Washington Firearms Rights Restoration
by: Brett Nagle
In Washington State, anyone who has been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is ineligible to possess a firearm. This ban lasts for life, unless the right is restored by a court of record (Superior Court). The ban is absolute. Washington law does not provide an exception for target shooting or collectible guns. Illegal possession of a firearm is a felony under Washington law.
Obviously, this creates a problem for hunters and target shooters. But the ban can also affect those who have no interest in guns. If you have lost your right to possess a firearm in Washington, you are prohibited from knowingly having access to a gun. This means if you have lost your gun rights, you should be careful about entering any situation where you might have access to a gun. If you are riding in a car or living somewhere where you know a firearm is present, you could be charged with a felony.
Can I get my gun rights back?
Eligibility for firearms restoration depends mainly upon: (1) 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 that caused you to lose your gun rights in the first place. If the underlying conviction is a Class A felony or sex offense, you are not eligible to restore your gun rights under Washington law.
Restoration requires a period of crime-free time since conviction or release from custody on the underlying conviction. For eligible felonies, the law requires five years without any criminal offenses. For misdemeanors like Assault in the Fourth Degree (Domestic Violence) the period is three years.
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 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. We receive a large number of firearms related inquiries, so please have this information ready before calling or emailing.
Once we review this information, we will review your case and advise as to whether seeking restoration is possible and worth your time. We have assisted numerous clients in restoring their firearms rights under Washington State law.
A note on federal law:
If you lost your gun rights for a domestic violence crime, federal law has its own firearms restriction. There is currently no firearms restoration procedure under federal law. This means 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 background checks, this can 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) can affect whether the federal prohibition applies. In some cases, we 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 authorizes local police chiefs and county sheriffs to issue CPLs. The Washington CPL statute allows for 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.
We have helped many clients restore their firearms rights and obtain a CPL. If you have questions about your eligibility for firearms restoration or a CPL, please contact Attorney Brett S. Nagle’s office either by calling or by filling out the form to the right. This page is provided as general information and not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about your specific situation, do not hesitate to contact us.