Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

The Attorney General’s Office cannot give legal advice to private individuals or business owners.  It is our practice, however, to provide members of the public with information of a general nature whenever possible. For more specific answers and clarification about how Washington law might apply to you and your specific situation, you are encouraged to consult the law itself, your local police department or county sheriff’s office, and/or legal counsel.

  1. Where can I find Washington’s firearms laws?
  2. Where can I find information about compliance with the National Firearms Act?
  3. What states recognize Washington’s concealed pistol license? Will my concealed pistol license or permit from my home state be recognized in Washington?
  4. How do I apply for a Washington concealed pistol license?
  5. Why doesn’t Washington recognize my concealed pistol license or permit issued by another state?
  6. I’m moving to Washington and want to continue carrying a concealed pistol. What does Washington law require I do?
  7. I will be visiting Washington and want to continue carrying a concealed pistol. What does Washington law require I do?
  8. What is Washington’s law regarding short-barreled rifles?
  9. Are there places in Washington where I am prohibited from carrying my firearm?
  10. Can I carry concealed without a concealed pistol license while I am engaging in outdoor recreational activity in Washington?
  11. What is Washington’s law regarding open carry?
  12. How do I restore my right to possess firearms?
  13. Can I carry a firearm while I am at work?
  14. When are children allowed to possess a firearm under Washington law?
  15. Under what circumstances can a person who is between 18 and 21 years old possess a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle?
  16. How do the laws regarding a concealed pistol license affect the carrying of other firearms?
  17. Can I request an Opinion from the Attorney General to interpret Washington’s firearms law?
  18. Can you clarify the firearms laws for me or tell me how the law will apply to me or my business?
  19. Where can I go for more information?

 


Where can I find Washington’s firearms laws?

Washington’s firearms laws are codified in chapter 9.41 RCW. Cities, towns, counties, and other municipalities may also have certain laws and ordinances affecting the use, possession or sale of firearms. RCW 9.41.290. You can contact your sheriff’s office or police department through the local city or county government to determine if any local laws have been adopted.


Where can I find information about compliance with the National Firearms Act?

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has information about the NFA on its website. Resources include a NFA Handbook primarily for use by persons in the business of importing, manufacturing, and dealing in firearms defined by the NFA, or persons intending to go into an NFA firearms business. According to the ATF, the Handbook should also be helpful to collectors of NFA firearms and other persons having questions about the application of the NFA.

The instructions for Item 5 on the NFA form state: “Each responsible person must provide a notification on this form of the proposed making or acquisition of an NFA firearm to his/her chief law enforcement officer having jurisdiction where the responsible person is located.” If you live in a city, you should send your NFA form to the police department for the city in which you reside. If you live outside of the city, you should send your NFA form to the sheriff’s office for the county in which you reside. Please do not send a copy of your NFA form to the Attorney General’s Office. If you send your NFA form to our office, we will return the form to you so you can submit it to the appropriate law enforcement agency.


What states recognize Washington’s concealed pistol license? Will my concealed pistol license or permit from my home state be recognized in Washington?

Please visit our concealed pistol license reciprocity page to check if your state’s concealed pistol license or permit is currently recognized in Washington. That page also has information regarding other states’ recognition of a Washington license. Some states may recognize a Washington concealed pistol license, even though Washington doesn't recognize theirs. Be sure to check the laws of the other state before traveling there with your pistol.


How do I apply for a Washington concealed pistol license?

You can apply for a Washington concealed pistol license at any local law enforcement agency in the state. You can contact a sheriff’s office or police department through the local city or county government. You must apply in person at a local law enforcement office. RCW 9.41.070 contains further information about Washington’s concealed pistol license applications and fees, including provisions related to non-residents.


Why doesn’t Washington recognize my concealed pistol license or permit issued by another state?

Please visit our concealed pistol license reciprocity page for detailed information about Washington’s reciprocity law and other states.


I’m moving to Washington and want to continue carrying a concealed pistol. What does Washington law require I do?

Washington law RCW 9.41.073(1)(b) requires that once a person becomes a resident of Washington he or she must obtain a Washington concealed pistol license to continue carrying a concealed pistol.  You can apply for a Washington concealed pistol license at any local law enforcement agency in the state. You can contact a sheriff’s office or police department through the local city or county government. You must apply in person at a local law enforcement office. RCW 9.41.070 contains further information about Washington’s concealed pistol license applications and fees


I will be visiting Washington and want to continue carrying a concealed pistol. What does Washington law require I do?

Except in your home or fixed place of business, and subject to the exceptions listed in RCW 9.41.060, under RCW 9.41.050 you cannot carry a pistol concealed on your person in Washington without a license or permit to carry a concealed pistol. Additional information about carrying a pistol in Washington can be found in RCW 9.41.050. Please visit our concealed pistol license reciprocity page for detailed information about whether Washington will recognize a concealed pistol license or permit issued to you by another state.


What is Washington’s law regarding short-barreled rifles?

For Washington’s law regarding short-barreled rifles, please consult the statute at RCW 9.41.190.


Are there places in Washington where I am prohibited from possessing my firearm?

Washington law designates certain areas where it can be a violation to possess a firearm, regardless of whether you are lawfully carrying concealed. The prohibited areas include: restricted access areas of a jail or other law enforcement facilities; the area used in connection with court proceedings; restricted access areas of a mental health facility; that portion of an establishment classified by the liquor and cannabis board as off-limits to persons under 21 years of age; restricted access areas of a commercial service airport; and public or private elementary and secondary school premises. The statutes governing prohibited places to possess a firearm can be found at RCW 9.41.300 and RCW 9.41.280. Cities, towns, counties and other municipalities may also have laws and ordinances affecting the use, possession or sale of firearms. RCW 9.41.290. You can contact the sheriff’s office or police department through your local county or city government to determine if any local laws have been adopted in your area.


Can I carry concealed while I am engaging in outdoor recreational activity?

A person engaging in a lawful outdoor recreational activity such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, or horseback riding, is not prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm only if, considering all of the attendant circumstances, including but not limited to whether the person has a valid hunting or fishing license, it is reasonable to conclude that the person is participating in lawful outdoor activities or is traveling to or from a legitimate outdoor recreation area.  RCW 9.41.060(8).


What is Washington’s law regarding open carry?

No Washington statute directly prohibits openly carrying a firearm. However, for Washington’s law regarding restrictions to openly carrying a firearm, consult the statute at RCW 9.41.270. Please also be aware that the law prohibits possession of firearms in certain places. If you have questions about the application of the law in a specific circumstance, please contact your local sheriff’s office or police department, or a private attorney.


How do I restore my right to possess firearms?

Washington’s law addressing restoration of a right to possess firearms generally can be found at RCW 9.41.040(4). Additionally, RCW 9.41.047 addresses restoration of rights for a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm by reason of having been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment under RCW 71.05.240, 71.05.320, 71.34.740, chapter 10.77 RCW, or equivalent statutes of another jurisdiction.

Obtaining an Order from the Superior Court restoring your right to possess a firearm does not guarantee that a concealed pistol license or any other firearm-related permit or license will be issued to you.

Furthermore, obtaining an Order of the Superior Court restores only your state right to possess a firearm under Washington law. Federal and state law on firearm possession are different in certain circumstances. Even if your state right is restored, if you are prohibited from possessing a firearm by federal law, you may still be subject to prosecution in federal court. Restoration of your state right is not a defense to a federal prosecution.

Please keep in mind that this answer provides general information only and is not legal advice for your individual circumstances. You are encouraged to obtain the advice of a private attorney if you want to learn more about restoring your individual rights. If you do not know an attorney, you may be able to find help through the Washington State Bar Association here. If you are limited in your ability to pay for legal services there may still be assistance available through those resources.


Can I carry a firearm while I am at work?

The answer depends upon the nature of your employment and whether possession of a firearm at your workplace is allowed by your employer and/ or state law, including RCW 9.41.300. According to decisions of the appellate courts of the State of Washington, employers, both public and private, may establish workplace rules prohibiting employees from possessing firearms or any other weapons while on duty or at the workplace. See Cherry v. Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, 116 Wn.2d 794, 808 P.2d 746 (1991); Pacific Northwest Shooting Park Association v. City of Sequim, 158 Wn.2d 342, 144 P.3d 276 (2006); and Chan v. City of Seattle, 164 Wn. App. 549, 265 P.3d 169 (2011).


When are children allowed to possess a firearm under Washington law?

Under RCW 9.41.040(2)(a)(v), it is a crime to possess a firearm if you are under the age of 18, unless possession is permissible under one of the exceptions listed in RCW 9.41.042. Under federal law it is illegal to sell a firearm to someone who is under 18 years old.


Under what circumstances can a person who is between 18 and 21 years old possess a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle?

RCW 9.41.240 sets out the requirements for possession of a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle by a person between the age of 18 and 21 years old. Certain exceptions may apply under 9.41.050 or 9.41.060.


How do the laws regarding a concealed pistol license affect the carrying of other firearms?

In Washington, licenses are only issued for the concealed carry of pistols, which is defined in RCW 9.41.010(21).


Can I request an Opinion from the Attorney General to interpret Washington’s firearms law?

An opinion represents the Attorney General’s official interpretation on a point of law. Attorney General Opinions cannot be issued at the request of private individuals. Only the following people can request an Attorney General opinion:

  • Members of the Washington State Legislature
  • Statewide elected officials
  • Appointed heads of state agencies, boards or commissions
  • County prosecuting attorneys

The Washington Attorney General’s Office issues official opinions on questions of law when requested to do so by these designated public officials on issues that arise in the course of their duties. The opinions are not binding but can be given “great weight” by courts.  Opinions are not issued on every topic, but the office has issued opinions related to firearms.

If you have a question regarding how a particular provision of Washington law applies to your individual circumstance, you are encouraged to consult a private attorney. If you do not know an attorney, you may be able to find help through the Washington State Bar Association here. If you are limited in your ability to pay for legal services there may still be assistance available through those resources.


Can you clarify the firearms laws for me or tell me how the law will apply to me or my business?

The Attorney General’s Office is not authorized to provide advice to private individuals or business owners on personal legal matters. While the office may answer questions of a general nature, most private issues require a detailed analysis of the law. Any individual or business owner needing such services or representation should consult a private attorney. If you do not know an attorney, you may be able to find help through the Washington State Bar Association here. If you are limited in your ability to pay for legal services there may still be assistance available through those resources.


Where can I go for more information?

Washington State Bar Association

Any individual or business owner needing personal legal advice, services or representation should consult a private attorney. If you do not know an attorney, you may be able to find help through the Washington State Bar Association here. If you are limited in your ability to pay for legal services there may still be assistance available through those resources.

Local Law Enforcement

Local law enforcement is often the best source of information regarding Washington’s firearms laws and the approval, denial, and scope of firearms licenses. If you live in a city, you should contact the police department for the city in which you reside. If you live outside of the city, you should contact the sheriff’s office for the county in which you reside.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

The ATF website provides comprehensive information on federal firearms regulations, federal firearms licenses and other federal firearm-related questions.

Washington State Department of Licensing, Firearms

The Department of Licensing acts as a record-keeper of issued firearms licenses that have been approved by local law enforcement. The agency’s website is here. Otherwise, the Department of Licensing has a limited role with regard to the implementation of Washington’s firearms law. That being said, the agency website has useful information on concealed pistol licenses, firearms dealer licenses, alien firearms licenses, fees, forms and other topics.

Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife

Information about the requirements for Washington’s hunting licenses and permits can be found on the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website here