Gun Violence and Gun Laws in Washington, D.C.

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 27, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

After decades in decline, overall violent crime rose by almost 4 percent last year and much of the increase was spurred by a rise in gun violence and murder rates in large cities. One of the cities struggling with gun violence is Washington, D.C., which saw homicides in one ward triple in the first half of 2016 compared to the same time period in 2015.

The District has a history of having some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country. So what are D.C.'s current guns laws, and how might they change as law enforcement tries to stem the rising tide of gun violence in Washington, D.C.?

The Present of Gun Violence

As of this posting, 100 people have been killed in Washington, D.C. this year and 78 of those were victims of shootings. Homicides in the district hit a 15-year low in 2012, before spiking by 54% in 2015, totaling 162 victims.

D.C. had passed the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975, which banned residents from owning handguns, automatic firearms, or high-capacity semi-automatic firearms, and required all firearms to be registered with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. But the Supreme Court overturned the handgun prohibition in 2008. D.C.'s gun laws remain some of the toughest in the nation, requiring gun owners to be 21 and wait 10 days from the date of purchase to receive a gun and still banning assault weapons.

The Future of Gun Laws

At the same time that gun violence is rising in Washington, D.C., the city may again be the center of gun control litigation. The District currently bans concealed carry of firearms, but gun rights advocates and even some Republican attorneys general are challenging that restriction.

While similar prohibitions have been upheld in California, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, the battle may not be decided until the Supreme Court weighs in. As Jonathan E. Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence told the Washington Post, "The question of whether and to what extent the Second Amendment extends into a right to carry guns into public spaces is probably the most important constitutional question that could affect American gun policy since [the 2008 case]."

Gun control laws are constantly in flux, and those in D.C. are liable to be changing soon. If you have questions about gun laws where you live, or have been charged with a gun crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you.

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