Gun laws in Washington

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Gun laws in Washington[1][2][3]
Flag of Washington.svg
Constitution sectionsArticle I, Section 24

"The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired ..."

Map of USA WA.svg

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. 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 some 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. Since July 1, 1994, 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. Pistols transferred through an F.F.L. dealer must be registered with Washington State D.O.L.[5]

There are 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 loaded handgun in a vehicle (e.g, 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.[6][7] Open carrying of firearms is not prohibited by state law.

In Washington, the police may temporarily seize guns from people a judge deems a threat to themselves or others. Law enforcement personnel may alert mental health professionals, who can determine if someone is a threat or needs involuntary treatment. The police must notify any family or household members who want to know about a gun being returned to the person from whom it was taken away.[8][9][10]

Several new gun control provisions were enacted when I-1639 was approved by the voters in November 2018.[11] These include increased background checks, firearm safety training, a waiting period and a 21 years old age minimum before buying semi-automatic rifles,[12][13] new age limitations on who may purchase or possess certain firearms, including prohibiting some firearm purchases by persons under age 21, and require certain secured firearm storage or trigger-locks, and criminalizing certain firearm storage if it results in unauthorized use.[14][15] Some local counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in opposition.[16]

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: Idaho (Idaho Enhanced Permit only), Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan (non-resident concealed pistol licenses issued by Washington state are not recognized by Michigan), North Carolina, North Dakota (Class 1 North Dakota permits only), Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota (South Dakota Enhanced Permit only. Restricted 18 to 20 year old Enhanced Permit is not recognized by Washington) and Utah.[17]

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."[18]

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 gross 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.[19]

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Revised Code of Washington Notes
State permit required to purchase? Partial No Must be 21 to purchase a pistol or semiautomatic rifle; Starting July 1st, 2019 purchase of a semiautomatic rifle will require that the purchaser provides proof that they have completed a recognized firearm safety training program in the last five years.[20]
Firearm registration? Partial 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, and must record and report all semiautomatic rifle sales after July 1st, 2019.[21]
Owner license required? No No
Constitutional Right to Bear Arms? Yes Yes WA Constitution art. 1 sec. 24
Permit required for concealed carry? N/A 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.
Permit required for open carry? No No 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.

On January 31, 2019, the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that the mere possession of a handgun is not sufficient for conducting a Terry stop.[22]

State Preemption of local restrictions? Yes Yes

RCW 09.41.290 RCW 09.41.300

State law does not allow more restrictive local laws.

Seattle and Edmonds have passed ordinances mandating safe storage of firearms when not being carried or used. Seattle's ordinance also has reporting requirement for lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours. Both cities are being sued for violation of state preemption.[23][24] Edmonds had its ordinance struck down in October 2019.[25]

Assault weapons law? Yes Yes Sale of defined assault rifles limited to non-prohibited persons age 21 years or older and subject to a 10-day waiting period. Additionally, I-1639 was passed by voters in November 2018, redefining all semiautomatic rifles as "semiautomatic assault rifles." Some local counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in opposition.[16]
Magazine capacity restrictions? No No
NFA weapons restricted? Partial Partial

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

Machine guns and short-barreled shotguns—unless purchased before July 1, 1994—are illegal for non-law-enforcement possession. Suppressors, destructive devices and any other weapons 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.[26]
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."[27][28]
Background checks required for private sales? Yes Yes Initiative 594 (2014) Private party firearm transfers must be conducted through a licensed dealer, who is required by federal law to conduct a background check and keep a record of the sale, unless one of the specifically enumerated exceptions in RCW 9.41.113.[29]
Red flag law? Yes Yes The police may temporarily take guns away from people a judge deems a threat to themselves or others without notice to the defendant. If the defendant does not appear to request the restrictions be lifted, they will remain in place.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives – State Laws and Published Ordinances – Firearms" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on November 9, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
  2. ^ "Washington". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  3. ^ "NRA-ILA – Synopsis of Washington Laws" (PDF). Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  4. ^ "RCW 9.41.250: Dangerous weapons—Penalty". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  5. ^ "RCW 9.41.110: Dealer's licenses, by whom granted, conditions, fees—Employees, fingerprinting and background checks—Wholesale sales excepted—Permits prohibited". Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  6. ^ "Chapter 9.41 RCW: FIREARMS AND DANGEROUS WEAPONS". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  7. ^ "WA State Licensing (DOL) Official Site: How to get your license Concealed Pistol license in Washington state". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  8. ^ Roley, Amanda (February 19, 2018). "Wash. Is One of Five States where Police Can Take Guns after Threats of Violence". KREM. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  9. ^ KOMO staff (March 2, 2018). "Seattle Police First in State to Use 'Red Flag Law' to Seize Guns". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Sherman, Amy (March 14, 2018). "No, Seattle Police Didn't Use a 'Red Flag' Law to Seize a Man's Gun With No Warrant". Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  11. ^ "4-year-old shoots mother in face after finding loaded gun under bed south of Seattle". The Seattle Times. February 2, 2019. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  12. ^ Murphy, Paul P. "It's now illegal for anyone under 21 to buy a semi-automatic rifle in Washington state". CNN. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  13. ^ "Washington state voters approved new gun regulations in I-1639. Here's what the law will do". The Seattle Times. November 8, 2018. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  14. ^ "Initiative Measure No. 1639, filed May 2, 2018" (PDF). Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  15. ^ "Four-year-old shoots mother in face after finding gun under mattress". Associated Press. February 3, 2019. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Wilson, Jason (February 22, 2019). "Washington state: at least 20 county sheriffs refuse to enforce new gun laws". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  17. ^ "Concealed Weapon Reciprocity - Washington State". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  18. ^ "RCW 9.41.060: Exceptions to restrictions on carrying firearms". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  19. ^ "RCW 9.41.230: Aiming or discharging firearms, dangerous weapons". Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  20. ^ "I-1639" (PDF).
  21. ^ "RCW 9.41.129: Recordkeeping requirements. (Effective until July 1, 2019.)". Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  22. ^ Volokh|Jan. 31, Eugene; Pm, 2019 8:36 (February 1, 2019). "Second and Fourth Amendments - Volokh Conspiracy". Retrieved February 7, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ NRA-ILA. "NRA-ILA | Washington: NRA and SAF File Lawsuit Against City of Seattle". NRA-ILA. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  24. ^ NRA-ILA. "NRA-ILA | Washington: NRA and SAF File Lawsuit Against City of Edmonds". NRA-ILA. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  25. ^ "Snohomish County judge rules against Edmonds gun storage law". October 22, 2019. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  26. ^ Salerno, Christina (March 7, 2014). "Legislature OKs Short-Barreled Rifles", TVW. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  27. ^ 137 Wn.2d 533 State of Washington v. Studd; Decided 1999/04/01.
  28. ^ 150 Wn.2d 489 State of Washington v. Reynaldo Redmond; Decided 2003/12/06.
  29. ^ "RCW 9.41.113: Firearm sales or transfers—Background checks—Requirements—Exceptions. (Effective until July 1, 2019.)". Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  30. ^ "Chapter 7.94 RCW: EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDER ACT". Retrieved April 27, 2019.