“The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”


Washington is a shall-issue state. Any private sale of firearms is required to be through a licensed firearms dealer and a background check. Firearms registration is required. Open carry is legal without a permit at 21. Concealed carry is legal with a CPL. WA recognizes permits from other states that meet specific requirements. Although WA doesn’t have a specific castle law, the State Supreme Court has ruled that there is no duty to retreat.

Reciprocal Carry

By statute, Washington will recognize another state’s license to carry if that state recognizes Washington’s license:

“A person licensed to carry a pistol in a state the laws of which recognize and give effect in that state to a concealed pistol license issued under the laws of the state of Washington is authorized to carry a concealed pistol in this state if: (i) The licensing state does not issue concealed pistol licenses to persons under twenty-one years of age; and (ii) The licensing state requires mandatory fingerprint-based background checks of criminal and mental health history for all persons who apply for a concealed pistol license.”

Since there is no national carry license, as with the other states, some states are reciprocal with Washington and some are not. Anyone contemplating reciprocal carry should check with the official list maintained by the Washington AG at the point in time the reciprocal carry is to occur.

Duty To Notify Police Officer

You must have your permit/license with You at all times that You are carrying a concealed pistol. You must present Your license/permit upon request from a LEO.

Carrying Firearms In Vehicles

Washington generally prohibits carrying firearms in vehicles without a permit. It is illegal to carry a loaded long gun in a vehicle. A permit is required to carry a handgun, and even then a handgun may only be carried if: the pistol is on the licensee’s person, (ii) the licensee is within the vehicle at all times that the pistol is there, or (iii) the licensee is away from the vehicle and the pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle.

NFA Items

MGs and SBSs — unless purchased before July 1, 1994 —are illegal for non-law-enforcement possession. Suppressors, DDs and any other weapons are lawful to possess and use if registered with the ATF(E). SBRs are lawful to possess and use if registered with the ATF(E).

Self-Defense Laws

Washington has a Castle Doctrine but no SYG law. There is no duty to retreat when in Your dwelling. You may use force, including deadly force, in defense of yourself or others if You reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent death, SBI, or the commission of a forcible felony.

Carry In Restaurants That Serve Alcohol

Only if you possess a license/permit to carry. You are only allowed to carry in parts of the restaurant where those under 21 years of age are allowed. You are prohibited from carrying in a bar or the bar section of a restaurant. It is illegal to carry while consuming alcohol or while intoxicated.

Do “No Gun Signs” Have The Force Of Law?

“No Firearms” signs in Washington do not have the force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in state law as being off limits to those with a permit/license to carry. However, as a possessor with a real property interest, a retailer, has the right to limit, and qualify the right to enter the property, subject to not carrying a handgun. It would be improper to enter, and the licensee would be subject to ejection for possession of a handgun thereat. Failure to leave once requested would subject the licensee to criminal charges.

Open Carry

Open carry is legal, but you must have a valid permit/license to carry a loaded handgun in any vehicle in Washington. Open carry of a loaded long gun in a vehicle is illegal, regardless of CPL possession. The minimum age for open carry is 21.

Seattle Gun Tax

As of 1/1/16, the city of Seattle imposes a $25 tax on the sale of firearms, and a 5 cent per round tax on the sale of ammunition. This tax is currently being challenged in court as violating the state’s preemption law, but has been allowed to take effect in the interim.

Universal Background Checks

Background checks are mandatory for all firearm sales, and transfers between private parties must go through a licensed dealer, except for transfers between family members.

DISCLAIMER: The Gun Laws by State Guide (GLBSG) was created to provide its readers with a general educational resource tool to explore the pertinent gun laws in Your jurisdiction.

However, the GLBSG was not researched and/or written by attorneys as a specific legal guide to rely upon. Instead, it is a starting point for your own research. In addition, all laws are always subject to reasonable, but different, legal interpretation as to meaning and application.

As such, the GLBSG is not intended to supplant, nor limit, Your need for independent verification of any and all material contained herein and consultation with competent counsel of choice regarding any specific issues.

This type of specific legal analysis is necessarily beyond the general educational objective of the GLBSG and for which a bar-admitted attorney in the particular state(s) is needed and required. The content of this GLBSG is a general restatement of the law.

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