See our Gun Dealers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.
No firearms dealer may transfer, expose for transfer, or have in his or her possession with intent to transfer, any firearm or ammunition without being licensed by the State of Washington.1 Licenses are granted by the appropriate local or state licensing authority, and no person may qualify for a license without first receiving a federal firearms license and undergoing fingerprinting and a background check.2 In addition, if a person is ineligible to possess a firearm or obtain a concealed pistol license, he or she cannot qualify for a dealer’s license.3 (See the Washington Prohibited Purchasers Generally and Washington Concealed Weapons Permitting sections for further information on those topics.) For laws requiring firearm dealers to conduct background checks on prospective purchasers, see the section entitled Background Checks in Washington.
No dealer may deliver a handgun to a prospective purchaser until:
- The purchaser produces a valid concealed pistol license, and the dealer has recorded the purchaser’s name, license number, and issuing agency;
- The dealer is notified in writing by the chief of police or sheriff of the jurisdiction in which the purchaser resides that the purchaser is eligible to possess a handgun, and that the application is approved by the chief of police or sheriff; or
- 10 business days have elapsed since the application for purchase was received by local law enforcement.4
A voter initiative passed in 2018 now also generally prohibits dealers from delivering a ‘semiautomatic assault rifle’ to a prospective purchaser until:
- The purchaser provides proof that he or she has completed a recognized firearm safety training program within the last five years and one of the following occurs:
- The dealer is notified in writing by the chief of police or sheriff of the jurisdiction in which the purchaser resides or the state that the purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm, and that the application is approved;
- 10 days have passed since the purchase or background check was initiated.5
Where local law enforcement discovers open criminal charges, pending criminal or commitment proceedings, or an arrest or other outstanding warrant for an offense making a person ineligible to possess a firearm, sale and delivery of a handgun (or ‘semiautomatic assault rifle’ effective July 1, 2019) may be delayed for up to 30 days in order to confirm existing records in Washington or elsewhere.6
No handgun may be sold under any circumstances unless the purchaser is personally known to the dealer or presents clear evidence of his or her identity.7 In addition, no person may deliver a firearm to anyone whom he or she has reasonable cause to believe is ineligible to possess a firearm.8
A dealer must require that every employee who may sell a firearm in the course of his or her employment undergo fingerprinting and a background check.9 An employee also must be eligible to possess a firearm, and must not have been convicted of a crime that would make him or her ineligible for a concealed pistol license before being permitted to sell a firearm. All employees must comply with state requirements concerning purchase applications and restrictions on the delivery of handguns that are applicable to dealers.10
Licensed dealers must also keep a record of every handgun sold in a book kept for that purpose.11 Dealers are also required to keep detailed forms in triplicate of each handgun sold.12 See the Washington Retention of Sales / Background Check Records for more detail.
A dealer may conduct business only in the building designated in his or her license, although the dealer may temporarily conduct business at a gun show sponsored by a national, state or local organization or an affiliate thereof, devoted to the collection, competitive use, or other sporting use of firearms in the community.13
For laws applicable to both licensed and private firearm sellers, including special provisions for pawnbrokers and second-hand dealers, please see the Washington Private Sales section.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(1)-(3).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(4), (5)(a).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(5)(a).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.090(1).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.090(2).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.090(4). This statute moves to subsection (5) beginning July 1, 2019. After 30 days, the sale or delivery may proceed unless an extension is approved by a local district court or municipal court after a showing of good cause. Id.
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(8)(a)(ii).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.080. A violation of this prohibition is a class C felony, and any firearms dealer violating this prohibition is subject to mandatory permanent revocation of and permanent ineligibility for his or her dealer’s license. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 9.41.080, 9.41.110(8)(b).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(5)(b).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(9)(a).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(9)(a), (b).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(6).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(8)(c).
- Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9.41.110(4).