The Space Needle, with the Seattle skyline behind it.

Gun Laws by State: Washington State

Today in the Findley & Rogers Blog we are looking at gun laws by state, especially in terms of what the laws are like here in Washington State.

Despite many people’s belief that the Second Amendment in the US Constitution is the final word on all gun rights, gun laws and gun regulations by state actually vary quite a lot. Owning, possessing, carrying, and using a gun is very different in a gun-friendly rural state like Alaska vs. a highly urbanized, gun-averse state like New York. That’s all because of how gun laws by state can vary.

The Big Picture

Overall, when looking at gun laws by state, Washington State is pretty much in the middle of the pack: We’re not the gun-friendliest state, but we’re not the least gun-friendly either. The website Guns to Carry, which lists gun laws and gun regulations by state, gives Washington 3 stars out of 5 in gun-friendliness. We have a constitutional right to bear arms in the State Constitution, which sets the tone for the state’s numerous gun freedoms and lack of regulation.

Purchasing a Gun

All gun purchases must be completed through a licensed dealer. Washington keeps a record of these firearm purchases. Using a licensed dealer is not necessary in a handful of instances, such as receiving a gun from a family member as a gift.

  • Background Check: You will need to submit to a background check when you apply to buy a gun.
  • Waiting Period: The waiting period is 10 days, or longer if the FBI takes longer to provide the necessary background check data.

Permits & Licenses

Washington does pretty well in terms of gun laws by state when it comes to minimizing burdensome requirements for permits.

  • Purchasing: Washington does not require a permit to purchase a firearm. You only need to be 18 years or older (21+ for semi-automatic rifles and pistols), and legally allowed to possess a firearm. The one exception is that to purchase a semi-automatic rifle you must show proof that you have completed a firearm safety course in the past five years.
  • Owner’s License: No owner’s license is required in Washington. Washington is generally pretty friendly when it comes to the ways that gun laws by state vary in terms of licensing requirements.
  • Open Carry: There is no permit required for open carry of handguns or long guns, though we recommend you be cautious about open carrying a rifle or shotgun in public places. As Washington does prohibit carrying a firearm in an ‘intimidating manner,’ which is poorly defined. At the minimum we recommend keeping rifles shouldered, and pistols holstered when open carrying.
  • Concealed Carry: Washington requires a CPL (concealed pistol license), but is a “shall issue” state that requires the government to issue the permit to anyone who applies for one and meets the eligibility criteria. You can apply at your county sheriff’s office and with some Municipal Police Departments. You must be 21 or older.
  • Vehicles: No separate permit is required to carrying a firearm in a vehicle, making this one of the areas where Washington comes out more lenient in gun laws by state. However, you may only carry a loaded handgun in a vehicle if you have a CPL. The gun must be either on your person or out of sight in a locked box. It is illegal to carry a loaded shotgun or rifle in a vehicle. There are limited instances when you may be able to apply for a permit from the Department of Fish & Wildlife to carry a loaded long gun in an off-road vehicle.

Firearm Restrictions

When looking at gun laws by state, firearm restrictions is one of the more hot-button topics. Washington does relatively well in upholding our liberties, with some notable exceptions:

  • Magazine Capacity: There are no standalone magazine capacity restriction laws in Washington. In 2020 a bill was introduced in the state legislature to ban high-capacity magazines, but it died in committee.
  • Assault Weapons: There is no assault weapons ban in Washington, although a bill to ban them was introduced in 2020. Like the magazine ban, it died in committee. However, Washington classifies all semi-automatic rifles as semi-automatic “assault” rifles, and safety classes and more thorough background checks are required for these firearms.
  • NFA Weapons: Machine guns and short-barreled shotguns have been illegal to buy or sell in Washington since 1994. Most other weaponry covered by the National Firearms Act (NFA), such as suppressors or short-barreled rifles, is legal—though ATF permits are required in some cases, and you must comply with Federal law regarding these types of weapons.
  • State Preemption: When looking at gun laws by state, Washington has a strong preemption law that stops local governments from passing their own, more restrictive gun regulations. By state standards, many Washington cities would prefer greater regulations, so this preemption law does a lot of heavy lifting.
  • Red Flag Law: Authorities have the right to confiscate your firearms if a judge deems that you are a threat to yourself or others as part of an ‘extreme risk protection order.’


  • Stand Your Ground: The Washington State Supreme Court upheld the right of people to defend themselves against assault when they are in a location where they have a lawful right to be. There is no duty to retreat. This is one of the big differences in gun laws by state.
  • Peaceable Journey: When it comes to transporting guns across state lines, Washington has no separate peaceable journey law of its own, though federal law still applies.

Learn About Your Firearm Rights with Findley & Rogers

As far as gun laws and gun regulations by state go, Washington is not bad. But many folks don’t know their rights.

At the law firm of Findley & Rogers, our legal team is fully versed in state law and can help you navigate the legal red tape to exercise your constitutional rights. We can help you with:

We hope this look at gun laws by state has been helpful. Check out the Findley & Rogers Blog for more helpful articles like this.

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