Domestic Violence and Other Protective Orders
Under Washington law, courts are required to order respondents to certain types of protective orders issued after a noticed hearing (including orders against domestic violence, stalking, harassment, and others) to immediately relinquish their firearms and concealed pistol licenses. For more information about these laws and procedures, see the Domestic Violence & Firearms in Washington.
For information about Washington’s extreme risk law, see Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Washington.
Other Court Ordered-Relinquishment Processes
Washington also enables courts to order relinquishment of firearms from other individuals that are unlawfully used or possessed in various ways. State superior courts and courts of limited jurisdiction may order forfeiture of a firearm proven to be:
- Found concealed on a person not authorized to carry a concealed pistol;
- Commercially sold to any person without an application as required by state law;
- In the possession of a person prohibited from possessing the firearm under state law;
- In 2018, voters approved a measure that requires the department of licensing to verify annually that people who have acquired pistols or ‘semiautomatic assault rifles’ remain eligible to possess them, and to take steps to ensure anyone found ineligible does not remain in possession of firearms.1
- In the possession or under the control of a person at the time he or she committed or was arrested for committing a felony or committing a nonfelony crime in which a firearm was used or displayed;
- In the possession of a person who is in any place in which a concealed pistol license is required, and who is under the influence of any drug or intoxicating liquor;
- In the possession of a person free on bail or personal recognizance pending trial, appeal, or sentencing for a felony or for a nonfelony crime in which a firearm was used or displayed;
- In the possession of a person found to have been mentally incompetent while possessing the gun when apprehended or who is thereafter committed under state law;
- Used or displayed by a person in the violation of a proper written order of a court of general jurisdiction; or
- Used in the commission of a felony or of a nonfelony crime in which a firearm was used or displayed.2
Law enforcement officers of the state or of any county or municipality may confiscate a firearm found to be in the possession of a person under any of the circumstances specified above.3
Individuals who have been detained for a 72-hour evaluation and treatment on the grounds that the person presents a likelihood of serious harm are prohibited from possessing guns for six months after the date of detention.4 The detained individual must immediately surrender, for the six-month period, any concealed pistol license and any firearms that he or she possesses or controls to the sheriff of the county or the chief of police of the municipality in which the person is domiciled.5
Any confiscated firearm may be surrendered only: 1) to the prosecuting attorney for use in subsequent legal proceedings; 2) for disposition according to an order of a court having jurisdiction; or 3) to the owner if the proceedings are dismissed or the court otherwise directs.
In 2015, Washington enacted a law requiring that a law enforcement agency must, before returning a confiscated firearm:
(a) Confirm that the individual to whom the firearm will be returned is the individual from whom the firearm was obtained or an authorized representative of that person;
(b) Confirm that the individual to whom the firearm will be returned is eligible to possess a firearm;
(c) Ensure that the firearm is not otherwise required to be held in custody or otherwise prohibited from being released; and
(d) Ensure that twenty-four hours have elapsed from the time the firearm was obtained by law enforcement.6
This law also provides that a family or household member may request to be notified when a law enforcement agency returns a privately owned firearm to the individual from whom it was obtained or to an authorized representative of that person.7 This notification may be made via telephone, email, text message, or another method that allows notification to be provided without unnecessary delay.8 If a family or household member has requested to be notified, a law enforcement agency must:
(a) Provide notice to the family or household member within one business day of verifying that the individual from whom the firearm was obtained is eligible to possess and receive the firearm; and
(b) Hold the firearm in custody for seventy-two hours from the time notification has been provided.9
Once these requirements have been met, the law enforcement agency must release the firearm to the individual from whom it was obtained or an authorized representative of that person upon request without unnecessary delay.10
For laws governing the procedure for surrender of firearms by a person subject to a protective order, see the section entitled Domestic Violence and Firearms in Washington. See also the Mental Health Reporting in Washington section for additional court notices restricting possession of firearms in certain contexts.
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- Washington Proposition 1639, effective July 1, 2019.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.098(1).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.098(4).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 71.05.182.
- Id. at 2(b).
- 2015 Wa. SB 5381, Sect. 2(1).
- 2015 Wa. SB 5381, Sect. 1.
- 2015 Wa. SB 5381, Sect. 2(3).
- 2015 Wa. SB 5381, Sect. 2(2).