Domestic Violence & Firearms in Washington

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Washington has no law authorizing or requiring the removal of firearms or ammunition at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

Firearm Prohibitions for Domestic Violence Misdemeanants in Washington

Washington prohibits possession of a firearm by anyone who has been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any of the following crimes when committed by one family or household member against another on or after July 1, 1993:

  • Assault in the fourth degree;
  • Coercion;
  • Stalking;
  • Reckless endangerment;
  • Criminal trespass in the first degree; or
  • Violation of the provisions of a protection order or no-contact order restraining the person or excluding the person from a residence.1

Washington defines “family or household members” as:

  • Spouses, former spouses;
  • Persons who have a child in common regardless of whether they have been married or have lived together at any time;
  • Adult persons related by blood or marriage;
  • Adult persons who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past;
  • Persons age 16 or older who are presently residing together or who have resided together in the past and who have or have had a dating relationship;
  • Persons age 16 or older with whom a person age 16 or older has or has had a dating relationship; and
  • Persons who have a biological or legal parent-child relationship, including stepparents and stepchildren and grandparents and grandchildren.2

Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Restraining/Protective Orders and Surrender of Firearms When Domestic Violence Restraining/Protective Orders Are Issued

Washington enacted a law in 2014 that mirrors federal law by prohibiting gun possession by anyone subject to a protective order issued after a noticed hearing that restrains the person from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or child of the partner or restrained person if the person represents a credible threat to the safety of the intimate partner or child.3 An “intimate partner” is defined in Washington as a current or former spouse or domestic partner; a person with whom the restrained person has a child; or a current or former dating partner with whom the restrained person lives or has lived.4

The 2014 law also requires the court issuing the protective order to prohibit the restrained individual from purchasing or possessing firearms or a concealed carry license and require the restrained person to surrender any firearms or concealed carry licenses in his or her possession.5 The individual must file a proof of surrender with the court.6

An older provision of Washington law provides that, if a protective or restraining order states that the possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon by any party presents a serious and imminent threat to public health or safety or the health or safety of any individual, the court may:

  • Require the party to surrender any firearm or other dangerous weapon;
  • Require the party to surrender any concealed pistol license issued by the State of Washington;
  • Prohibit the party from obtaining or possessing a firearm or other dangerous weapon;
  • Prohibit the party from obtaining or possessing a concealed pistol license.7

The court may also make such an order if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the party used, displayed, or threatened to use a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a felony or committed any offense that renders him or her ineligible to possess a firearm.8 If the court makes this finding upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence, then it is required to make such an order.9

The court may order the temporary surrender of a firearm or other dangerous weapon without notice to the other party if it finds that irreparable injury could result if an order is not issued until the time for a response has elapsed.10 These requirements may be for a period of time less than the duration of the order.11 The court may require the party to surrender any firearm or dangerous weapon in his or her immediate possession or control or subject to his or her immediate possession or control to local law enforcement, his or her counsel, or to any person designated by the court.12 These provisions apply to:13

Domestic violence protective orders are available to family and household members as defined above, plus domestic partners and former domestic partners.14

For general information on the background check process and categories of prohibited purchasers/possessors, see the Washington Background Checks and Washington Prohibited Purchasers Generally sections.

See our Domestic Violence and Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.040(2)(a)(i). []
  2. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 9.41.010(5) and 10.99.020(3). []
  3. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.040(2)(a). []
  4. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800. []
  5. Id. []
  6. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.804. []
  7. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800(5). []
  8. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800(2). []
  9. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800(1). []
  10. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800(4). []
  11. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800(6). []
  12. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800(7). []
  13. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.800(1). []
  14. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 26.50.010(1), (2), 26.50.060. []

Concealed Weapons Permitting in Washington

Posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

See our Carrying Concealed Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Washington is a “shall-issue” state, meaning that local law enforcement must issue a concealed weapons license if the applicant meets certain qualifications. Local law enforcement shall issue a “concealed pistol license” to any applicant, unless he or she:1

  • Is under 21 years of age;
  • Is subject to a court order or injunction regarding firearms pursuant to specific provisions of the Revised Code of Washington;2
  • Is free on bond or personal recognizance pending trial, appeal, or sentencing for a felony;
  • Has an outstanding warrant for his or her arrest for a felony or misdemeanor;
  • Has been ordered to forfeit a firearm by a Washington court within the last year; or
  • Has had a concealed pistol license revoked.

A person may apply for a concealed pistol license to the municipality or county in which the applicant resides if the applicant resides in a municipality, or to the county in which the applicant resides if the applicant resides in an unincorporated area.3 A nonresident may apply anywhere in the state.4

The license fee is $36, plus any additional charges imposed by the FBI for processing.5 The issuing authority shall conduct a check of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the Washington state patrol electronic database, the state Department of Social and Health Services electronic database, and with other agencies or resources as appropriate, to determine whether the applicant is ineligible to possess a firearm, and thus ineligible for a concealed pistol license.6

The chief of police of the municipality or the sheriff of the county where an applicant resides may issue a temporary emergency license for good cause, pending review of an applicant’s background for a concealed pistol license.7 A temporary emergency license, however, does not exempt the holder from any records check requirements, and temporary emergency licenses are easily distinguishable from regular licenses.8

Washington prohibits the carrying of a concealed handgun without a license except in a person’s abode or fixed place of business.9 Notwithstanding this general prohibition, state law provides exceptions for:

  • Law enforcement officers of Washington or “another state;”
  • Military personnel when on duty;
  • Employees or officers of the United States authorized to carry a concealed handgun;
  • Anyone in the business of manufacturing, repairing or dealing in firearms, or his or her agent, if possessing, using, or carrying a handgun in the usual or ordinary course of business;
  • Regularly enrolled members of any organization duly authorized to purchase or receive handguns from the U.S. or the State of Washington;
  • Regularly enrolled members of target shooting clubs when those members are going to, or coming from, target practice;
  • Regularly enrolled members of clubs organized for the purpose of antique or modern firearm collecting when those members are going to, or coming from, gun shows and exhibits;
  • Any person legitimately engaged in a lawful outdoor recreational activity, such as hunting, fishing, or camping;
  • Any person carrying an unloaded handgun in a closed opaque case or “secure wrapper;” or
  • Retired or disabled law enforcement officers, provided that the disability was not because of mental or stress-related disabilities.10

See the Other Location Restrictions in Washington section for places restricting gun possession by concealed pistol license holders.

Firearm Safety Training

Washington does not require an applicant for a concealed pistol license to undergo firearm safety training or otherwise demonstrate knowledge of firearms safety.

Duration & Renewal

A concealed pistol license is valid for five years from the date of issue.11 A licensee may renew a license by application within 90 days before or after the expiration date of the license.12 The renewal fee is $32, subject to an additional ten dollar late renewal penalty if the licensee applies to renew after the expiration date of his or her license.13

Disclosure or Use of Information

A copy of each license and application is delivered to the Washington Department of Licensing, which must make this information available to law enforcement and state and local corrections agencies, in an on-line format.14

The Department of Licensing generally may keep records of applications for concealed pistol licenses.15


A person licensed to carry a handgun in a state having laws that recognize Washington concealed pistol licenses is authorized to carry a concealed handgun in Washington if: 1) the licensing state does not issue concealed pistol licenses to persons under twenty-one years of age; and 2) the licensing state requires mandatory fingerprint-based background checks of criminal and mental health history for all persons applying for a concealed pistol license.16 These provisions apply only to license holders who are not Washington residents.17

  1. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(1). []
  2. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(1)(d). []
  3. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(13). []
  4. Id. []
  5. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(5). []
  6. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(2). []
  7. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(10). []
  8. Id. Additional application and background check requirements, as well as permit suspension, revocation, or other disqualification information, are detailed under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 9.41.070 and 9.41.075. []
  9. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.050. []
  10. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.060. []
  11. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(1). []
  12. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(9). []
  13. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(6), (9). []
  14. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(4). []
  15. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.129. Such records shall not be disclosed except as provided in Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.56.240(4), which provides that concealed pistol license applications are exempt from the public disclosure requirements under Washington law. Copies of concealed pistol license applications or information on the applications may be released to law enforcement or corrections agencies. Id. []
  16. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.073. []
  17. Id. []

2014 Annual Gun Law State Scorecard

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2014

As the second anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary approaches, the Law Center is proud to release our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard, grading each state on its gun laws and analyzing trends in gun legislation nationwide.


In the past two years, states have seen historic and unprecedented progress in adopting gun laws to help keep communities safe from gun violence. A total of 99 new laws strengthening gun regulations have passed in 37 states nationwide since December 12, 2012, and 10 states have made major overhauls to their gun laws. 2014 was a remarkable year for smart gun laws, with California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law, Washington State’s successful ballot initiative for universal background checks, and seven states adopting legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic violence abusers, and look forward to building on this positive momentum in 2015.

Find out how your state did and learn how to improve your state’s grade at

Commonsense Solutions: State Laws to Expand Background Checks for Unlicensed Gun Sales

Posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

The single biggest gap in our nation’s gun laws is the lack of a background check requirement when a gun is sold by an unlicensed individual. Unlike licensed gun dealers, unlicensed “private” sellers are not required to conduct background checks on gun purchasers. This gap allows thousands of dangerous people, including convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill, to acquire guns every year, even though they are legally ineligible to possess them.

As part of our ongoing partnership, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions have created the third in our series of Commonsense Solutions toolkits. These comprehensive resources for legislators and advocates explore the many facets of America’s gun violence epidemic through distinct lenses, such as domestic violence and mental health. Commonsense Solutions: State Laws to Expand Background Checks for Unlicensed Gun Sales addresses the private sale background check gap and provides detailed, real-world solutions for state legislators to pass universal background checks and save lives.



Post-Heller Litigation Summary

Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2014

Updated November 21, 2014

The Law Center’s Post-Heller Litigation Summary surveys the landscape of Second Amendment challenges to federal, state and local gun laws asserted in the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court’s controversial landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller.

Download our November 2014 Post-Heller Litigation Summary or read it below.

The Law Center’s Recent Developments in Second Amendment Litigation, provides updates on the latest court decisions and lawsuits related to the Second Amendment.  Download our October 2014 Recent Developments In Second Amendment Litigation or read it below.

Guns in Vehicles in Colorado

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014

In Colorado, a person may carry a concealed firearm, regardless of a permit, while in a private automobile or other private conveyance, for lawful protection while traveling.1 Colorado law provides that local governments may not restrict a person’s ability to travel in a private automobile or other private conveyance while in possession of a firearm for hunting or lawful protection while traveling.2

Colorado prohibits any person from possessing or having under his or her control any firearm other than a handgun in or on any motor vehicle unless the chamber of the firearm is unloaded.3

Subject to limited exceptions, the state prohibits any person from operating or riding on any snowmobile with a firearm in his or her possession, unless the firearm is unloaded and enclosed in a carrying case.4

  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-105(2)(b). See also Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-204(3), providing that no permit is required to carry a handgun within a private automobile or other private conveyance if the handgun is carried for a legal use and the possessor is not prohibited from possessing a firearm by law. []
  2. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-105.6(2)(b). []
  3. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 33-6-125. []
  4. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 33-14-117(1)(b). []

Background Checks in Colorado

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2014

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Colorado is a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks.1 In Colorado, all firearm transfers by licensed dealers are processed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which enforces federal, as well as state, purchaser prohibitions.2

Colorado requires CBI to transmit a request for a background check in connection with the prospective transfer of a firearm to the NICS system and authorizes CBI to search other databases. CBI must deny a transfer of a firearm to a prospective transferee if the transfer would violate federal or state law.3

Colorado denies a prospective firearm purchaser’s application if the background check cannot be completed within the three-day default period. More specifically, Colorado law provides that an application for a firearm purchase must be denied in cases in which there has been no final disposition or the final disposition is not noted in the NICS or state databases, where the applicant:  1) has been arrested for or charged with a crime that would prohibit him or her from purchasing, receiving or possessing a firearm under state or federal law; or 2) is the subject of an indictment, an information, or a felony complaint alleging that the prospective transferee has committed a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.4 However, “the inability of the bureau to obtain the final disposition of a case that is no longer pending shall not constitute the basis for the continued denial of the transfer.”5

Colorado law explicitly provides access to juvenile delinquency court and probation records for firearm background check purposes.6 Colorado law also provides procedures for appeal of a denial of a firearm transfer.7

CBI must adopt rules to carry out these duties.8

Colorado requires private sellers (sellers who are not federally licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. Any private person who seeks to transfer possession of a firearm to a prospective transferee must:  1) require that a background check is conducted on the prospective transferee by a licensed gun dealer; and 2) obtain approval of the transfer from CBI after a background check has been requested by a licensed gun dealer.9

When a licensed dealer obtains a background check on a prospective transferee, the dealer must record the transfer and retain the records as the same manner as when conducting a sale, rental, or exchange at retail.  The dealer must also provide the transferor and transferee with a copy of the results of the background check, including the CBI’s approval or disapproval of the transfer.10

A transferee cannot accept possession of the firearm from a private seller until CBI approves a transfer.  The transfer must be completed within 30 days of that approval.11

A transferee is prohibited from knowingly providing false information to a prospective transferor or to a licensed dealer for the purpose of acquiring a firearm.12

See Private Sales in Colorado for further information.  Also see our Private Sales policy summary for related information.

  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(2). Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at []
  2. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(2). []
  3. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3)(a). []
  4. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3)(b). []
  5. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(5)(c). []
  6. Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 19-1-304(1)(a)(VII.5), (1)(c)(II.5), (2)(a)(II.5). []
  7. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(5). []
  8. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(7). See 8 Colo. Code Regs. § 1507-20. []
  9. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(1)(a). If the transferee is an entity (e.g. a business), then a background check must be conducted on each person who is authorized by the entity to possess a firearm. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(1)(b), (2)(A). []
  10. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(2)(b), (c). []
  11. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(3)(a), (4). []
  12. Colo. Rev. Stat § 18-12-112(3)(b). []

Don’t Let the Gun Lobby Keep Us from Having a Surgeon General

Posted on Thursday, November 13th, 2014

SWV-TopDocNowThe surgeon general plays an essential role in American society, advising top government officials and educating the general public on critical public health issues. Yet even in the face of the Ebola crisis, the United States has gone without its top doctor for nearly a year and a half. This is largely because the president’s nominee for the post, Dr. Vivek Murthy, a Harvard graduate who holds both an MD and an MBA from Yale, believes that gun violence is a public health issue. The gun lobby says this makes him an “antigun radical” and has pressured Congress to oppose his confirmation.

It’s time to send a message to Congress that Americans refuse to be bullied out of having an honest conversation about the public health impact of guns. Call your senators today and urge them to confirm Dr. Murthy as surgeon general.

Dr. Murthy’s position that firearms are a public health issue should not be controversial, given that more than 30,000 Americans lose their lives to gun-related violence each year, a number that rivals deaths from traffic accidents. Nor is this the first time that a top American health official has taken such a stance. C. Everett Koop, who was surgeon general under both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, described gun violence as “a public health emergency.” Louis W. Sullivan, health and human services secretary under George H. W. Bush, called gun violence “a public health problem.” Sullivan was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 98 to 1.

Yet earlier this year, as the confirmation process for Dr. Murthy was unfolding, the NRA sent an alert to its members, asking them to contact their representatives and “oppose the nomination of President Obama’s radically antigun nominee.” The NRA also announced that it would “score” the confirmation vote, meaning that a senator voting for confirmation would likely receive a lower grade. In the face of this vocal opposition, the process stalled for months, leaving Dr. Murthy just one vote shy of becoming America’s next surgeon general.


2013 Annual Report

Posted on Thursday, November 6th, 2014

The Law Center is excited to present the 2013 Annual Report. We often say that 2013 will be remembered as the year our nation woke up to the gravity of America’s gun violence epidemic. Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, legislators and advocates stepped up to make 2013 a watershed year for smart gun laws.

In 2013 the Law Center also commemorated the 20th Anniversary of our organization’s founding. We are deeply thankful to our courageous and loyal donors, members, partners, and friends. With your support, we have become a national leader in the movement for smart gun laws and we will not stop fighting to end America’s gun violence epidemic.

Download the full report.

Regulating Guns in America: 2014 Edition

Posted on Friday, October 31st, 2014

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is proud to release the 2014 edition of our seminal publication, Regulating Guns in America: A Comprehensive Analysis of Gun Laws Nationwide.

This one-of-a-kind report on federal, state, and local gun laws is an invaluable resource for lawmakers, activists, and others seeking in-depth information on firearms regulation in a single publication. In addition to summarizing existing law and providing background information on gun policy, Regulating Guns in America offers common-sense, actionable legislative recommendations to prevent gun violence and save lives.

Topics covered include:

  • Background Checks & Access to Firearms
  • Gun Dealer Sales & Other Transfers
  • Gun Owner Responsibilities
  • Classes of Weapons
  • Consumer and Child Safety
  • Guns in Public Places
  • Investigating Gun Crimes
  • Local Authority to Regulate Firearms
  • Dangerous Trends in State Legislation
  • The Second Amendment

Download your copy of Regulating Guns in America today. Those interested in a print copy should email [email protected] for more information.

For the latest information on firearms regulations in all 50 states and the smart gun laws that can save lives, be sure to bookmark the Laws and Policies section of our website: