Transporting Firearms in DC

A person could have many reasons for transporting firearms in DC. For instance, a district resident could be traveling to and from the District with their gun for hunting, a shooting demonstration, or an instructional program. Another potential reason someone may travel with their weapon is if a visitor passes through DC to reach another destination. These scenarios would be considered lawful, as long as the gun holders are taking proper precautions when traveling with their weapon.

However, someone could transport a firearm illicitly if they intend to use it in the commission of a crime, participate in an unauthorized sale or purchase of a firearm, or use it to intimidate or assaultive purpose. To ensure that you follow proper procedures when transporting your gun, you should speak with an experienced gun attorney who could advise you on proper gun transportation.

How to Legally Transport a Gun

Assuming the gun holder’s registration and permits are in order, the following steps must be taken to legally travel with a firearm in DC:

  • The gun must be unloaded
  • The ammunition and the firearm should be stored separately
  • The firearm should be in a locked container
  • That container should not be accessible to the driver

The best practices to stay in compliance with the law is to put the weapon in the trunk, and lock the ammunition in a separate container in the truck as well. Lawful procedures to transport a gun to a different state may be more complex, however. The gun holder must comply with the gun laws of whatever state they are in and whatever state to which they are traveling.

If someone does not have the proper documentation to have a weapon within a certain state, they are not allowed to stop in that state with their weapon. For instance, if a Virginia firearm holder stops in the District with their firearm—even for a limited time—they would be violating the district’s gun laws, meaning law enforcement could then arrest them. However, if someone traveling through the District with their gun stopped through no fault of their own—for example, if they are the victim of a traffic collision—then they may have a defense.

Anytime an individual enters DC, even if they just pass through, they are at risk of a gun law violation. The only exception is continued driving with a properly stored firearm on the most direct available route through DC.

When is the Transportation of a Firearm Considered Unlawful?

The transportation of a gun in DC is unlawful if the weapon is not stored correctly, if someone transports their weapon illegally, or if someone is transporting their gun for an unlawful purpose. For instance, if a person tries to travel with their weapon on public transportation, this is unlawful. Furthermore, if it is not legal for the person to possess a firearm in the first place, then any transportation of a gun by that person can be unlawful as well.

There are a few different variations of unlawful transportation of a firearm charge in DC, but generally, this offense can result in a penalty of up to five years in jail. If there are any additional enhancements—such as the person having a prior felony conviction—then they could face up to 10 years in prison, as well as a mandatory minimum of one year in jail. Unlawfully transporting a weapon is a serious offense for anyone, particularly someone who has prior convictions or a related criminal history.

People Who May Not Travel With a Weapon

The law excludes and prohibits convicted felons, from any state, from possessing and transporting a gun. The law defines a felony as a crime with a maximum penalty of more than one year. Another group of people who the law bars from traveling with a firearm is anyone subject to a protective order by the court. Certain people who are out on pretrial release or other forms of court supervision, probation, or supervised release, may be prohibited from possessing a firearm. It is also illegal to carry a firearm when intending to commit a crime and someone accused of this offense could face the crime of taking a firearm across state lines with the intention of breaking the law.

Interstate Transportation of Firearms

Anytime someone has possession of or brings a firearm into DC, they are going to be subject to the DC gun laws, which are very strict and impose a lot of obligations on someone except for some specific exceptions. If an individual is in possession of a firearm in DC, they must have a permit to possess a gun, and then the specific firearm itself must be registered. The only exception is when the person is traveling on the most direct route to their eventual destination through DC without stopping in the city.

The exception under the United States Code for interstate transportation of firearms is when a person legally has a firearm and they are transporting it from one place to another place where they may lawfully possess and carry that firearm. During the period, an individual has the exception of being prosecuted.

For example, one can possess and transport a firearm in Virginia and intend to drive through the District of Columbia to a gun range in Maryland or to someone’s house in Maryland. The firearm just has to be unloaded and locked up away from the passenger compartment, in the trunk or locked up in a box in the back, and it is separate from the ammunition. But, if a person stops in DC for any of the numerous things that people do as they travel to DC, you have just forfeited your protection under the interstate transportation of firearms code.

In DC, once stopped, the act of transporting the firearm has also stopped technically. That is a major problem in DC because of the geographic location and the highways passing through Virginia and Maryland. If transporting a gun, avoid going through DC, if it is a must, then make sure transport it locked up away from the reach of anyone according to the statute.


The charge is unlawful possession of a firearm. The prosecution does not have to prove that that person was transporting the firearm. It was in their possession whether it was in a vehicle or otherwise. Unlawful possession of a firearm for a misdemeanor is up to one year in jail, and a $1,000 fine.

If a person has a pistol on them when committing a felony, the maximum punishment is five years in prison. If convicted of a felony previously, a person could be sentenced to prison for up to ten years.

Contact an Attorney to Learn More About Transporting Guns in DC

If you wish to travel with your gun, you should speak with an attorney to discuss transporting firearms in DC. They could help you understand how to best transport your weapon safely and legally. Reach out today for any questions or concerns you may have regarding gun regulations in DC.