Know the Laws: Washington
UPDATED December 5, 2016
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.
In these gun laws pages, we refer to both "federal gun laws" and "state gun laws." The major difference between the two has to do with who makes the law, who prosecutes someone who violates the law, and what the penalty is for breaking the law.
One reason why it is important for you to know that there are these two sets of gun laws is so that you can understand all of the possible ways that the abuser might be breaking the law, and you can better protect yourself. Throughout this section, we will be referring mostly to state laws. Be sure to also read our Federal Gun Laws pages to see if any federal laws apply to your situation as well. You will need to read both state and federal laws to see which ones, if any, the abuser might be violating.
If you are calling the police because you believe the abuser has violated a gun law, you do not necessarily need to be able to tell the police which law was violated (state versus federal) but local police cannot arrest someone for violating federal law, only for violating state/local laws. Only federal law enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“ATF”), can arrest someone for violating federal laws. If the local police believe that a state law is being violated, they could arrest the abuser and hand the case over to the state prosecutor. If the local police believe a federal law is being violated, hopefully, the police department will notify the ATF or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s office in your state (which is the federal prosecutor). For information on how you can contact ATF directly to report the violation of federal gun laws, go to Who do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun? If the abuser is breaking both state and federal laws, s/he might be prosecuted in both state and federal court.
Throughout these gun law pages, we will refer to gun laws that make it illegal for someone convicted of a felony to have a gun. A felony is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor. It is defined under Washington law as a crime that is punishable by a prison sentence of five years or more, a fine of $10,000 or more, or both.* However, you cannot always tell if someone was convicted of a felony only by looking at the amount of time s/he actually served in prison or the amount of money s/he was fined since sentences are often reduced or pled down. If you are unsure if the abuser was convicted of a felony, you might want to talk to the prosecutor who handled the criminal case against the abuser to find out or go to the local criminal courthouse and try to search the records.
* R.C.W. § 9A.20.021(1)
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):
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)
*1 R.C.W. § 9.41.010(21)
*2 RCW § 9.41.040(2)(a)(i)
*3 RCW § 9.41.040(2)(a)(ii)
*4 RCW § 9.41.040(2)(a)(iii),(iv),(v)