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AGO 1987 No. 28 - December 17, 1987
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

FIREARMS ‑- POLICE POWER ‑- JUVENILES ‑- REGULATION OR PROHIBITION OF HANDGUNS OR OTHER FIREARMS BY CITY AND COUNTY LAW ENFORCEMENT ‑- PUBLIC DISCLOSURE OF CONCEALED WEAPON PERMIT APPLICATIONS 

RCW 9.41.040(1) does not prohibit a person, found in juvenile court to have committed an offense, from purchase and possession of a handgun, or the issuance of a concealed weapon permit.

City and county law enforcement agencies may refuse issuance of a concealed weapon permit to any person who admits, orally or in writing, his intent to commit a crime in the future with or without a handgun.

The Public Disclosure Act allows public inspection of copies of concealed weapon permit applications for handgun purchases.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                               December 17, 1987 

Honorable Dick Nelson
State Representative, 32nd District
122 N.W. 50th Street
Seattle, Washington 98107 

Cite as:  AGO 1987 No. 28                                                                                                                

Dear Sir:

             By letter previously acknowledged, you requested the opinion of this office on the following questions:

             1.         Does state law prohibit a person, convicted in juvenile court of a heinous felony, from purchase and possession of a handgun, or the issuance of a concealed weapon permit?

             2.         Does state law allow city and county law enforcement agencies the right to refuse issuance of a concealed weapon permit to any person who admits, orally or in writing, the intent to commit a crime in the future with or without a handgun?

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

             3.         Does the Public Disclosure Act allow public inspection of copies of concealed weapon permit applications for handgun purchases?

             For the reasons stated in our analysis, we answer your first question in the negative, your second question in the qualified affirmative, and your third question in the affirmative.

                                                                      ANALYSIS

 Question (1):

                         Does state law prohibit a person, convicted in juvenile court of a heinous felony, from purchase and possession of a handgun, or the issuance of a concealed weapon permit?

                         RCW 9.41.040(1) provides:

                         A person is guilty of the crime of unlawful possession of a short firearm or pistol, if, having previously been convicted in this state or elsewhere of a crime of violence or of a felony in which a firearm was used or displayed, the person owns or has in his possession any short firearm or pistol.

 (Emphasis added.)  Likewise, RCW 9.41.070(1)(a) states that a license to carry a concealed pistol will not issue to those persons described in RCW 9.41.040, and RCW 9.41.090(4) provides that persons ineligible to own a pistol under RCW 9.41.040 are also ineligible to purchase a pistol.

             Clearly then, a person convicted of a "crime of violence or a felony in which a firearm was used or displayed" is prohibited from purchase and possession of a handgun and issuance of a concealed weapon permit.  This would cover both adults convicted of such a crime and juveniles tried as an adult in superior court.  Serious crimes committed by a juvenile can be, and often are, the subject of a declination hearing in which the juvenile court decides whether it would be in the best interests of the juvenile or the public to have the juvenile tried as an adult.  See RCW 13.40.110.

            Your question, however, is addressed to individuals who have been found to have committed an offense1/ in a juvenile court  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] proceeding.  Such proceedings are governed in turn by the provisions of Title 13 RCW, specifically chapters 13.04 and 13.40 RCW.  Under RCW 13.04.030(5), the juvenile courts have exclusive jurisdiction over juveniles alleged or found to have committed "offenses".  An "offense" is defined by RCW 13.40.020(15) as "an act designated a violation or a crimeif committed by an adult".  (Emphasis added.)

             The answer to your first question, then, depends on whether a finding in a juvenile court proceeding that a juvenile has committed an offense is a conviction "of a crime of violence or of a felony in which a firearm was used or displayed" for the purposes of RCW 9.41.040(1).

             We have been unable to find an appellate court decision in this state interpreting the provisions of RCW 9.41.040(1) as they apply to juvenile court proceedings.  However, our Supreme Court has dealt with an analogous situation.  InIn re Frederick, 93 Wn.2d 28, 604 P.2d 953 (1980), the court considered whether a juvenile, who had previously plead guilty in juvenile court to a charge of second degree burglary, was "detained pursuant to a conviction of a felony"‑-an essential element of first degree escape as then defined by RCW 9A.76.110(1).  The Supreme Court, relying on RCW 13.04.2402/ concluded that "a juvenile has not committed a crime, including a felony, when he has committed an  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] offense . . . ."  93 Wn.2d at 30.  Accordingly, the court concluded, he could not be guilty of first degree escape as then defined.3/

              Applying the reasoning of In re Frederick to RCW 9.41.040(1), we conclude that this statute does not preclude ownership or possession of a handgun by, nor issuance of a concealed weapon permit to, a person who has been found in juvenile court proceedings to have committed an offense equivalent to a crime of violence or a felony.4/

              We note, however, that there are significant statutory limitations upon the sale to and use by minors of firearms.  For example, RCW 9.41.240 limits the circumstances under which minors under the age of fourteen may have possession and use of any firearm.  Also, RCW 9.41.080 prohibits delivery of a pistol to anyone under the age of twenty-one.  Finally, RCW 9.41.070(1)(b) specifically prohibits the issuance of a concealed weapon permit to a person under the age of twenty-one.      [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

 Question 2:

                         Does state law allow city and county law enforcement agencies the right to refuse issuance of a concealed weapon permit to any person who admits, orally or in writing, the intent to commit a crime in the future with or without a handgun?

             Article 1, section 24 of the Washington Constitution provides:  "The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired . . ."  This constitutional right to bear arms has long been recognized to be subject to reasonable regulation by the State.  See State v. Krantz, 24 Wn.2d 350, 164 P.2d 453 (1945).  One such limitation is the prohibition against carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.  RCW 9.41.050.

             RCW 9.41.070(1) authorizes issuance of a permit to carry a concealed weapon "for the purposes of protection or while engaged in business, sport or while traveling . . ." and further provides that a "citizen's constitutional right to bear arms shall not be denied . . ." except on certain bases set forth therein.  At the risk of stating the obvious, the intention to commit a crime is not among the statutorily enumerated purposes for which concealed weapon permits may be issued.  On the other hand, the stated intention to commit a crime is also not one of the statutorily enumerated bases for denying a concealed weapon permit.  The situation which you presented in your question would only be an issue if the person states a legitimate purpose for wanting to carry a concealed weapon,e.g., protection, and also states an intention to commit a crime.  In that event, we believe the person responsible for issuing the permit must decline to do so.

             The primary objective in interpreting a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the Legislature.  Although courts may not read into a statute that which the Legislature has omitted, they may construe a statute so as to avoid strained or absurd consequences which could result from a literal reading.  Marine Power v. Department of Transp., 102 Wn.2d 457, 687 P.2d 202 (1984);State v. Keller, 98 Wn.2d 725, 728, 657 P.2d 1384 (1983).  Given a fact pattern such as you postulate‑-unlikely though it may be‑-we believe that a court would read RCW 9.41.070(1) as not requiring issuance of a concealed weapon permit when the applicant has announced an intention to commit a crime in the future.  We believe this result would be even more likely if the announced intention included use of the concealed weapon in the  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] criminal activity, or if the intended crime were one the past commission of which would constitute a basis for denial under RCW 9.41.070(1)(a), which incorporates RCW 9.41.040, discussed above.

             We therefore answer your second question in the qualified affirmative.  We hasten to point out, however, that our conclusion, though we believe it to carry out the legislative intent underlying RCW 9.41.070(1), is undercut somewhat by a literal reading of that statute.  This situation is ripe, therefore, for legislative action to state explicitly what we believe to be the implicitly stated legislative intent of RCW 9.41.070(1)‑-that is, that that statute not be read as requiring the issuance of a concealed weapon permit to an applicant who has announced an intention to engage in criminal activity in the future.

 Question 3:

                         Does the Public Disclosure Act allow public inspection of copies of concealed weapon permit applications for handgun purchases?

             Our analysis begins with the premise that such permit applications are "public records" under RCW 42.17.020(26).  Generally, agencies are required to make public records available for inspection and copying by the public.  See RCW 42.17.270.  The Legislature has, however, designated certain categories of records as exempt from such inspection.

             The statute which controls the granting of a concealed weapon permit is silent regarding its inspection by the public.  In some cases, the Legislature has limited disclosure of records in the same statute creating the records.  Since that was not done in this case, we must look to the general exemptions contained in RCW 42.17.310(1).  A review of the general exemptions of RCW 42.17.310(1) discloses that none apply to an application for a concealed weapon.

             Before the recent amendments to the public records provisions contained in chapter 403, Laws of 1987, our analysis would go beyond this stage to discuss whether a general personal privacy interest was present.  See In re Rosier, 105 Wn.2d 606, 609-610, 717 P.2d 1353 (1986).  It is now clear, however, that unless the Legislature expressly declares that certain records may be withheld from public inspection, they must be made available.  See Laws of 1987, ch. 403, § 3, p. 1547.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]

             In summary, public records must be made available for inspection and copying unless the Legislature has provided a statutory exemption.  We have not found any statutory exemption encompassing concealed weapon permits.  We conclude, therefore, that applications for concealed weapon permits should be made available for inspection and copying.

             We hope the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

 Very truly yours,
KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

WILLIAM L. WILLIAMS
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

 1/Your question was posed in terms of a conviction of a "heinous felony."  That phrase, although commonly used, has no universally recognized legal meaning.  Our analysis, therefore, focuses on the statutory category of crimes which disqualifies one from handgun possession and ownership, that is violent crimes or felonies involving the use or display of a firearm.  RCW 9.41.040(1).  To the extent that you intended, by use of the phrase "heinous felonies," to refer to crimes not within the statutory category, our analysis may not be applicable.  Further, if the crime is considered "heinous" there is a strong possibility the juvenile court would decline jurisdiction and the juvenile would be tried as an adult in superior court.

 2/"An order of court adjudging a child delinquent or dependent under the provisions of this chapter shall in no case be deemed a conviction of crime."

 3/Significantly, the Legislature has amended the first degree escape statute, RCW 9A.76.110, to bring within its scope not only those convicted of a felony but also those being detained pursuant to "an equivalent juvenile offense."  Laws of 1982, 1st Ex. Sess., ch. 47, § 23, p. 1330.

 4/We are not unmindful of State v. Bird, 95 Wn.2d 83, 622 P.2d 1262 (1980).  However, the Court therein distinguished the Frederick decision but did not overrule it.  InBird, the Court held the benefits of the statute, which allows a court to suspend a sentence, could be extended to juveniles found to have committed an offense.  You have asked whether a disability flowing from the conviction of a crime should also attach to a juvenile found guilty of committing an offense.  This situation is analogous to the one present in Frederick.  Thus, we find it necessary to follow Frederick.  This conclusion is supported by the recent case of State v. Schaaf, 108 Wn.2d ___ (1987), No. 53189-7.  InSchaaf, the Court reiterated its conclusion that a juvenile has not committed a crime including a felony when he has committed an offense.  Id. at 8.

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