Unlawful possession of a firearm is a felony in Washington State. You have probably lost your right to possess firearms if you have been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence crime. RCW 9.41.040 and 9.41.047 give people who have lost their right to possess firearms the ability to petition the Court and restore their rights in Washington State. Even if you have had a conviction vacated or sealed, you still have to formally petition the court to restore your right to possess firearms.
According to the law, any person who has been convicted of a crime or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any serious offense defined in RCW 9.41.010 has forfeited their right to possess a firearm. Any person found possessing, controlling or owning a firearm that has forfeited this right is subject to being charged with a class B felony. Likewise, a person may be charged with a class C felony if their convictions are not specifically covered by RCW 9.41.010 but meet certain criteria. In either scenario, a person runs the risk of facing new felony charges unless the person has their right to possess firearms restored.
The law provides means for individuals with prior convictions to address their records and restore firearm rights. A person can petition the Court for restoration after meeting the following criteria:
- For Felonies- Living 5 or more consecutive years in the community without being convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any felony, misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor if the person has no other prior felony convictions that would prohibit the possession of firearms; or
- For Non-Felonies (usually involving domestic violence) – Living 3 or more consecutive years in the community without being convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity of any felony, misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor if the person has no other prior felony convictions that would prohibit the possession of firearms.
Possessing a firearm is a tricky situation if you have previously been convicted of a crime. What on its face may appear to be a citizen exercising their constitutional right under the second amendment may in fact be, under RCW 9.41.040, unlawful possession of a firearm in the first or second degree. Both possession in the first and second degree are felonies in Washington and can have very serious repercussions.
The best remedy here is good preventative action – know your record before possessing a firearm. Ultimately, you are responsible for knowing if your convictions carry the consequence of revoking your right to possess. Though not all convictions affect firearm rights, the penalty for not knowing can be severe. If you have convictions in your past, regardless of the nature, it may be in your best interest to speak with an attorney about whether those convictions may have an impact on your firearm rights. Additionally, if you have had your records sealed or vacated you are still required to reinstate your firearms rights if those rights were revoked by a previous conviction.
Given the nature of the conviction, Washington law prescribes the steps necessary for reinstating firearm rights and the requirements someone must meet to be considered eligible. Our office is dedicated to helping clients through this process to reach the best possible resolution.