Buying Ammo and Guns in Washington, D.C.

DISCLAIMER: It is your full responsibility to make sure the firearm, ammunition, or accessories you are purchasing is legal for you to own in your state or jurisdiction. The information contained throughout this web site, including the firearm and ammunition state guide provided below, is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

In this piece, we explore the laws around purchasing, possessing, and carrying ammunition and firearms in Washington DC. To do so, we start with the ammunition laws, explaining the processes for acquiring ammo in the state. From there, the piece dives into the gun laws, with an eye on explaining the requirements for buying and carrying firearms in the state. Finally, the piece concludes with some resources that you will find useful if you’re interested in owning and carrying ammunition and firearms in the nation’s capitol.

This piece is not intended as legal advice: instead, we hope that the information here is a useful starting point in your own research into the firearm and ammunition laws of DC.

Washington DC is not a state, but it does have the power to make its own laws. There is a city council and a mayor that have many of the same powers that are usually held by state-level government. In addition to the laws passed at the city level, Federal laws apply fully to residents of Washington DC. Basically, think of DC as being a small state without any House or Senate representation, but the city council is directly responsible to the Federal Government. Thus, DC has firearms laws that have passed at the city level, and those apply to DC residents in addition to Federal laws.

DC’s firearm and ammunition laws are highly restrictive and are among the strictest in the continental United States.

Ammo Laws/Buying Ammo in Washington DC

Because federal laws apply fully in DC, the ATF regulations on ammo also apply here. To purchase ammo anywhere in the US, the buyer has to meet ATF requirements. The first is an age requirement: people buying handgun ammo have to be eighteen years of age or older, and those buying handgun ammo have to be at least twenty-one. Additionally, ammo buyers cannot be prohibited persons, which the ATF defines as people who have been convicted of domestic violence or felonies, people who have been found mentally incompetent in court, and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution for inpatient treatment.

In addition to the federal rules, DC imposes further restrictions. While the city’s law does not directly control ammunition sales, it does so indirectly: DC requires a permit to purchase any firearms and only allows its residents to purchase ammunition for those firearms registered with the DC police. This policy alone makes DC extremely restrictive in terms of its ammo laws and makes online retailers unwilling to ship much of anything firearms related to the state.

Because FFLs in DC have access to the registry of firearms in the city’s jurisdiction, buying ammo in the city is basically only possible in person. This likely makes it a long process that will be more expensive than it is in most of the US.

The requirement that only allows gun owners to purchase ammo for the guns that they currently own and have registered with the DC city government also prevents people from taking advantage of sales on ammunition for guns that they might plan to buy in the future. It also institutes a de-facto background check for every ammo purchase in Washington DC since the FFL will need to check with the city’s firearm registry before making a sale.

DC’s ammo laws are predicated on their restrictive gun registry: this makes buying ammo online in the city impossible and also means that it is among the strictest localities in the country. 

Firearms Laws in Washington DC

The firearms laws in Washington DC are highly restrictive. The same piece of legislation that mandates that people only purchase ammo for firearms that they already own adds several additional restrictions. First,  it bans the possession of any magazines with a capacity of ten or more. Second, the city does not allow the possession of “assault rifles” as defined by a set of features subject to the discretion of law enforcement on the review of individual gun purchases. Thirdly, the city does not allow for the registration, and thus possession of, NFA items such as machine guns, suppressors, and short-barreled rifles and shotguns.

To reiterate from the ammo section, every gun purchase in DC goes through not only the standard federal background check as administered through ATF’s Form 4473 but also through a DC-specific background check that also registers the firearm with the city. Thus, buyers need to bring payment and an ID that has a DC residence listed as an address to purchase a firearm. When both the background check and payment have been accepted, the city government imposes a ten-day waiting period on firearms purchases.

Because of the registration and waiting period requirements in Washington DC, private firearms sales are basically impossible: the seller has to first transfer (or sell) the firearm to an FFL, who then can sell it to the buyer. Overall, the gun-buying process in Washington DC is time-consuming and highly restrictive.

Carrying firearms in Washington DC is similarly restrictive. The city prohibits “transporting” firearms outside of a vehicle unless they are locked, unloaded, and in a case. This also effectively bans the open carriage of firearms.

The city’s concealed carry permits are issued on a shall-issue basis but contain many hoops through which to jump, including a vision test, a firearms class of  20 hours in length, and two forms of ID that prove DC residence. It also requires that the applicant have a registered pistol, though this can be done on the same form.

Once the permit has been issued, it is also somewhat widely recognized throughout the country.

Washington DC has a list of places where it is illegal to carry a firearm, including:

  • K-12 Schools

  • Universities

  • Hospitals

  • Public Transit

  • All Federal Property

  • Demonstrations 

  • Bars

  • Religious Buildings

  • Private Residencies without express Permission

While every state has a list of prohibited places, DC’s list is the most restrictive. Given that it is the nation’s capitol, the restriction of the carriage of guns near demonstrations, on federal property, and in bars, hospitals, and residences means that about the only place in DC where someone can lawfully carry a firearm is in their own homes or, perhaps, while driving. 

While there are no firearms manufacturers in Washington DC, the federal government that sits in the Capitol is, by far, the largest distributor of arms in human history.

DC has some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the country. Buying guns is a long and difficult process that requires registration, classes, and waiting periods. Open carry is out of the question. While concealed carry is legal, the sheer number and type of places that are restricted severely curtails the usefulness of a concealed carry permit.

Sales Tax on Guns/Ammo in Washington DC.

The sales tax in Washington DC is 5.75%: the city does not impose special taxes on the sale of firearms and ammunition.

More Resources:

  • is a great tool for finding ranges that are convenient for you. Use the mileage, city, and zip code features to find a range that suits your needs.

  • The ATF keeps a list of every FFL in the country down to the state level, which you can use to find gun stores. Gun stores are typically Type One or Two FFLS.

  • There are several gun stores in Washington DC: the FFLs are also great sources of the practical steps to comply with local laws.

  • There is a subreddit where gun owners in Washington DC share events, new regulations, and reviews regularly.

Washington DC Gun Laws FAQ:

Absolutely not. The city requires registration for all firearms. Residents can only buy ammo for guns they already own. Open carry is totally illegal, and concealed carry is basically illegal in most of the city’s territory. 

Nope. Because residents in DC can only buy ammo for the guns registered to them, no retailer is willing to ship to DC. The same goes for accessories and firearms parts thanks to the assault weapons ban in the city. 

Yes. NFA items are totally banned in the city. Assault weapons are also banned, but the local police can allow or disallow individual firearms purchases at their discretion.

Yes, but the permit is fairly hard to get due to the lengthy process. Also, most of DC falls under the list of restricted places and one cannot carry on public transit. So, while concealed carry is legal in DC, doing so might be deeply impractical.

Nope: every firearms transaction has a ten-day waiting period in DC. Additionally, the mandatory registration must be transferred to the new owner. Thus, it is basically impossible to do any private firearm sales in DC, and all gun sales in the city will have to go through an FFL within the city’s limits.