Waiting Period

Waiting Period and Washington Concealed Pistol License (CPL)

Prior to July 1, 2019 holders of a valid Washington State Concealed Pistol License (CPL) could purchase a pistol or rifle from a dealer (FFL) and leave with the gun at the time of purchase.  On July 1, 2019, this changed.  Anyone purchasing a pistol or semi-automatic rifle in Washington now faces at least a 10 day waiting period.

This imposition of the waiting period is due to two unrelated changes: 1.) a change in FBI policy; and, 2.) the passage of Initiative 1639 in Washington state.

The FBI runs the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  In July of 2018 the FBI notified the Washington State Patrol (WSP) that it was changing its policy regarding handgun sales to CPL holders.  The FBI would no longer allow NICS “courtesy checks” approving transfers to CPL holders and allowing to leave with firearms at the time of purchase.

Since 1998, Washington has been designated as a “partial point of contact” state with NICS.  The “point of contact” designation dictates whether an FFL should contact NICS or local law enforcement when requesting a background check.  For firearms transactions like pistols, NICS would allow a “courtesy check,” approving firearms transactions for CPL holders.  Other background checks, like for long guns, were sent to local law enforcement agencies.  NICS sent a memo to WSP asking the state to assume the role of running pistol background checks.  This means that for pistols, the background check would now be performed by local law enforcement – not NICS.  Knowing that I-1639, if approved, would drastically change state law, WSP requested that NICS wait to change its policy until June 30, 2019.  NICS agreed.

The second change relates to changes in Washington law.  I-1639, effective July 1, 2019, mandated that any semi-automatic rifle (defined as “semi-automatic assault rifle” purchase is subject to a 10 day waiting period.  During the ten days, local law enforcement would perform the background check.  If the FFL receives no response within 10 business days, the firearm can be released to the purchaser.

So, Washington purchasers of semi-automatic rifles and pistols now face a ten day waiting period, whether or not they possess a valid CPL.

This is intended as a brief summary of the legislation, and should not be considered legal advice.  If you have been denied purchase of a firearm under Washington law and are interested in challenging the denial or restoring your rights, contact us for a c0nsultation.

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