Gun laws in Washington

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Flag of Washington.svg
Location of Washington in the United States

The state of Washington in the United States has laws regulating the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition.

The Constitution of Washington protects an individual's right to bear arms. Several Washington Supreme Court rulings have found, however, that the right is not absolute and is subject to reasonable regulation by the state under its police power.[2] Washington preempts localities from regulating firearms in any manner more restrictive than State law except as explicitly authorized by the State legislature. Authorized local firearm regulations include:

  • "Restricting the discharge of firearms in any portion of their respective jurisdictions where there is a reasonable likelihood that humans, domestic animals, or property will be jeopardized. Such laws and ordinances shall not abridge the right of the individual guaranteed by Article I, section 24 of the state Constitution to bear arms in defense of self or others."
  • "Restricting the possession of firearms in any stadium or convention center, operated by a city, town, county, except that such restrictions shall not apply to concealed pistol license holders, law enforcement officers, or any showing, demonstration, or lecture involving the exhibition of firearms."
  • "Restricting the areas in their respective jurisdictions in which firearms may be sold."

There are age restrictions on the possession of firearms and some people are prohibited from possessing firearms due to certain criminal convictions or who are released on bond or their own recognizance pending trial for certain criminal charges. Machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, and any parts thereof are prohibited. Suppressors[4] and short-barreled rifles may be possessed and used in accordance with federal law.

There is a rather long list of places where the possession or storage of firearms or ammunition is prohibited or otherwise restricted. Statutory law prohibits firearms in places such as areas of buildings used for court proceedings, certain areas of public mental health facilities, establishments which serve alcohol and are off-limits to persons under 21 years of age, restricted-access areas of commercial airports, State correctional facilities, and outdoor music festivals. Administrative law prohibits or otherwise restricts the possession or storage of firearms in places such as certain schools, premises of the Office of Administrative Hearings, child care centers, horse races, near certain explosive materials, and certain shelters for respite or youths. See the Washington 'infobox' or one of this section's referenced documents for the complete list as well as where exceptions apply for those who hold concealed pistol licenses.

As a general rule, a person may legally open-carry in Washington state in any place it is legal to possess a loaded handgun, as long as it does not manifest "an intent to intimidate another or [warrant] alarm for the safety of other persons." To open-carry a hand gun in a vehicle (i.e., car, bus, etc...) a person must have a valid concealed pistol license. The county sheriff or city police chief shall issue a concealed pistol license to any applicant, age 21 or older, who meets certain requirements, including no felony convictions, no misdemeanor domestic violence convictions, and no outstanding warrants.[5][6] Open carrying of firearms is not prohibited by law although trouble with some law enforcement agencies has been encountered while open carrying in the past, most notably in a case in Ellensburg, Washington.[7]

Concealed Weapon Reciprocity[edit]

Washington concealed pistol licenses will be recognized in the following states, and concealed weapons licenses issued in the listed states will be recognized in Washington State, so long as the handgun is carried in accordance with Washington law: Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma & Utah.[8]

Washington state law also carves exemptions into state law regarding Concealed Pistol Licenses. RCW 9.41.060, section 8: "Any person engaging in a lawful outdoor recreational activity such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, or horseback riding, only if, considering all of the attendant circumstances, including but not limited to whether the person has a valid hunting or fishing license, it is reasonable to conclude that the person is participating in lawful outdoor activities or is traveling to or from a legitimate outdoor recreation area;".[9]

Washington is a "Stand Your Ground" state, in which there is no duty to retreat in the face of what would be perceived by an ordinary person to be a threat to themselves or others by another person that is likely to cause serious injury or death. It is a misdemeanor to aim a firearm "whether loaded or not, at or towards any human being". Unless the person is acting in self-defense, they can be charged with "brandishing" and threatening someone with a deadly weapon.[10]

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Relevant Statutes for Long guns / Handguns Revised Code of Washington Notes
State Permit to Purchase? No / No
Firearm registration? No / Partial

RCW 09.41.110(9)(a) and (b)

Retail dealers must record and report all retail pistol sales to local police/sheriff and to state department of licensing.
Owner license required? No / No
Assault weapon law? No / No
Constitutional Right to Bear Arms? Yes / Yes WA Constitution art. 1 sec. 24
Carry permits issued? No / Yes

RCW 09.41.050 CCW Reciprocity

Washington is a "shall-issue" state and will grant concealed carry permits to all applicants who meet the criteria. There are no training requirements.
Open carry? Yes / Yes RCW 09.41.050 (in vehicle) Open carry is lawful in Washington without any permit. Open carry of a loaded handgun in a vehicle is legal only with a concealed pistol license. Open carry of a loaded long gun in a vehicle is illegal, regardless of CPL possession.
State Preemption of local restrictions? Yes / Yes

RCW 09.41.290 RCW 09.41.300

State Law does not allow more restrictive local laws.
NFA weapons restricted? Yes / Yes

RCW 09.41.190 RCW 09.41.220 RCW 09.41.225 RCW 09.41.250(1)(c)

Machine guns and short-barreled shotguns are illegal for non-law-enforcement possession. Silencers are lawful to possess and use if registered properly with ATF. Short barreled rifles are lawful to possess and use if registered properly with the ATF, as of June 12, 2014.[11]
Peaceable Journey laws? No / No

RCW 09.41.050 RCW 09.41.060 18 USC § 926A CCW Reciprocity

Federal travel-with-a-firearm laws apply. Some out-of-state CCW licenses valid, otherwise carry must be open or, in a vehicle, unloaded.
Castle Doctrine / Stand your ground law? Not defined - de facto RCW 9A.16.050, RCW 9A.16.110 The Washington State Supreme Court ruled "that there is no duty to retreat when a person is assaulted in a place where he or she has a right to be."[12][13]

See also[edit]