuted by the United States Attorneys Office as well as the Assistant Attorney General’s office.

For individuals with previous felony convictions, the penalties become even more severe, potentially leading to enhanced sentences including mandatory jail time. It is crucial to understand the gravity of this statute, as the penalties, especially for those with prior felonies, underscore the District’s commitment to maintaining strict control over firearm possession within its borders. If you or a loved one have been arrested for carrying a pistol without a license, or are facing arrest, do not talk to the police or the prosecutors – instead your should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney who not only focuses on Washington D.C. Criminal Law but also specializes in gun defense.

Are there any exceptions to the District’s carry laws?

There are two common exceptions that gun owners regularly face.  The first exception allows for the lawful transportation of firearms and the second allows for qualified enforcement officers to carry a firearm that is not licensed within D.C. However, the answer is a nuanced one, and understanding the local and federal laws is crucial for compliance.

1. DC Code § 22-4504.02 – Transportation of a Firearm in a vehicle:

D.C. Code § 22-2504.02 allows for the transportation of firearms in a vehicle when the firearm is being transported for a lawful purpose and it is being carried from one place where a person lawfully possessed and carried the firearm to another place where the person may lawfully possess and carry the firearm. A common example of this is a person who has a license to possess and carry his firearm in Maryland and wants to drive his firearm to Virginia where he also has the legal right to possess and carry it. D.C. Code § 22-4504.02 allows for this action even when the person does not have a license to possess or carry a specific firearm in Washington, D.C.

Navigating D.C. with a firearm involves understanding DC Code § 22–4504.02 and the rules for transporting firearms in a vehicle. Specifically, there are strict storage requirements for carrying a firearm within a vehicle and there are laws prohibiting transporting a firearm on public transportation. Violating either of these rules will likely lead to criminal charges. Prior to driving through the District with an unlicensed or unregistered firearm, it is critical that you consult with a D.C. Criminal Defense Gun Lawyer.  A Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney, who specializes in the District’s gun laws, will be able to provide you with guidance on how to do this safely and how to avoid arrest.

2.  Federal Law: 18 U.S. Code § 926b – Qualified Law Enforcement 

While adhering to D.C.’s regulations, federal law also plays a role in the transportation of firearms and provides an exception to the District’s carrying laws. The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (also called “LEOSA”), 18 U.S. Code § 926b, allows for a person to carry an unlicensed firearm within the District provided that person meets one of the following three conditions. Specifically, he or she is considered a qualified law enforcement officer who meets specific requirements like having arrest powers, being authorized by the agency, not being subject to any disciplinary action, and is not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

This federal statute provides further clarity on this exception to firearm transportation laws, potentially impacting how qualified gun owners navigate their transportation routes through and around Washington, D.C. Correctly understanding this statute is crucial for ensuring compliance with both local and federal regulations. To make sure that you or a loved one are in compliance with both local and federal laws, make sure to consult with an attorney who specializes in Federal and D.C. Criminal Defense law.

In conclusion, navigating firearm transportation laws in Washington, D.C., demands a comprehensive understanding of both local and federal regulations. Gun owners must be aware of the intricacies involved in bringing a firearm registered within another jurisdiction into D.C., the consequences of carrying a pistol without a license under D.C. § 22–4504, and the strict restrictions on private and public transportation. Always seek legal advice for your specific situation, stay informed about updates to firearm transportation laws, and exercise your rights responsibly. Finally, if you or a loved one need legal advice regarding D.C. or Federal law our attorneys at Scrofano Law, PC are ready to assist.  Whether you need an advice consultation or help with a devastating arrest, contact us immediately. We are prepared to advise, defend, and fight for your freedom.

Joshep S.
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