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Can You Own a Gun as a Washington Felon?

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Navigating life after a felony conviction brings numerous challenges, especially when it comes to your rights and freedoms. One significant area affected is your right to own a firearm. Although the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution affirms that Americans have the right to bear arms, states also retain the right to restrict these privileges for those who have been convicted of certain crimes.

In Washington state, the right to own a gun is heavily restricted after a felony conviction. However, you may be eligible to restore your gun rights if your case and your activities post-conviction meet certain criteria.

Convicted Felons May Lose Their Right to Own a Gun

In Washington State, the law is clear: people convicted of a felony, as well as those found guilty of certain domestic violence offenses, are barred from owning or possessing firearms. This prohibition is not temporary; it lasts a lifetime unless the defendant successfully petitions a court to have these rights restored. This restriction extends to all forms of firearm possession, including activities such as target shooting or temporary custody of a gun. 

The implications of this loss can affect every person convicted of a felony, even those who have no interest in firearms. If you are driving with a friend who carries a gun and you get pulled over by the police, you could face potential penalties—even if you do not own the firearm in question. You will need to exercise great caution and steer clear of situations where guns might be present, whether in vehicles or private residents.

What Happens If You Unlawfully Possess a Firearm as a Felon?

Washington imposes strict penalties for the unlawful possession of a firearm as a felon. This offense can lead to a Class B felony charge, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.

RCW 9.41.040. Unlawful possession of firearms—Penalties.

(2)(a) A person, whether an adult or juvenile, is guilty of the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree, if the person does not qualify under subsection (1) of this section for the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree and the person owns, accesses, has in the person’s custody, control, or possession, or receives any firearm:

(i) After having previously been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity in this state or elsewhere of:

(A) Any felony not specifically listed as prohibiting firearm possession under subsection (1) of this section;

(B) Any of the following crimes when committed by one family or household member against another or by one intimate partner against another, as those terms are defined by the statutes in effect at the time of the commission of the crime, committed on or after July 1, 1993: Assault in the fourth degree, coercion, stalking, reckless endangerment, criminal trespass in the first degree, or violation of the provisions of a protection order or no-contact order restraining the person or excluding the person from a residence (RCW 10.99.040 or any of the former RCW 26.50.060, 26.50.070, and 26.50.130)

How to Restore Your Gun Rights in Washington State

After a felony conviction in Washington, you may be eligible to restore your gun rights. However, you will need to meet stringent criteria to successfully petition the court for this restoration. A Washington criminal defense lawyer can assess your eligibility and help prepare your case for the courtroom.

You Do Not Have Pending Criminal Charges

First, you must ensure that you do not have any criminal charges pending against you. This includes charges within Washington, in other states, at the federal level, or in tribal courts. These must be criminal charges only; civil matters and traffic infractions do not impact your eligibility.

You Have Not Been Convicted of a Crime in the Last Five Years

Next, you will need to demonstrate that you have spent at least five consecutive years living in the community since your release from prison. During these five years, you must not have been convicted of any crime, including misdemeanors and felony offenses. For example, say that you were released from prison in 2018; if you lived in the community without any criminal convictions and petitioned to restore your gun rights in 2023, you will have satisfied this five-year requirement.

You Have Not Been Convicted of a Class A Felony

You must ensure that you do not have a Class A felony conviction on your record. These crimes represent the most severe offenses, such as aggravated murder and arson in the first degree. Class A felonies are ineligible for firearm rights restoration; this also extends to conspiracy or solicitation to commit a Class A felony. Moreover, if you were convicted of a Class A felony as a juvenile and the records were sealed, you are not eligible to have your gun rights restored. 

You Do Not Have a Sex Crime on Your Record

Under Washington law, people with sex offense convictions on their records are permanently barred from firearm possession. This encompasses a range of offenses, including rape, child molestation, incest, and sexual misconduct. A sex offense may also include another crime, such as burglary, that was found to have a sexual motivation. If you have a sex crime on your record, you are ineligible to restore your gun rights.

A Certain Amount of Time Has Passed Since Your Conviction

Restoring firearm rights also depends on the wash-out period associated with prior felony convictions. This means that a certain amount of time must have passed between your conviction and the date that you petition the court. This period will depend on the type of felony that you were charged with:

  • For Class C felonies, the wash-out period is 5 years.
  • For Class B felonies, the wash-out period is 10 years.
  • Class A felonies do not have a wash-out period. If you were convicted of this type of offense, you are ineligible for restoration.

Protect Your Rights with a Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side

If you want to restore your gun rights as a convicted felon, you need a partner on your side with a thorough understanding of the law. A criminal defense attorney in Tacoma can build a strong case in your favor, providing invaluable guidance and support every step of the way. To learn more about this process, take the first step and schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney today.

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