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NOTICE: Please check the status for Washington state and other state laws for more current language.

Law provision Washington state Other states
(Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence,
Select large cities
(See bottom of chart for methods summary)
Universal background check for all sales

RCW 9.41.113

YES. All sales of firearms, including private sales, must be conducted through a federally licensed firearms dealer who will conduct a background check on the buyer. In 2014 WA became the first state in the nation to pass a universal background check law by voter initiative. *CA, CO, CT, DE, NY, RI, DC require universal background checks.

*MD, PA require some background checks beyond dealer sales.

*IL, OR require background checks at gun shows.

Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, CA (all by state law); Seattle, WA (also by state law) -- Require universal background checks

Local legislation  or regulation allowed

RCW 9.41.290

NO.  State law preempts local government from enacting legislation except in very specific situations. The validity of a local restriction depends upon its language and whether it is found to be preempted.   *No local preemption:  MA, HI, OH, CT, LA, NJ, NY, NE, CA
Restrict types of weapons/ammunition NO.  Washington permits assault weapons, .50 caliber rifles, and large capacity ammunition magazines (those that can convert guns to high capacity weapons).

*CA, CT, HI, MD, MA, NJ, NY  - ban all or some types of assault weapons

*MN, VA – regulate some types

Some states ban large capacity magazines designed for use with any firearm, others for use with handguns; others limit by number of rounds fired.

Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA -- Ban all or some types of assault weapons

Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA -- Ban high capacity magazine possession

Chicago, IL -- Bans sale of metal piercing bullets (in sales by dealer)

Denver, CO (over 21 rounds); Los Angeles, CA (over 10 rounds) -- prohibit sale of certain amounts of ammunition

New York, NY -- Pistol or revolver licensees or permittees may not possess ammunition feeding devices capable of holding more than 17 rounds of ammunition. No disposing of or possessing ammunition feeding devices for rifle or shotgun that is capable of holding more than 5 rounds of ammunition

Los Angeles, CA -- No sale or transfer of ammunition for large caliber firearm

San Francisco, CA -- No sale or transfer of 50 caliber firearm or cartridge

San Francisco, CA -- Lists specific ammunition brands and types prohibited, including ammunition designed to fragment upon impact

San Francisco, CA -- No ultra-compact firearm sales by dealers

Child Access Prevention (CAP)

NO.  WA does not have specific child access provisions though the law does not permit transfer to someone when reasonable cause to believe the person is legally unable to possess a gun. CAP laws in other states require safe storage devices, training/education, etc.

No explicit criminal liability where poor storage allows child to access a firearm.

27 states have CAP laws. 

Criminal liability: CA, HI, MD MA, MN, NJ, TX, DC

Detroit, MI -- Safety training required for pistol purchase - training includes child-proofing and safe storage

Philadelphia, PA -- Safety training requires safe handling and storage

Baltimore, MD; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; San Diego, CA -- Dealers must sell safety locking device with every firearm sale

Baltimore, MD; Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA; New York, NY; San Francisco, CA -- Dealers required to hang up or provide CAP educational materials to purchasers

Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; San Diego, CA -- Unlawful to store firearm in close proximity to ammunition where minor (younger than 18 years) could gain easy access (guilty if minor obtains and fires it in Oakland and San Diego)

Philadelphia, PA -- Unlawful for adult to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly facilitate or permit the discharge of a firearm by a child or to allow child to obtain unsupervised access. Safe storage is a defense to prosecution

Houston, TX -- Adult cannot permit child to obtain unsupervised access

New York, NY -- Owners must place and leave weapons inoperable when not in their possession

Oakland, CA -- Unlawful to sell, give, or loan firearm to minor under age of 18

Oakland, CA -- Parental responsibility for youth violation

San Francisco, CA -- Signage required at dealers on age restrictions for entry to dealer

Access to Guns for Youth Under 18

RCW 9.41.042

YES.  WA permits youth under 18 to access some types of guns in certain circumstances.

Sale to Under 18

  • Rifles/shotguns – Federally-licensed dealer may not sell to person under 18.   Private seller may sell to person of any age. 
  • Handguns Neither Federally-licensed dealer nor private seller may sell to person under 18.

Possession/Use by Under 18:  

  • Rifles/shotgunsCan possess/use in certain circumstances. Even though state law default is that youth under 18 may not possess guns, the law gives 9 exceptions1. These broad exceptions effectively allow possession in many circumstances, but juveniles (below age 21) may not apply for concealed weapon permit and must be on their property with permission of a parent, unless meeting one of other exceptions. 
  • Handguns- Cannot possess if under 18 (prohibited under Federal law, with certain exceptions for the temporary transfer and possession of handguns and handgun ammunition for specified activities, including employment, ranching, farming, target practice and hunting.)
*37 states impose stricter minimum age than Federal law for purchase and/or possession of firearms, and vary including all firearm purchase, handgun possession, and long guns.

Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL -- Restriction on assault weapons (sales by dealers)

Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI -- Restriction on handgun use/purchase

Chicago, IL -- No ammunition, long gun, or handgun sale to under 18 (sales by dealers)

Baltimore, MD -- May access firearm only under supervision of person 21 years or older

San Antonio, TX -- No unsupervised firearm access

Houston, TX; Philadelphia, PA -- Unlawful to possess or discharge firearm

Philadelphia, PA -- Unlawful to obtain firearm license or discharge firearm in city

San Antonio, TX -- Unlawful to let person under 17 discharge, possess, or carry firearm. 17 or under can’t carry off property

Chicago, IL (by state law); Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY -- Rifles and shotguns ok only if with permitted adult

Oakland, CA -- No purchase or possession of firearm

San Francisco, CA -- No firearm sale to under 18

San Jose, CA -- No selling, disposing, or giving firearms to under 18 without written request of parent or guardian. No possession without written consent of parent or guardian

Phoenix, Arizona -- No possession in public place or private property except if owned by minor’s parents, grandparents or guardian – can be allowed for hunting, shooting events, or farming

New York, NY -- No permit or license if under 21

Access to Guns for Youth 18-21


Sale to 18-21:

  • Rifles/shotguns – Federally-licensed dealer and private seller may sell to 18-21 year olds.
  • Handguns – Private seller may sell to 18-21 year olds.

Possession/Use by 18-21:

  • Rifles/shotguns – Possession is permitted, as long as person is not prohibited under other explicit areas of the law that limit possession due to categorical exclusion.  (See potentially violent offender limits below) 
  • Handguns – Possession is permitted, but may not have concealed weapon permit under 21, so effectively limited to residence, business, on his/her property.
  • Ammunition: No age limit for purchase/use under WA law
*37 states impose stricter minimum age than Federal law for purchase and/or possession of firearms, and vary including all firearm purchase, handgun possession, and long guns.

Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL -- Restriction on assault weapons (sales by dealers)

Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI -- Restriction on handgun use/purchase

New York, NY -- Can use shotgun or rifle only under supervision of owner

San Francisco, CA (also by CA state law) -- No pistol or revolver

New York, NY -- No permit or license if under 21

Restrictions on adult/youth  possession 

Federal law sets minimums – Washington law mirrors many provisions in federal law

RCW  9.41.040

RCW 9.41.340

YES.  Felon Possession. WA prohibits those convicted of felonies from possessing a firearm, unless that right is restored by a court.  For certain felonies, the penalty is more serious. Note that felonies can be pled to misdemeanors through plea bargain.

MIXED.  Misdemeanants’ Possession.   Those convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes cannot possess a firearm, including specific crimes against family members, unless that right is restored by a court. Note that felonies can be pled to misdemeanors through plea bargain.

NO.  Alcohol/Substance Abusers.  WA law does not address limits on alcohol/substance abusers. Some limits exist on sales/possession by substance abusers under federal law.

MIXED.  Mentally Ill.  WA law prohibits those who have been found not guilty by reason of insanity for certain crimes or committed for mental health treatment from possessing a firearm, unless that right is restored by a court.  Specific mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression do not prohibit firearm possession. 

MIXED.  Youth possession. WA law has a 10-day sentence for the first 4 convictions for illegal possession of a firearm, but there are numerous sentencing alternatives, such as deferred dispositions, and other ways around the 10-day provision.  For youth, it takes 5 convictions before sentencing of 15 to 36 weeks to the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration.

MIXED.  Domestic Violence. WA law prohibits possession of a firearm by anyone who has been convicted of a domestic violence crime or who has a restraining order related to the safety of an intimate partner.  In 2015, a law was passed that requires law enforcement to allow family or household members to request to be notified before a firearm is returned to a person who was previously required to surrender the firearm.

*Federal laws provide basic minimums for prohibitions, including prohibiting ownership by convicted felons, those adjudicated as criminally insane and those involuntarily committed.

*23 states disqualify for some misdemeanor offenses.

*21 states prohibit alcohol/substance abusers from owning firearms. 

Detroit, MI -- Permit from chief of police and safety training required for pistol purchase

New York City, NY -- Must have firearm permit approved by police commissioner. Must have pistol/revolver license for purchase. Person may only purchase/possess ammunition for the type of gun for which he/she has a permit/license

New York, NY -- No firearm permit for those under 21, not in good moral character, convicted of felony, currently having mental disorder, or possessing defects that impair ability to safely possess gun

Philadelphia, PA -- Must have license to purchase any firearm – cannot obtain license if past conviction of crime of violence, drug offense, unlawful substance abuse or unable to demonstrate knowledge of firearm safety

Seattle, WA -- Must have concealed pistol license to purchase handgun from a dealer

Chicago , IL -- No sales or transfers at gun shows

Chicago, IL; Denver, CO -- Restriction on dealer and private sales to intoxicated person (Denver - no loans; also applies to person who is “agitated and excitable”)

Cleveland, OH; Kansas City, MO; Minneapolis, MN -- No carry or use of firearms while intoxicated (Minneapolis - only applies in public place)

Cleveland, OH -- No selling, lending, or giving firearm to person prohibited by law because felon or intoxicated

Detroit, MI -- No sale of handgun to controlled substance addicts, felon, or mentally incompetent as determined by state (8 year ban for prior felons, 5 year for juvenile detention permit)

Philadelphia, PA -- Temporary removal of firearms from persons who pose risk of imminent personal injury to self or others

New York, NY; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; Sacramento, CA; San Antonio, TX; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; San Jose, CA -- No discharge of firearm in city

San Antonio, TX -- No carrying firearm on city property

San Francisco, CA -- No possession on county property

New York, NY; San Antonio, TX -- No loaded rifles or shotguns in public areas of city (New York - also no unloaded/visible rifle or shotgun in these areas)

San Francisco, CA -- No possession or sale of firearm or ammunition on city/county property

Portland, OR -- Unlawful to carry loaded firearm in public place

Portland, OR -- Unlawful to carry firearm with ammunition, except with concealed pistol license

Seattle, WA -- Unlawful to carry or place loaded pistol in any vehicle, unless the person has a CPL and the licensee is within the vehicle at all times that the pistol is there. Unlawful to have loaded rifle or shotgun in motor vehicle

Seattle, WA -- No use of weapons to intimidate another person

Records and Reporting

Sacramento, CA -- Ammunitions vendor must keep a log of sales and give it to police department

Philadelphia, PA; New York,  NY; San Francisco, CA -- All ammunition sales or transfers must be reported to police

Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL -- Dealers retain records of sales for 10 years

Denver, CO  -- Records to be kept by dealers and pawnbrokers

Detroit, MI -- Every person has to keep a book of sale and report sale to police by next day; also submit weekly sales report to police

Cleveland, OH -- Must report transfer of firearm to police

New York, NY -- Dealers must contact police department to ensure purchaser is in compliance with firearm owning requirements
Theft reporting required MIXED.  WA does not require gun theft to be reported by private individuals (licensed dealers are required to report loss/theft under federal law).  Theft reporting can help deter gun trafficking. CT, DE, IL, MD, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OH, RI, DC

Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Los Angeles, CA; Oakland, CA; Portland, OR; Sacramento, CA; San Francisco, CA -- Must report to local police department within 48 hours of discovering theft or loss

Philadelphia, PA; Seattle, WA -- Must report to local police department within 24 hours of discovering theft or loss

Detroit, MI -- Must report theft of handgun immediately upon discovery

Baltimore, MD -- Police required to enter firearm into NCIC database after receiving report of theft or loss
Registration System NO.   WA law does not require registration of firearms and firearm owners.

*HI, IL, MA, NJ – require registration for all purchasers/owners

*CA, CT, IA, MD, MI, NY, NC, RI – license for all handgun owners/purchasers

*HI, DC – require registration of all firearms.  DC’s registration was challenged and parts of its statute over-turned subsequent to this research (mid-September, 2015). 

Detroit, MI -- Handgun registration required

New York, NY -- Registration of rifles and shotguns

New York, NY -- Handgun registration by state law

Seattle, WA -- Felony firearm offender must register as one

Waiting period

RCW 9.41.092
MIXED.  Allows 10 business days to complete a background check; not a mandatory waiting period.   *10 states plus DC have wait periods; including 4 states with wait period for Federally-licensed and private sales

Chicago, IL -- Dealers must wait until 24 hours after firearm application was made before delivering firearm to purchaser; this wait time is extended to 72 hours for handguns

San Francisco, CA; Washington, D.C. -- No delivery of pistol or revolver until 10 days after application for purchase made

San Jose, CA -- No pistol or revolver delivered within 15 days of application for purchase

Multiple purchases NO. No limit on number of purchases. *CA, MD, NJ and DC restrict # of purchases in a specified period

Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA -- No person can purchase more than one handgun within 30 days

New York, NY -- No purchases of multiple firearms in same transaction. No multiple firearm purchases within 90 days

Gun Violence Tax NO. Seattle, WA -- $25 per gun and 2 to 5 cents on ammunition imposed to generate funding for programs aimed to research and prevent gun violence

1RCW 9.41.042 allows the following exceptions for youth possession.  A youth under 18 may possess if s/he is:

  • In attendance at a hunter’s safety course or firearms safety course
  • Engaging in practice in use of a firearm or target shooting at an established range[1] or any other area where discharge of firearm not prohibited
  • Engaged in organized competition or performance
  • Hunting or trapping with a valid license issued to the person
  • In an area where discharge of a firearm is permitted and is not trespassing, and the person is either: (a) at least 14, has been issued a hunter safety certificate, and is using a lawful firearm other than a pistol; or (b) us under the supervision of a parent, guardian, or other adult approved by the parent or guardian
  • Traveling to/from one of the above activities and the firearm is unloaded
  • On property of parent, relative or legal guardian, and with permission to possess a firearm
  • At his or her residence and, with permission of parent or legal guardian, possesses a firearm for purpose of exercising right of lawful use of force (self-defense) per RCW 9A.16.020(3).
  • Is a member of the armed force, when on duty.

* City ordinances methods section: Selected large cities in US (Top 20 cities by population size, and also all cities in National Association of City and County Health Officials “Big City” group). A list of city municipal code websites was then compiled. A search for laws was completed from the city municipal code websites using the following syntax and search term: “firearms” and that were in force as of Sept. 30, 2015. Primary coding using broad categories listed in the above chart occurred during Sept. – Dec. 2015. Secondary and tertiary coding by additional coders occurred in Jan. – Feb. 2016. Divergent coding was compared and laws were reviewed again with all coders present to reach 100% inter-rater reliability. Additional research was conducted using municipal code websites and telephone calls to city clerks’ offices where municipal code websites were unclear to ensure that any amendments to codified language were captured (as of Sept. 30, 2015). Washington, DC, is included under “States” column.