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.
In 2023, Washington strengthened its laws regarding firearms purchases. As of January 1, 2024, no dealer may deliver a firearm to a prospective purchaser until:4
- The purchaser provides proof of completion of a recognized firearm safety training program within the last five years that complies with the requirements of state law, or proof that the purchaser is exempt from the training requirement;
- The safety training must include
- Basic firearms safety rules
- Firearms and children, including secure gun storage and talking to children about gun safety
- Firearms and suicide prevention
- Secure gun storage to prevent unauthorized access and use
- Safe handling of firearms
- State and federal firearms laws, including prohibited firearms transfers
- State laws pertaining to the use of deadly force for self-defense
- Techniques for avoiding a criminal attack and how to manage a violent confrontation, including conflict resolution.5
- Stories provided by individuals with lived experience in the topics listed in subsection (1)(a) through (g) of this section or an understanding of the legal and social impacts of discharging a firearm.
- The safety training must include
- The dealer is notified by the Washington state patrol firearms background check program that the purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm that the purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm under state and federal law;
- The results of all required background checks are known and the purchaser or transferee (a) is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal or state law and (b) does not have a voluntary waiver of firearm rights currently in effect; and
- Ten business days have elapsed from the date the licensed dealer requested the background check.
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.6 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.7
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.8 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.9
Licensed dealers must also keep a record of every handgun sold in a book kept for that purpose.10 Dealers are also required to keep detailed forms in triplicate of each handgun sold.11 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.12
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.
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- 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.
- Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) § 9.41____ as added by Section 2, 2023 HB 1143.
- 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).