Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Mar 7 2019

Dealers could face criminal charges, jeopardize license, if they break the law

OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Governor Jay Inslee sent a letter to 262 firearms dealers in counties where sheriffs have indicated they will not enforce I-1639, warning that, regardless of local officials’ opposition to Initiative 1639, firearms dealers are still required to follow state law.  

As a condition of their federal licenses, firearms dealers are required to comply with state and federal law. Unless a court rules otherwise, laws and initiatives are presumed to be constitutional. No court has struck down any provision of I-1639.

“Local officials’ personal opposition to I-1639 may have created confusion regarding firearms dealers’ legal responsibilities,” Ferguson said. “We wrote this letter to ensure these dealers have accurate information about the initiative to avoid legal jeopardy because of statements made by local elected officials.”

“Despite what some of these sheriffs would have people believe, no one has the ability to pick and choose which laws to follow,” Inslee said. “It’s very simple: Our state’s voters overwhelmingly approved stronger background checks and gun safety measures, and dealers will be required to comply with those laws.”

The letter informs dealers about their license requirements, and the possibility of license revocation or state or federal criminal charges if they break the law.

One provision of I-1639 impacting firearms dealers is already in effect: The prohibition on selling semiautomatic assault rifles to those under age 21.

The remaining provisions go into effect July 1. Most notably for firearms dealers, this includes enhanced background checks on all sales of semiautomatic assault rifles. These checks are the same as those that have been performed on pistol sales for many years. The law has a variety of implications for firearms dealers, including mandatory waiting periods on all semiautomatic assault rifles, safety notices and offering to sell or give trigger locks or similar devices on all firearm purchases. 

Earlier this week, AG Ferguson released a “Frequently Asked Questions” document with further clarification on the initiative’s requirements. That FAQ is available here.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Attorney General’s Office Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov

Tara Lee, Governor’s Office Deputy Communications Director, (360) 902-0632, tara.lee@gov.wa.gov