01 May Know Your Gun Rights in Washington State
If you’re a gun owner in the state of Washington, then not only does it behoove you to make sure you know how to use your gun properly — it’s your responsibility to stay up-to-date on state laws regarding the possession and use of firearms. Speaking generally, you can own and openly carry a firearm as a Washington resident, but the right to bear arms does come with some restrictions, and laws are always subject to change as the years roll on. With that in mind we’re going to cover what is and is not permissible under state law, as per the State Senate Committee’s 2018 Summary of Firearm Laws within Washington.
Who Is Allowed to Possess a Firearm in Washington?
In Washington, the right to bear arms is an individual right covered by both the United States Constitution and Constitution of the State of Washington. You do not require a permit to purchase a handgun in the state, but there are certain conditions that can negate your ability to legally possess a firearm, including being convicted of a felony (or found not guilty by reason of insanity), and being found guilty of any of the following crimes against another family/household member:
- Assault in the 4th degree
- Reckless endangerment
- Criminal Trespass in the 1st degree
- Violation of a restraining order
Additionally, you are not allowed to possess a firearm in Washington if you have been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment, are free on bond/personal recognizance (pending trial/appeal/sentencing for a serious offence), are subject to a restraining order that “explicitly prohibits the use of physical force against an intimate partner or the partner’s child,” or under the age of eighteen years old.
There are some exceptions to that final rule, however, so let’s look at the few circumstances where minors can possess a firearm legally:
- At a hunter’s safety course or firearms safety course
- Practicing at a shooting range
- In organized firearms competitions
- While hunting or trapping with a license
- Persons at least 14, while not using a pistol, may do so under the supervision of an adult in places where shooting a gun is allowed
- On private property under adult supervision
- As a member of the armed services
There are additional rules that apply solely to the use of pistols, and individuals aged eighteen to twenty-one. If you fall in this category, you may possess a pistol at your home, at your place of business, or in any of the previously listed situations where minors may possess firearms. There are a few details regarding firearm possession, and you can learn more about them by reading the Summary of Firearms Laws in greater detail, for now, though, let’s learn about the types of guns that are and are not allowed under Washington state law.
What Types of Guns Are Permissible in Washington?
Washington makes a distinction between pistols, rifles, and shotguns, all of which are generally permissible under state law (you can read more about the specific definitions in the Summary). There are, however, certain kinds of rifles and shotguns that are not allowed under the law, which include:
- Machine Guns — Automatic weapons, anything commonly referred to as a machine gun, submachine gun, or mechanical rifle, anything with a reservoir clip, disc, drum, or belt for supplying ammunition, anything that can fire at a rate of more than five shots per second.
- Short-Barreled Rifles — Any rifle with a barrel under sixteen inches and any modified rifles with a total length less than twenty-six inches.
- Short-Barreled Shotguns — Any shotgun with a barrel under eighteen inches and any modified shotguns with a total length less than twenty-six inches.
Possessing any of these firearms is a class C felony, and using any of those firearms in a felonious action would come with a class A felony charge. Additionally, Washington has recently prohibited the sale and possession of bump-fire stocks, and, effective July 1st, 2019, it will be illegal for residents to own or use any such device.
Open and Concealed Carry in Washington
Open carry of firearms is permitted in Washington, as long as you aren’t carrying in an attempt to intimidate or in a manner that would “warrant alarm for the safety of other persons.” Unless you are on your own property or “fixed place of business,” you may not carry a concealed pistol without a specific permit (concealed pistol license, CPL).
Washington is a “shall issue” state when it comes to concealed pistol licenses, which means that law enforcement officials are required to issue you a permit if you meet the minimum requirements to have one. In order to obtain a permit, you’ll have to submit an application to your local law enforcement agency and undergo fingerprinting and a background check to determine your eligibility. You must be at least twenty-one to obtain a CPL, and in good standing with the law to do so. A CPL is valid for five years, after which time you can renew it for another five-year period.
What About Washington Initiative 1639?
During the 2018 General Election, Washington approved I-1639, a law introducing new restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms, which included new background checks and waiting periods for “semi-automatic assault rifles” and increasing the minimum age for purchasing said rifles to twenty-one. As defined by the new law, semi-automatic assault rifles include:
“Any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.”
Additionally, the law established a potential purchasing fee for those buying guns (not to exceed $25.00) meant to “fund the state, mental health institutions, and local law enforcement for the cost of meeting their obligations under the measure.” The age requirements portion of the bill took effect on January 1st, 2019, while the remaining provisions in the measure are set to take effect on July 1st, 2019.
Again, knowing the laws and knowing your gun rights is paramount if you’re a firearms enthusiast in Washington. For more information, be sure to read more about the state’s rules regarding firearms, and follow the Bellevue Gun Club blog for updates on what may be happening in the future.