Voluntary Surrender of Firearms in DC

Washington, DC has a safe harbor provision in the Firearms Act that allows an individual who possesses a gun unlawfully in the District of Columbia that is not registered to them, to surrender that gun to police.

However, an individual needs to initiate the voluntary surrender of firearms in DC as it cannot be a situation where the police arrest the person for driving on a suspended license and the person tries to surrender their gun. That does not work, and they must initiate the surrender of the firearm with the assistance of a DC gun lawyer.

Reasons For Surrendering a Firearm

A person voluntarily surrenders an unregistered gun to avoid prosecution. Sometimes, a person can do that when they are given a gun or find a gun and they want to do the right thing and voluntarily surrender. However, that situation is extremely rare.

It is more likely that the person has a firearm they brought into the District from somewhere else where they legally owned it. They find out sometime after they move into the District that they are in violation of the law because they possess a firearm that is not registered in the District. They cannot approach the police and reveal that they are currently in violation of the law but would like to register the gun. That is extremely problematic. However, they can voluntarily surrender the gun to avoid prosecution.

Safe Harbor Act

Under the Safe Harbor Act, an individual can voluntarily surrender a firearm at any police station, any Metropolitan Police Department station, or they can contact the police and have the police come to their residence or business to pick up the gun. Most people prefer not to have the police come to their house to pick up guns so they decide to self-surrender the gun to a police department.

That may also be an awkward situation. Walking into a police department with one or more guns and not having a problem seems counterintuitive. However, that is exactly what happens.

Under the statute, the police cannot ask for identifying information. They cannot collect that information from the client or the attorney. The attorney may give the police their contact information but at no point is the client required to speak to the police. No information about the client is given to the police. The client is completely immune from prosecution for the possession of those firearms.

However, they are not immune if it turns out that, two years ago they used that Remington 870 shotgun to murder their neighbor. In that extremely unlikely event, the client is not immune from prosecution if the police look at the gun, match it up with a murder, get fingerprints off the gun and tie the gun to the client. They cannot prosecute the client for possession of the firearms because the client and attorney followed the letter of the law when surrendering it, and the police do not have any information about the client.

Process of Voluntary Surrender

A client wants a voluntary surrender of firearms in DC they follow a process. The attorney contacts the nearest police station and lets them know they are coming in, when they expect to arrive, and exactly what items the client is self-surrendering. The attorney lets the police know their client is doing a self-surrender under Safe Harbor Act and cites the act when speaking with them on the phone. The attorney brings a copy of the act taped to each gun case or box, or whatever is being transported to make it absolutely clear that these items are being surrendered.

In the unlikely event that the person gets a flat tire on the way to the police station and it becomes an issue, the attorney has a copy of the act on their person and the client has a copy of that on their person. The gun and/or ammunition in the locked box has a copy of the act taped on the outside.

The attorney and client walk into the police station together with the client holding the boxes. Upon entering the police station the attorney lets the officer know that they just called to self-surrender the firearms. The client places the items on the counter and walks out of the police station. The attorney stays to make sure the guns are properly accepted by the police.

Hiring an Attorney

The way to self-surrender firearms correctly is to hire an attorney who can make sure that everything is being done properly. The attorney can advise the person on how to voluntarily surrender their firearms in DC properly. That means the gun must be in a locked case. The ammunition must be separate from the gun and also locked up. The locked cases must be put into a trunk. When the person is ready to self-surrender, their attorney will contact the nearest police department to let them know about the self-surrender. The attorney can then accompany the person, who is not required to give their name to the authorities. The attorney does not have to give their name either.