See our Concealed Carry policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Washington is a “shall-issue” state, meaning that local law enforcement must issue a concealed weapons license if the applicant meets certain qualifications. Local law enforcement shall issue a “concealed pistol license” to any applicant, unless he or she:1
- Is ineligible to possess a firearm under state or federal law (see the Washington Prohibited Purchasers Generally section);
- Is under 21 years of age;
- Is subject to a court order or injunction regarding firearms pursuant to specific provisions of the Revised Code of Washington;2
- Is free on bond or personal recognizance pending trial, appeal, or sentencing for a felony;
- Has an outstanding warrant for his or her arrest for a felony or misdemeanor;
- Has been ordered to forfeit a firearm by a Washington court within the last year; or
- Has had a concealed pistol license revoked.
A person may apply for a concealed pistol license to the municipality or county in which the applicant resides if the applicant resides in a municipality, or to the county in which the applicant resides if the applicant resides in an unincorporated area.3 A nonresident may apply anywhere in the state.4
The issuing authority shall conduct a check of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the Washington state patrol electronic database, the state Department of Social and Health Services electronic database, and with other agencies or resources as appropriate, to determine whether the applicant is ineligible to possess a firearm, and thus ineligible for a concealed pistol license.5
The chief of police of the municipality or the sheriff of the county where an applicant resides may issue a temporary emergency license for good cause, pending review of an applicant’s background for a concealed pistol license.6 A temporary emergency license, however, does not exempt the holder from any records check requirements, and temporary emergency licenses are easily distinguishable from regular licenses.7
Washington prohibits the carrying of a concealed handgun without a license except in a person’s abode or fixed place of business.8 Notwithstanding this general prohibition, state law provides exceptions for:
- Law enforcement officers of Washington or “another state;”
- Military personnel when on duty;
- Employees or officers of the United States authorized to carry a concealed handgun;
- Anyone in the business of manufacturing, repairing or dealing in firearms, or his or her agent, if possessing, using, or carrying a handgun in the usual or ordinary course of business;
- Regularly enrolled members of any organization duly authorized to purchase or receive handguns from the U.S. or the State of Washington;
- Regularly enrolled members of target shooting clubs when those members are going to, or coming from, target practice;
- Regularly enrolled members of clubs organized for the purpose of antique or modern firearm collecting when those members are going to, or coming from, gun shows and exhibits;
- Any person legitimately engaged in a lawful outdoor recreational activity, such as hunting, fishing, or camping;
- Any person carrying an unloaded handgun in a closed opaque case or “secure wrapper;” or
- Retired or disabled law enforcement officers, provided that the disability was not because of mental or stress-related disabilities.9
See the Other Location Restrictions in Washington section for places restricting gun possession by concealed pistol license holders.
Firearm Safety Training
Washington does not require an applicant for a concealed pistol license to undergo firearm safety training or otherwise demonstrate knowledge of firearms safety.
Duration & Renewal
Disclosure or Use of Information
A copy of each license and application is delivered to the Washington Department of Licensing, which must make this information available to law enforcement and state and local corrections agencies, in an on-line format.12
The Department of Licensing generally may keep records of applications for concealed pistol licenses.13
A person licensed to carry a handgun in a state having laws that recognize Washington concealed pistol licenses is authorized to carry a concealed handgun in Washington if: 1) the licensing state does not issue concealed pistol licenses to persons under twenty-one years of age; and 2) the licensing state requires mandatory fingerprint-based background checks of criminal and mental health history for all persons applying for a concealed pistol license.14 These provisions apply only to license holders who are not Washington residents.15
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(1).
- See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(1)(d).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(13).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(2).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(10).
- Id. Additional application and background check requirements, as well as permit suspension, revocation, or other disqualification information, are detailed under Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 9.41.070 and 9.41.075.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.050.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.060.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(1).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(9).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.070(4).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.129. Such records shall not be disclosed except as provided in Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.56.240(4), which provides that concealed pistol license applications are exempt from the public disclosure requirements under Washington law. Copies of concealed pistol license applications or information on the applications may be released to law enforcement or corrections agencies. Id.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.073.