See our Background Check Procedures policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
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.1
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 District.2
In the District, any private (i.e., unlicensed) firearm seller must have a registration certificate in order to lawfully transfer a firearm;3 private sellers may transfer lawful firearms to only licensed dealers.4 See the District of Columbia Private Sales section for further information.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map (last visited Apr. 3, 2012).
- D.C. Code Ann. §§ 7-2502.01, 7-2502.03, 7-2502.06(a), 7-2505.02(c).
- D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2502.01(a).
- D.C. Code Ann. § 7-2505.02(a). The District has other transfer restrictions that ostensibly apply to all sellers of firearms, but for practical purposes apply only to licensed dealers. Sellers must wait to deliver a firearm to a purchaser after 10 days have elapsed from the time of application (except for transfers to certain law enforcement officers). D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508. Firearms must be transported safely and lawfully (See D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4504.02.) D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508. Prior to transfer, purchasers must sign in duplicate and deliver to the seller a statement containing his or her full name, address, occupation, color, place of birth, the date and hour of application, the caliber, make, model, and manufacturer’s number of the firearm to be purchased and a statement that the purchaser is not forbidden by D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4503 from possessing a firearm. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508. The seller shall, within six hours after such application, sign and attach his or her address and deliver a copy to the Chief of Police, and retain the other copy for six years. D.C. Code Ann. § 22-4508.