Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2023 ‘Background Check Procedures in Washington DC.’ Background Checks. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 7 December
[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]
Background Checks in the District of Columbia
Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state "point of contact" and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS") database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
The District of Columbia is not a point of contact jurisdiction for NICS. The District has no law requiring firearms dealers to initiate background checks prior to transferring a firearm. As a result, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly.
The Chief of Police initiates backgrounds checks for the issuance of registration certificates, which are required to own and take possession of a firearm in the the District.
In the the District, any private (i.e., unlicensed) firearm seller must have a registration certificate in order to lawfully transfer a firearm; private sellers may transfer lawful firearms to only licensed dealers…