Washington Gun Laws

Gun Laws in Washington State

Many states in the United States are considered to be “shall issue” states, but Washington is one of the first to have this decree. Through this decree a city police officer or a county sheriff may grant a concealed weapons permit to anyone who applies.

Washington LawsThose who apply must meet the necessary requirements and be at least twenty-one-years-old. These requirements include not having any outstanding warrants, not having any felony offense convictions, and not having any misdemeanor offense convictions for domestic violence. The open carrying of any kind of firearm is illegal by Washington law. Open carry laws have been under debate for over forty years, and many have tried to amend the law.

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.

Open Carry Laws

The law states that individuals may openly carry firearms in the state borders of Washington only when in a vicinity where it is lawful to have a loaded handgun in possession. The only lawful way individuals are allowed to have open carry firearms is if they are under concealed weapons permits while in a vehicle.

Firearms are always prohibited from school property, however some exceptions apply. For instance, if an individual has a license issued under RCW 9.41.070 or does not need to meet the licensing requirements of RCW 9.41.060, he or she is eligible to carry a firearm while dropping off or picking up a student. An individual who is over the age of eighteen also has the right to have a firearm in possession if the weapon is safely secured in an occupied motor vehicle and the weapon is out of view and locked in an unoccupied vehicle while the individual conducts organized businesses on the school property.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Prohibiting Firearms from Washington Areas

Washington law states that the city governments, county governments, local governments, and other municipality are not allowed to stipulate more restrictive laws than that of state laws on firearms. Local governments do however have jurisdictions in certain areas. Some of these areas include vicinities where domestic animals, humans, and personal property will be inhibited by possessing a firearm.

Nevertheless the right to use a firearm for reasons of self-defense or in the defense of others is lawful, but should be used with extreme caution. Firearms are restricted in all convention centers and sports stadiums that are operated through county or city governments. Under these circumstances concealed weapons are allowed with those who possess the correct permits and demonstrate that they can handle firearms adequately. Firearms may also be possessed in the establishments that sell firearms.

Possession Restrictions and Allowances

Washington considers possession a firearm in Washington while not a state resident to be a Class C Felony offense as stated in Washington’s Alien Firearm Licensing law. Background check used to be standard for non-residents during license issuing, but the process soon became too difficult and issuing firearms to non-residents was no longer permitted. This law was revoked a short time later.

Pointing a firearm at another is considered a gross misdemeanor. Besides accepting the permits of the state, Washington also accepts the permits of Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Utah, and Oklahoma.

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.

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.

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
  • 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

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