See our Prohibited Purchasers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law prohibits certain persons from purchasing or possessing firearms, such as felons, certain domestic abusers, and certain people with a history of mental illness.

Washington provides that no person may own, possess, or have in his or her control any firearm, if that person:1

  • Has been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of a “serious offense” which includes any crime of violence, certain felony drug crimes, certain sex crimes, and vehicular assault or homicide2 (violators of this prohibition are criminally liable for unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree while those violators listed below are guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree) and has not had his or her right to possess a firearm restored;3
  • Has been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any felony other than a “serious offense” or certain crimes committed against a member of his or her family or household (see the Washington Domestic Violence & Firearms section);
  • Has been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment under Washington Rev. Code Ann. §§ 71.05.240 (involuntary or alternative treatment for 14 days), 71.05.320 (treatment for an adult for 90 or 180 days), 71.34.740 (involuntary commitment hearing for a minor), 71.34.750 (treatment a minor for 180 days) or chapter 10.77 (treatment when found not guilty by reason of insanity or incompetent to stand trial), and has not had his or her right to possess a firearm restored;4
  • Is free on bond or personal recognizance pending trial, appeal, or sentencing for a “serious offense.”

In 2016, Washington voters overwhelmingly approved of a law that enables individuals who are most likely to notice the warning signs of violence– family members– to petition a court to remove guns from a loved one in crisis. The law, called an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), allows family members, as well as law enforcement officers, to file a petition demonstrating to a judge that an individual poses a significant risk of harm to himself, herself, or others. If the court determines that the petitioner has met the standard of proof, it will issue an order that lasts up to one year. An individual subject to an ERPO is prohibited from possessing firearms, and must relinquish his or her guns to law enforcement5. Read more about these types of laws on our policy page, Gun Violence Protective Orders.

Washington also prohibits any person who is not a U.S. citizen from possessing a firearm without first obtaining an “alien firearm license”6 or meeting other state-defined requirements.7

Moreover, the state prohibits any person serving a sentence in a state correctional institution and any person confined in a county or local correctional institution from knowingly possessing or controlling a firearm while in the institution or being conveyed to or from the institution or while under the custody or supervision of institution officials, officers, or employees, or while on any premises subject to the control of the institution.8

Registration of Gun Offenders

Washington state requires courts to determine whether an individual convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of certain gun crimes must register as a felony firearm offender.9 The court may consider all relevant factors including the person’s criminal history, convictions in other states, and evidence of the person’s propensity for violence that would likely endanger others.10 If so ordered, the person must register with their local county sheriff within 48 hours of their release from custody or the date the court imposes the felony firearm sentence, if the sentence does not include confinement.11 Within five working days, the county sheriff must forward registration information to the Washington state patrol which maintains a felony firearm offense conviction database to be used by law enforcement. Information in the database is not subject to public disclosure.12

For further information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Washington Background Checks section.

Notes
  1. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.040. Washington enables a person previously ineligible to possess a firearm by virtue of a conviction or a finding of not guilty of a non-felony offense after three years in the community to petition a court of record to have his or her right to possess a firearm restored, if the person has not been convicted of any further crimes. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.040(4). ⤴︎
  2. For a complete definition of “serious offense,” see Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.010(12). ⤴︎
  3. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.047. ⤴︎
  4. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.047; Wash Admin. Code 388-865-0585, 388-875-0080. ⤴︎
  5. Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 7.94.090 ⤴︎
  6. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.171. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.173 for alien firearm license requirements. ⤴︎
  7. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.175. ⤴︎
  8. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.94.040(1), (2). ⤴︎
  9. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.330. ⤴︎
  10. Id. ⤴︎
  11. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.333. ⤴︎
  12. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 43.43.822. ⤴︎