DC Gun Law Trends and Prosecution

Gun laws in the DC area are currently undergoing something of a transition from extreme limitations to slightly looser regulations. Despite these changes, DC gun laws remain among the strictest in the country and as such anyone who is unsure about gun laws in DC or is facing gun crime charges should consult with a Washington DC gun lawyer to understand their situation.

Gun Law Trends

It used to be that possession of nearly any firearm in the District was considered to be illegal. In recent years, however, various courts have begun striking down DC gun laws as being in violation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, as trends continue to change. First, the Supreme Court said that DC could not legally outlaw all personal firearms possession; they had to allow people to have private possession of firearms. The District of Columbia then allowed people to register firearms for personal possession in their homes or businesses, but DC residents still could not carry firearms anywhere outside of their homes or businesses.

More recently, those laws were also struck down because the courts found that the District needs to grant DC residents some kind of ability to license their guns for carrying outside of homes and businesses. Right now, the District is still working on creating a licensing regime that would be consistent with these constitutional requirements.

Compared to Other Jurisdictions

Despite these changes, DC still has some of the strictest gun laws in the country when it comes to private possession of firearms. The penalties are still very serious and the enforcement of gun laws by the Metropolitan Police Department and the United States Attorney’s Office is very strict.

Eventually, DC is going to create a licensing scheme that will allow people to either open carry or concealed carry guns around the city. As of right now, these laws are still being drafted and modified. The current status is that police agencies in DC will continue strictly enforcing current gun laws. They will continue conducting searches of homes and vehicles and seek very serious penalties for people who are in violation of the District’s gun laws.

Prosecutorial Trends

In recent years, prosecutors have become more understanding of the fact that gun laws vary greatly from state to state, gun law trends are changing, and that many people simply will not know the minute differences between various states’ gun laws. As a result, DC prosecutors have begun to see people who transport firearms into the District from other states in a more sympathetic light.

For example, people who live in other states and have lawful permits (including concealed carry and other kinds of weapons registration permits) who come into DC as tourists or for business purposes and bring their guns with them might not be looking at serious prison time for what can be considered an honest misunderstanding. These individuals had no intentions of violence and are not looking to harm anyone. They simply did not understand that their concealed carry permit that allows them to lawfully carry their guns in their home state does not transfer over and allow them to lawfully possess their firearms in other states.

In this situation, even though not being aware of the District’s gun laws is not a complete defense, it is the job of a person’s defense attorney to ensure that the individual is seen in a sympathetic light by the prosecutors. The goal is to convince the prosecution that the defendant can be presumed to have had no harmful intentions. An aggressive and experienced defense attorney needs to discuss a defendant’s individual circumstances with prosecutors to attempt to prevent that person, who had no specific harmful intentions, from facing a lifelong felony conviction on their record.

Future Gun Laws

In the future, DC gun law trends are going to reflect the fact that courts are increasingly requiring states to establish licensing schemes that will allow people to carry their guns outside of homes and places of business. At the same time, because the fear of gun violence and mass shootings is prevalent around the country, the District is going to maintain or maybe even increase the level of prosecution for illegal possession of firearms, specifically by people who have prior felony convictions or who are seen as likely to use firearms in dangerous ways.

Impact on Prosecutors

Prosecutors in the District must accept the fact that DC legislators will soon have to create licensing schemes that will allow people to carry guns legally outside of their homes and businesses. At the same time, prosecutors are cognizant of the fact that firearm-related deaths around the country are high. That means that prosecutors may more aggressively go after people who are seen as possible threats of violence while going easier on people who are in possession of firearms, but do not have the risk factors that places them in that more serious category.

Benefit of an Attorney

Gun offenses in DC can be complicated. Even some of the lesser gun offenses can have very serious and long-lasting consequences for someone’s job or many other facets of their life.

When someone is convicted of a felony gun charge, such as carrying a pistol outside their home or place of business or unlawful possession of a firearm with a prior felony conviction, the offenses can carry the possibility of years of prison time. In this situation, it is crucial to have the assistance of a lawyer who is experienced with gun offenses in general and specifically experienced with gun offenses in DC.

Having knowledge of DC laws is invaluable. It is especially important for people who do not live in DC and find themselves with serious criminal charges without even realizing that transporting their firearm from another state to DC may have been illegal. Even though someone in that situation might not see themselves as a criminal and do not have any sort of criminal or violent intent, they can still be prosecuted for a felony by DC prosecutors.

It is important to not minimize the severity of gun offenses simply because the person feels like they did not intend to commit any type of crime. Those offenses can still be vigorously prosecuted and a person could face serious consequences.