The shooting at the Family Research Council in Washington on Wednesday raised many questions about the guns laws in the District of Columbia. As people continued to tweet me questions, I decided to answer them all in one post. Below are your questions, followed by my responses. Feel free to elaborate in the comment section at the bottom.
Q: Is it legal to carry a concealed firearm in DC?
A: No, the nation’s capital does not recognize the right to bear arms. It is illegal to have a gun outside the home in D.C. The city was forced in 2008 to recognize the right to keep arms when the Supreme Court ruled that the 30-year total ban on handguns was unconstitutional in the Heller decision.
Q: Does DC accept CCW from other states? Which ones?
A: No concealed carry permits can be used in D.C. It’s important for visitors to the nation’s capital to know this so that they don’t get arrested for an innocent mistake. It happens too often.
Under no circumstances can a non-resident of the District bring a gun into the city. Army 1st Seargent Matthew Corrigan spent two weeks in jail for unregistered guns. Read his story here.
Residents can have guns in their homes if each one is registered with the city. Click here to read my new guide to registering firearms in D.C.
Also keep in mind that ammunition has to be registered so non-residents can be arrested for this, as happened in the case of Army Specialist Adam Mecker (click to read his story). The city council is moving to make it a civil instead of a criminal offense for visitors to get caught with unregistered guns or ammunition, but that bill has not had a hearing yet. Click to read more about that change.
Q: How has that law not been overturned?
A: The main excuse the local politicians use for not granting any carry rights — open or concealed — is that having congressmen, the president and Supreme Court justices around town makes this a unique case and legal guns would put them in more danger. Read more here. Of course, if someone wants to assassinate the president or lawmaker, he won’t care that carrying a gun is illegal.
Q: Woollard v Sheridan may change things in the next few years. Are you going to be DC’s test case!?
A: The recent court Woolard case which ruled that neighboring Maryland’s carry permit process was unconstitutional because it puts the burden on the citizen for proving a need to carry the gun, rather than the state saying why you cannot, is being watched very carefully for its impact on D.C.
Just last week I asked D.C. city council chairman Phil Mendelson about the carry laws, and he said of the Woolard ruling that, “I’m anxious to see it play out and what the court is thinking.” He’s been saying that since the ruling first came down in March. Bottom line, D.C. knows if that decision sticks, it will soon be forced in court to allow carry rights.
Q: When do you see the courts finally allowing law-abiding-citizens to carry on the streets of DC? What about reciprocity?
A: I think it could happen in the next two years as long as Woollard holds up in court. Also, D.C. politicians want, more than anything, to get more autonomy with their budgets. They know however that Congress is not happy with the overly-restrictive gun laws.
We saw recently that Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, single-handedly sunk the D.C. budget autonomy bill in the Senate by attaching amendments that would give more gun rights to residents, including carry rights. Read more about the move here. The combination of Congress and the courts are putting a lot of pressure on D.C. to allow carry rights.
However, as it did with the right to keep arms, I would expect an onerous process that will make it virtually impossible to actually get a carry permit. Read here about what changes the city was forced to make on its registration process this year. Reciprocity I would only expect to be done in D.C. when forced on the federal level. The Senate has held up the House-passed bill on national reciprocity since April.
Q: How is one supposed to transport their firearms in DC?
A: The police made it very complicated, but we forced them to clear up the information they were giving to the public. Read about them giving out false information on the transport laws here and here and then the city council forcing them to stop here.
The federal transport laws apply in the District. The law is simple: you can transport a gun from one place to another where you can legally possess it as long as the gun is properly stowed. So in D.C., I can legally possess in my home and then take it, for example, to a shooting range in Virginia.
Q: Please explain if the DC recognizes the federal law that allows the transportation of unloaded firearms through all 50 states?
A: Yes, see above. Though if a cop in D.C. arrests you while legally transporting your gun, as happened in the case of Lt. Augustine Kim (read his story here), then call a good firearms attorney.
Rep. Morgan Griffith has a bill in Congress that would be helpful for anti-gun locales like D.C. to make the federal law as clear as possible. Read about his legislation here.
Q: How do you get a newly-purchased gun to the home???
A: This falls under the federal transport laws, as it’s legal to have the gun at the registry office and the home. I brought my new gun home from the police station on the Metro in a locked box — perfectly legal! Read my story here, with a photo of my gun in the subway.
Q: Emily you mentioned in an article that DC might start using cards (vice paper) for registrations. any word on that?
A: The Metropolitan Police Department is supposedly working on my suggestion to upgrad the flimsy registration certificates to cards to keep in a wallet. Things move slowly here.
Q: I would think that the VP’s firearms would protected by federal privilege right? (Ryan if elected)
A: I’ve never heard of a federal privilege. Members of Congress are bound by D.C.’s gun laws when they are in town. I think Rep. Paul Ryan will have to go through the same registration process as the rest of us, which I wrote about in the paper today in: Ryan is first on Second Amendment.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times. Her “Emily Gets Her Gun” series on the District’s gun laws won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism.You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.