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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 Criminal Convictions

back to topIf the abuser has been convicted of a crime, can s/he keep or buy a gun?

It depends.  If the abuser was convicted of various crimes, has a protection order (including a DVOP, SAPO, stalking protection order, or civil anti-harassment order) against him/her, or meets various other conditions, s/he may not be able to legally have a gun. 

Washington law states that a person cannot have or buy a gun if:
1. s/he has been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of a “serious offense.”*  A serious offense is any one of the following (or a felony attempt to commit any one of the following):

  • any “crime of violence” (defined in RCW 9.41.010(b));
  • any felony violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, chapter 69.50 RCW (drug-related crimes), that is classified as a class B felony or that has a maximum term of imprisonment of at least ten years;
  • child molestation in the second degree;
  • incest when committed against a child under age fourteen;
  • indecent liberties;
  • leading organized crime;
  • promoting prostitution in the first degree;
  • rape in the third degree;
  • drive-by shooting;
  • sexual exploitation;
  • vehicular assault or vehicular homicide when due to driving  under the influence or in a reckless manner;
  • any other class B felony offense with a finding of “sexual motivation;” (defined in RCW 9.94A.030);
  • any other felony with a “deadly weapon verdict,” (defined in RCW 9.94A.825); 
  • any felony offense that was in effect at any time prior to June 6, 1996 that is comparable to a “serious offense,” or any federal or out-of-state conviction for a felony that would be a “serious offense” in Washington; or
  • any felony conviction for violating background check requirements for firearm sales under (under RCW 9.41.115).**

2. s/he was convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any felony or any of the following offenses against a family or household member

There are also federal gun laws that prohibit someone who has a protection order issued against him/her or who was convicted of certain crimes from possessing a gun.  Go to our Federal Gun Laws page for more information.

* R.C.W. § 9.41.040(1)(a)
** R.C.W. § 9.41.010(23)
*** RCW § 9.41.040(2)(a)(i)

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back to topHow can I find out if the abuser has been convicted of a crime?

Misdemeanor and felony records are open to the public but they are not always easy to access.  If you know the exact courthouse where the abuser may have been convicted, you can go to the courthouse and ask the clerk of court for access to those records.

Federal law specifically prohibits possession of a firearm if the person is convicted of any felony or of a domestic violence misdemeanor.  Criminal records that would make a person ineligible to purchase a firearm are also kept in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  However, no one other than law enforcement officials and licensed firearm sellers are allowed to search the NICS.  Your local police department may be willing to search NICS for you if you ask, but they are not required to do so.

To read more about the NICS, please see the question, What will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

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