Crimes That Can Cause Someone to Lose Their Gun Rights in Washington

Under the Washington State Constitution and Second Amendment, every individual has the constitutional right to possess a firearm—but this right is not absolute.


State and federal laws prohibit firearms for those convicted of a felony. According to RCW 9.41.010, a person cannot possess, own, or use a firearm in Washington if charged with a serious offense, such as class A felonies, class B drug felonies, and sex offenses.

Read on to understand better what can disqualify someone from owning a gun.


9 Things That Could Cost Someone Their Firearm Rights

1. Drug Offense or Drug Addiction

The use of both legal and illicit drugs for recreation is widespread in the state of Washington. In addition, the misuse of prescription medicines, psychoactive drugs, and other narcotics is an issue in conjunction with the ongoing opioid crisis.

People with a history of drug abuse or criminal convictions related to drugs cannot possess a gun due to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which forbids anyone addicted to drugs or caught using drugs illegally from owning a firearm.

Additionally, almost all drug convictions, including dealing, are classified as felonies under Washington state law, making it illegal for drug-addicted people to own guns. So if someone who uses illicit drugs wishes to keep their gun or get their gun rights back, they will need to stick to the straight and narrow and stay clean of illegal drug use indefinitely.


2. Domestic Violence

In Washington, domestic violence is a severe offense that can result in the loss of gun rights for the offender. Domestic violence is violence committed by one family member or intimate partner against another. Domestic violence includes

  • Harassment
  • Court Order Violation
  • Coercion
  • Reckless Endangerment
  • Assault in the fourth degree
  • Stalking
  • Trespassing

If someone faces a conviction for domestic violence, they will likely lose their right to possess or purchase firearms.


3. Any Felony Criminal Conviction

Any person convicted of a felony is not allowed to possess a firearm. Authorities will immediately revoke the right to own a weapon upon committing any felony (Class A, B, or C). Unfortunately, a felony conviction almost always results in imprisonment and the loss of gun rights. 

Be aware of what constitutes a felony conviction, as there are many different types of felonies. Some examples of felonies include someone forging a prescription, using food stamps without permission, breaking into a building without permission, and hacking someone's computer, along with the more well-known and violent crimes.


4. Mental Health Issues

A person with a mental illness or a mental disability cannot qualify to own a firearm if they have been hospitalized or are mentally unfit to use a gun safely and responsibly. The federal government does not recognize the restoration of weapon rights after a mental health condition in the case of:

  • Mental incapacitation or severe mental disability
  • Involuntary commitment to a mental healthcare facility
  • Found not guilty of a crime because of insanity.

As a result, someone who is mentally ill or disabled cannot possess the judgment to handle and control a firearm responsibly. It is unlikely that the federal government will restore any firearm rights in the case of a mental health issue.


5. A Serious Criminal Offense

According to RCW 9.41.010, in Washington state, those who commit one offense on a long list of crimes classified as "serious offenses" are prohibited from owning a gun. That list includes:

  • Any violent crime
  • Any other felony with a deadly weapon
  • Leading an organized crime enterprise
  • A drive-by shooting
  • Vehicular assault while intoxicated or while driving recklessly
  • Vehicular homicide while intoxicated or while driving recklessly
  • Any Class B felony offense with a finding of "sexual motivation."
  • Child molestation in the second degree
  • Incest against a child under the age of fourteen
  • Indecent liberties (a type of sex offense)
  • Promoting prostitution in the first degree
  • Rape in the third degree
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Felony drug offenses

If someone is found guilty of a serious crime, they may lose their rights even before the trial starts. Following the initial charge, an offender might immediately lose the right to possess firearms while out on bail pending the trial, appeal, or sentencing.


6. Nonstandard Criminal Convictions

Nonstandard convictions may result in the offender having their name added to a federal list of those barred from carrying firearms. Some first-time offenders are often given an alternative to jail, and the charges against them may be dismissed after some time (typically one to two years).

However, even after a Washington State court imposes an alternative sentence, the offender can still be convicted. Additionally, if the criminal conviction is later overturned (also known as "expunged"), the offender will still need to know how to reinstate their gun rights.

After expunging a criminal record, a person may confidently say they never faced a conviction for that offense. However, gun rights fall under a different set of laws.


7. Gun Offenses

If convicted of concealing or transporting a handgun during a crime, the offender will be subject to stiffer sentences.

In Washington, it is against the law to carry a concealed handgun without a license or a permit from a state that Washington does not recognize, a practice that is called concealed carry reciprocity or recognition. To know which states Washington has concealed carry reciprocity with (or has but with restrictions) take a look at this handy map created by the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.


8. Citizenship Status 

Gun ownership is legal for all legal immigrants who have received an alien weapons license, including non-citizens who are in the country permanently. However, immigrants without the necessary paperwork typically aren't allowed to own a handgun.

If someone is a citizen of the United States but has renounced their citizenship, they are no longer legally permitted to possess firearms in the country. Therefore, they must reinstate their citizenship before legally purchasing a firearm.


9. Dishonorable Discharge From the Military

Although this is highly unusual, it's essential to remember that military service members are subject to stricter standards of behavior. Unfortunately, a felony conviction and a dishonorable discharge go hand in hand. In Washington State, a dishonorable discharge is sufficient to bar a person from owning a handgun. Currently, no practical means of regaining access to firearms following a dishonorable discharge exists.


Restore Your Gun Rights in Washington

If you have been convicted of a felony, you may be able to get your gun rights back by contacting Washington Record Expungement. We can help you navigate the process of getting your gun rights reinstated. Contact us today for a free consultation.