Washington concealed carry may be poised for change
When it comes to Washington concealed carry guidelines and procedures, recreational marijuana is just one of many legal concerns.
In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, Washington state’s attorney general released a white paper seeking better approaches to firearms access, with mental health being a primary concern.
Recently, following increased shootings, Bob Ferguson, the 2016 Washington attorney general, was tasked to revisit and update that white paper to advise legislative action on current statutes pertaining to firearms access in Washington, taking into account all related legislation, which includes topics like controlled substances.
Understanding how to carry concealed in Washington, as with any other state, means understanding how the practice itself is currently being critically analyzed and potentially acted upon.
How to Get a Washington Concealed Carry Permit
In order to legally have a CCW on hand, apply for a Washington concealed carry permit.
In order to qualify for the permit, be eligible to possess a firearm under RCW 9.41.040, RCW 9.41.045 and federal law. These get down to typical firearms ownership requirements:
- Do not have any felony convictions or have a warrant for arrest under a felony or misdemeanor conviction.
- Be 21-years-old (with an exception for those 18 to 20 under RCW 9.41.240)
- Do not have a history of crimes related to domestic violence.
- Do not have disqualifying, involuntary mental health commitments.
- Do not have a conviction related to insanity.
- Pass a background check through the national instant criminal background check system, the Washington state patrol electronic database, the department of social and health service electronic database and other relevant databases.
- Do not have a concealed pistol license in a revoked status.
The application requires two sets of fingerprints. The fee is $36 for the initial, $32 for the renewal and $42 for renewing an expired license.
The applicant must submit to their respective municipality or county. Nonresident applicants may apply anywhere within the state.
Those within the armed forces who are unable to renew their license due to deployment or assignment may do so within 90 days of when they return and they are not required to pay the expired license renewal fee, just the standard renewal fee.
In-state applicants will receive their license, if all their information checks out, within 30 days of it being filed, nonresidents (who, like in-state applicants, have to apply in person) will have to wait up to 60 days for the concealed carry permit application to be approved or denied.
Established in 2009, RCW 9.41.171 allows for those who are not U.S. citizens, but are temporarily residing in Washington, to obtain a two-year alien firearm license.
A Washington concealed carry license is not necessary if carrying at home or at a fixed place of business. A loaded pistol may not be carried in a motor vehicle without a license and it must be on the body, the carrier must be in the vehicle or the pistol must be otherwise secured and not visible to the public when the carrier is away from the vehicle, according to RCW 9.41.050.
Additionally, there are a number of exceptions as to who is restricted to carrying firearms with a license. These are housed under RCW 9.41.060 and include, but are certainly not limited only to, exceptions for those simply carrying pistols unloaded and in a closed opaque case and for those engaging in lawful outdoor activities or on their way to or from those activities.
The application and permit, however, will only grant the ability to carry in certain locations.
Where Not to Carry Concealed in Washington
Although the permit grants the right to carry concealed in Washington, it’s important to note that there are certain locations where firearms are prohibited.
According to RCW 9.41.300, do not carry in these Washington locations:
- Restricted access areas of jail or law enforcement facilities
- Any areas that are used for court proceedings like courtrooms, jury rooms, offices, etc.
- Restricted access areas of public mental health facilities used for inpatient hospital care and the care of the mentally ill, excluding facilities used solely for evaluation and treatment
- An establishment’s areas that are designated for those only 21 or older, as per the State Liquor and Cannabis Board
- Restricted areas within commercial airports -- such as passenger screening checkpoints, but not areas that are open to unscreened members of the public
- Public or private elementary and secondary school premises
RCW 9.41.300 affords cities, towns, counties and municipalities the right to enact laws and ordinances restricting discharging firearms where the health of humans, domestic animals or property may be jeopardized. These areas may also restrict firearms in any stadium or convention center operated by the city, town or county, with an exception for those with a concealed pistol license.
However, House Bill 1015 was prefiled December 5 to be presented for the 2017 legislative session. If passed, this would restrict any stadium, arena or convention center owner from prohibiting concealed weapons on those premises.
Those visiting or passing through Washington may want to brush up on reciprocity agreements as well.
Washington Concealed Carry Reciprocity
Before considering the statute governing reciprocity for the state and which states share reciprocity, it’s important to consider whether or not the weapon will ever need to leave the motor vehicle.
Those over the age of 18 who are visiting and passing through, according to RCW 9.41.050(3)(a), may transport a handgun in a vehicle without a license if it’s unloaded at all times, secured and closed in an opaque case and locked within the vehicle and concealed from view when unattended.
Those who move to Washington must apply for the Washington concealed pistol license once they establish residency.
Washington’s reciprocity standards are established by RCW 9.41.073. Those visiting Washington and looking to legally carry must come from a state which licenses only those over 21 years old and requires fingerprint-based background checks for criminal and mental health history.
Washington shares reciprocity with only ten states. Though, that number can and most likely will change as various laws and procedures change. This informational overview, which is not all-inclusive, is not formal legal advice.
Make sure to contact any state being traveled to in order to ensure reciprocity agreements and stay up to date with a CCW reciprocity map.
Washington Concealed Carry May Be Affected By Proposed Legislative Action
Washington concealed carry has been attached to strict, rapid, legal scrutiny in multiple spectrums related to firearms access in Washington state for more than a decade, at the very least.
Understanding how to own a CCW in Washington means passing a background check system under critical observation and complying with an increasing number of laws meant to stymie and lower the number of firearms-related deaths.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued Executive Order 16-02 in January 2016, requesting the current attorney general, Bob Ferguson, to review all current statutes and update an eleven-year-old white paper released by 2007 Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna.
Ferguson’s October 2016 white paper on access to firearms in Washington identified multiple areas needing improvement, including a fragmented background check system ineffectively relying on 260 separate local law enforcement agencies to comb through multiple databases, when instead he argued a centralized system would weed out inefficiencies.
Mental health records, detention and evaluation were additional form factors of concern in Washington, in which suicide was the cause of approximately 80 percent of that average of 665 firearms-related deaths.
Ferguson also recommends to incentivize gun safety equipment like lockboxes and trigger guards meant to ward against undue harm to children in households with loaded and unlocked firearms. The report cites 24,000 youth determined to be living in such households.
A study in the American Academy of Pediatrics shows 1.69 million children across the U.S. are also in those living conditions. Ferguson recommended criminalizing failure to secure firearms in the home, something 28 states currently have in effect.
The contrasting dichotomy between state and federal recognition of marijuana use as a concealed carrier, and firearms owner in general, was another serious consideration. For reference, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, and federal law bars firearms ownership to those that unlawfully use marijuana, among other controlled substances.
Washington, of course, passed I-502 and later began recreational marijuana sales in July 2014. However, Washington has no existing prohibition against firearms possession connected to use or possession of controlled substances unless the use results in a charge or felony conviction.
Federal law on the matter is resolute and backed by a 2011 open letter from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stating, no matter what, those who use marijuana should answer “yes” to ATF Form 4473 (the firearms transaction record form) question 11.e, which asks if they’re an unlawful user of marijuana.
This would bar a firearms purchase. This also extends to those who are prescribed medical marijuana. And this is currently unsettled in Washington law.
The divide between state and federal power on the matter is something Ferguson recommends should be appealed to Congress.
There were 13 total legal recommendations in the Washington attorney general’s 2016 white paper. Many of these recommendations targeted what his office deemed a better approach to background checks and more appropriate means of assessing risk related to firearms owners.
There was one recommendation with a viewpoint that isn’t often approached within dialogue on mental health as it relates to firearms ownership: clarifying and improving the restoration of firearms rights to those with a mental health illness that disqualifies their ability to legally possess a handgun.
Ferguson argued there are certain circumstances when it is appropriate to restore the right to possess firearms to an individual who was previously deemed mentally unfit. Firearms rights restoration has established parameters under RCW 9.41.047.
In 2007, McKenna’s white paper lead to seven specific legislative changes or discussions and ten administrative changes, all of which can be reviewed in full here.
It’s tough to say where Ferguson’s analysis of current statutes will lead. Only time will tell.
Understanding the political and legal spectrum on firearms access within Washington is only the beginning. One must seek the legal right to concealed carry, as unlawful possession of a firearm in Washington is a Class B or C felony, depending on the respective restrictions.
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About The Author
Jake Smith (@notjakesmith) is a copywriter and photographer based in the pacific northwest. He graduated from the University of Idaho with degrees in public relations and apparel.