FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

Washington Gun Laws

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Introduction

Washington is located in the far Northwest. It is bordered to the north by Canada, to the south by Oregon, to the west by the Pacific Ocean, and to the east by Idaho. Over half of the residents of Washington State live in the Seattle Metropolitan Area. Open carry of a loaded handgun is legal in Washington with a valid license to carry, and open carry of an unloaded handgun is legal even without a license.

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A. State Constitution

Regarding the right to bear arms, the Washington Constitution states:

“The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”

[http://gunla.ws/wa1]

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B. Scope of Preemption

The controlling language of Washington’s preemption statute is set forth as follows:

“The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components.”

[http://gunla.ws/wa2]

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C. Reciprocal Carry

By statute, Washington will recognize another state’s license to carry if that state recognizes Washington’s license:

“A person licensed to carry a pistol in a state the laws of which recognize and give effect in that state to a concealed pistol license issued under the laws of the state of Washington is authorized to carry a concealed pistol in this state if: (i) The licensing state does not issue concealed pistol licenses to persons under twenty-one years of age; and (ii) The licensing state requires mandatory fingerprint-based background checks of criminal and mental health history for all persons who apply for a concealed pistol license.” [http://gunla.ws/wa3]

Since there is no national carry license, as with the other states, some states are reciprocal with Washington and some are not. Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the Washington AG at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur, which may be viewed here: [http://gunla.ws/wa4]

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D. NFA Items

MGs and SBSs — unless purchased before July 1, 1994 —are illegal for non-law-enforcement possession. Suppressors, DDs and any other weapons are lawful to possess and use if registered with the ATF(E). SBRs are lawful to possess and use if registered with the ATF(E). [http://gunla.ws/ppk8]

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E. Seattle Gun Tax

As of 1/1/16, the city of Seattle imposes a $25 tax on the sale of firearms, and a 5 cent per round tax on the sale of ammunition. This tax is currently being challenged in court as violating the state’s preemption law, but has been allowed to take effect in the interim. [http://gunla.ws/2hus]

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F. Carrying Firearms in Vehicles

Washington generally prohibits carrying firearms in vehicles without a permit. It is illegal to carry a loaded long gun in a vehicle. A permit is required to carry a handgun, and even then a handgun may only be carried if: the pistol is on the licensee’s person, (ii) the licensee is within the vehicle at all times that the pistol is there, or (iii) the licensee is away from the vehicle and the pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle. [http://gunla.ws/wa5]

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G. Self-defense Laws

Washington has a Castle Doctrine but no SYG law. There is no duty to retreat when in Your dwelling. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, or the commission of a forcible felony. [http://gunla.ws/wa6]

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H. Universal Background Checks

Background checks are mandatory for all firearm sales, and transfers between private parties must go through a licensed dealer, except for transfers between family members. [http://gunla.ws/jcs0]

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I. Criminal Provisions

Carrying a Firearm in Washington State:

(1)(a) Except in the person’s place of abode or fixed place of business, a person shall not carry a pistol concealed on his or her person without a license to carry a concealed pistol.

(b) Every licensee shall have his or her concealed pistol license in his or her immediate possession at all times that he or she is required by this section to have a concealed pistol license and shall display the same upon demand to any police officer or to any other person when and if required by law to do so. Any violation of this subsection (1)(b) shall be a class 1 civil infraction under chapter 7.80.

(2)(a) A person shall not carry or place a loaded pistol in any vehicle unless the person has a license to carry a concealed pistol and: (i) The pistol is on the licensee’s person, (ii) the licensee is within the vehicle at all times that the pistol is there, or (iii) the licensee is away from the vehicle and the pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle.

[http://gunla.ws/941050]

Under Washington law, a license to carry a handgun is not valid in any of the following places or circumstances:

  • In any public or private elementary or secondary school, or school-provided transportation
  • Note: Airsoft gun owners in Seattle: It is unlawful to knowingly carry or shoot any spring gun, air gun, sling or slingshot in, upon or onto any public place. For purposes of this section, “public place” means an area generally open to the public, regardless of whether it is privately owned, and includes, but is not limited to, streets, sidewalks, bridges, alleys, plazas, parks, parking lots, transit stations, transit vehicles and buildings [http://gunla.ws/12a14]
  • A jail, a law enforcement facility, or any other place used for the confinement of a person arrested, charged with, or convicted of an offense
  • Horse racetracks
  • Outdoor music festivals
  • At/on most college campuses
  • Presentation of weapon, with intent to intimidate
  • Purchasers of handguns are added to a state database
  • Areas of buildings used in connection with court proceedings, including:
    • Courtrooms
    • Jury rooms
    • A judge’s chambers
    • Offices and areas used to conduct court business
    • Court waiting
    • Corridors adjacent to areas used in connection with court proceedings

For a list of places where carrying firearms is prohibited, see: [http://gunla.ws/wa7]

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J. Duty to Inform LEO Immediately on Contact?

No. You must have your permit/license with You at all times that You are carrying a concealed pistol. You must present Your license/permit upon request from a LEO. [http://gunla.ws/e0it]

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K. Do “No Gun Signs” Have the Force of Law?

No. “No Firearms” signs in Washington do not have the force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in state law as being off limits to those with a permit/license to carry. However, as a possessor with a real property interest, a retailer, has the right to limit, and qualify the right to enter the property, subject to not carrying a handgun. It would be improper to enter, and the licensee would be subject to ejection for possession of a handgun thereat. Failure to leave once requested would subject the licensee to criminal charges.

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L. Carry in Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Yes, if you possess a license/permit to carry. You are only allowed to carry in parts of the restaurant where those under 21 years of age are allowed. You are prohibited from carrying in a bar or the bar section of a restaurant. It is illegal to carry while consuming alcohol or while intoxicated. [http://gunla.ws/s4zt]

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M. Open Carry

Open carry is legal, but you must have a valid permit/license to carry a loaded handgun in any vehicle in Washington. Open carry of a loaded long gun in a vehicle is illegal, regardless of CPL possession. Places as listed in the “Criminal Provisions” above apply to those who open carry. The minimum age for open carry is 21. [http://gunla.ws/fmyt]

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More