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Know the Laws: Washington

UPDATED August 10, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Connecticut.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your state. To find an agency, please go to the WA Where to Find Help page to find help.

Guns and Protection Orders

back to topI have a protection order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

Washington law says that if an abuser has a protection order (including a DVOP, SAPO, stalking protection order, or civil anti-harassment order) issued against him/her under certain conditions, it is unlawful for him/her to have or buy a gun.  For more information, see I am the victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun.  Is that legal?

Federal laws, which apply to all states, also restrict an abuser's right to have a gun if you have an order for protection against him/her that meets certain requirements even if the judge does not specifically include on the order that s/he cannot have a gun.  Go to the Federal Gun Laws page to get more information.

If you are afraid for your safety, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options.  Go to the WA State and Local Programs to find a program in your area.

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protection order?

If you receive a domestic violence order for protection, a sexual assault protection order, stalking protection order, or civil anti-harassment order that meets the standards explained in I am the victim of domestic violence and the abuser has a gun. Is that legal?, it should be clear to the abuser and law enforcement that it is illegal for the abuser to have a gun in his/her possession under Washington state law* and under federal law. 

However, even if the order does not meet the all of those requirements, the judge is supposed to order that the abuser is prohibited from buying or possessing a gun if the judge finds there is “clear and convincing evidence” that the abuser used, displayed, or threatened to use a gun or dangerous weapon while committing a felony or previously committed a felony that would make him/her ineligible to buy or own a gun.  If the judge finds by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the abuser did any of the above, the judge has the option to order that the abuser is prohibited from buying or possessing guns but it is not mandatory that the judge do so.**

* R.C.W § 9.41.040(2)(a)(ii)
** R.C.W § 9.41.800(1)

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back to topI have a temporary (ex parte) or preliminary protection order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a final protection order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

Maybe.  Washington state law does allow a judge to order that an abuser's gun be removed at an ex parte temporary protection order hearing, but the judge must find that “irreparable injury could result” if the abuser’s guns are not removed before the hearing for the final protection order.* 

However, if there is no specific mention of a firearm restriction in the temporary protection order, then you may have to wait until you are given a permanent order.

* R.C.W. § 9.41.800(4)

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back to topWhat is the penalty if the abuser has a gun in violation of my protection order?

If the abuser is prohibited from possessing a gun as part of your protection order, then under Washington law, if the abuser violates that provision, s/he may be punished criminally.  Violating a protection order is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.*

It can also violate federal law for someone to have a gun when there is a protection order against him/her.  For more information, see our Federal Gun Laws page.

* R.C.W. §§ 26.50.110, 9.92.020

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