Today in the Findley & Rogers Law Blog, we are taking a 101-level look at the firearm laws in our state. Washington gun laws are pretty generous, owing to Washington’s history on the American frontier and its large expanses of rural and wildlands.
In particular, we’re going to look at firearm eligibility laws and the process for restoring your firearm rights if you have previously lost them. Many ordinary folks do not realize that the gun laws in our state provide a specific pathway for most people to eventually restore their gun rights. You may be eligible right now without knowing it!
According to our state’s gun laws, the following types of firearms and firearm accessories cannot be legally possessed by members of the general public:
- Machine guns that do not require the trigger to be pulled separately for each individual shot fired or can otherwise be fired at a rate of more than 5 shots per second.
- Short-barreled shotguns and rifles with barrel lengths under 16 inches or overall lengths under 26 inches.
- Untraceable firearm made of materials or with construction methods that cannot be spotted by X-ray imagers and metal detectors.
- Bump fire stocks, which increase the effective rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons.
Losing Your Eligibility to Possess a Firearm
According to Washington gun laws, while the right to bear arms is constitutionally guaranteed by the state constitution, it is not an unlimited right. Specifically, individuals may become ineligible to possess, carry, or use a firearm for any of the following reasons:
- A criminal conviction, or a finding of “not guilty by reason of insanity,” for any felony or any domestic violence charge.
- Having ever been involuntarily committed to a mental healthcare facility.
- Being currently subject to a restraining order that specifies a prohibition against the use of force.
- Being free on bail.
- Being a noncitizen undocumented or non-permanent US resident.
In addition, generally speaking you must be 21 or older to possess a firearm, though there are special exceptions in the law for adults under 21 and for minors.
Washington gun laws and the Washington Supreme Court have determined that you have the right to use deadly force in self-defense or the defense of others in any location where you have a lawful right to be, so long as the force is not excessive.
You also have the right to use your gun in self-defense or the defense of others in any situation where you or others are subject to the imminent or ongoing act of a violent or deadly crime. There is no “duty to retreat,” unlike some states have.
Open & Concealed Carry
Open carry is lawful in Washington without a permit. Concealed carry permits are only available for handguns, and it is a good idea to obtain one if you do plan to carry. At Findley & Rogers, we can help you get your concealed pistol license.
Restoring Lost Firearm Rights
Finally, what do the Washington gun laws say about restoring your rights if you’ve lost them due to a criminal conviction? There is a fairly straightforward path:
- Complete a mandatory waiting period of several years, with the exact length varying depending on the specific crime you were convicted of.
- Comply with all court-ordered fines, restitution, community service, probation, and other penalties for any domestic violence cases.
- Avoid any new criminal convictions or pending charges.
If you were convicted of a Class A felony or certain other crimes, you cannot have your gun rights restored. But the vast majority of convictions are for less serious crimes, and the gun laws in our state give you a path to restoring your rights.
Contact Findley & Rogers today for a free consultation to find out if we can help you restore your right to bear arms.