In Washington State, anyone who has been convicted of a felony or any crime of domestic violence is ineligible to possess a firearm. This ban will last a lifetime, unless the right is restored by a court of record (typically the Superior Court where the individual resides). Once prohibited from possessing a firearm, an individual cannot possess any firearm for any reason whatsoever. Washington law has no exceptions for target shooting, temporary custody or collectible guns. Unlawful possession of a firearm is a felony under Washington law.
Even those who lack interest in firearms can be affected by having these rights revoked. If you have lost this right, this precludes you from knowingly possessing or having access to a firearm. Consequently, one must be careful about riding in cars where firearms may be present or being in homes where firearms may be present. Any allegation of unlawful possession of a firearm is a felony in Washington state.
Getting Your Gun Rights Back.
Eligibility for firearms restoration depends upon: (1) the nature and severity of the underlying conviction; and (2) the length of time you have been crime free since conviction or release from custody.
The underlying conviction is the conviction which resulted in revocation of your gun rights. If the underlying conviction is a Class A felony or sex offense, you will never be eligible to restore your gun rights under Washington law.
Restoration is not legally possible until the individual has completed a specified period of time in which they are crime free. That is they cannot be convicted of ANY criminal offense during that period of time. For eligible felonies (Non Class A felonies), the individual must go at least five years without any criminal offenses. For misdemeanors like Assault in the Fourth Degree (Domestic Violence) the period is three years. By criminal offense, the law means ANY criminal law violation, from felonies to simple misdemeanors. The crimes do not have to be violent in nature to prohibit restoration.
Based upon this information, if you think you may be eligible, the next step is to determine exactly which crime you were convicted of and when. For Washington state convictions, the easiest way to discover your record is to run your criminal history via the Washington State Patrol at the following site:
For a $12.00 fee, this link will provide you with a printable report detailing WSPs understanding of your criminal history. Once we review this information, we will review your case and advise as to whether seeking restoration is possible and worth your time.
If you lost your gun rights for a domestic violence crime, federal law has its own firearms restrictions. Currently, there is no restoration procedure under federal law. Consequently, even if your rights are restored under state law following a domestic violence conviction, the federal government will not recognize the state order. Since the ATF performs all firearms background checks, this will cause problems when attempting to purchase a firearm from a dealer. However, it is worth noting that the federal definition of “domestic violence” is less broad than Washington's definition. The circumstances of your Washington conviction (e.g. whether the victim was a spouse; whether you were represented by an attorney) may affect whether the federal prohibition applies. In some cases, individuals have been successful in vacating the state domestic violence conviction, then pursuing restoration of state – and consequentially federal – gun rights. Give us a call if you have questions about whether the federal prohibition applies to you.
Washington Concealed Weapons Permit.
Once your firearms rights are restored under Washington law, you are eligible to apply for a concealed pistol license (CPL). A CPL authorizes a person to carry a pistol concealed on their person, except in prohibited areas (e.g., bars, schools, hospitals). CPLs are issued by the county sheriff or local chief of police. CPLs last for five years before they need to be renewed. Washington is considered a “shall issue” state. This means that if you meet the eligibility requirements in the statute, the government is required to issue you a CPL.
Washington Concealed Carry Licenses and Domestic Violence.
Even though Washington is a “shall issue” state, domestic violence convictions can cause problems in obtaining your Washington CPL. Washington law requries local police chiefs and county sheriffs to issue Concealed Pistol Licenses. The Washington CPL statute mandates denial of a CPL if the applicant is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. If your rights have been restored following a domestic violence conviction, some jurisdictions will consider your state restoration valid if the newly restored right was the only “hold” on your firearms rights. Other jurisdictions will interpret the lingering federal prohibition as a grounds to deny your CPL. Denial of a CPL can be challenged by appealing the agency action to Superior Court.
For more information about how to restore your firearm rights in Washington state, and to read the full statute, click here.