The right to possess firearms derives from the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Article I, §24 of the Washington State Constitution. Our State constitutional provision is unique in that the right to “bear arms” is construed as an “individual” rather than “collective” right. (State v. Swanson, 116 Wn. App. 67 (2003)) The right to bear arms, however, is not absolute and is subject to reasonable regulation. (Caron v. United States, 524 U.S. 308 (1998))
In Washington State, the right to possess firearms is lost whenever a person is convicted of a felony offense or the following gross misdemeanor convictions: Assault fourth degree, coercion, stalking, reckless endangerment, criminal trespass first degree, or violation of a protection order or no contact order – where the offense is committed by one family or household member against another. RCW 9.41.040 Firearm rights can also be lost when a person has been involuntarily committed. RCW 9.41.047
A person convicted of a class A felony may never restore the right to possess a firearm under Washington law. A conviction for certain sex offenses may also lead to the permanent loss of firearm rights. Conviction for offenses labeled “domestic violence” can lead to the permanent loss of firearm rights.
To restore firearm rights, a person must obtain a court order. For misdemeanor offenses, a person must show that three years have passed without having a subsequent criminal conviction of any kind. For eligible felony offenses, a person must show that five years have passed without a subsequent conviction. For all cases, a person must show that they have no convictions in their past which actively operate to prevent possession of firearms. For practical purposes, this means that if a person is convicted of a class B felony, he or she must wait at least ten years before they can restore firearm rights. (State v. Mihali, 152 Wn. App. 897 (2009))
A request firearm rights must be brought before the same court which took the right away due to the conviction or involuntary commitment. Most courts will require the person to pay a court filing fee. In some jurisdictions, the person will be required to present Washington State Patrol or FBI records proving he or she has not been convicted of any intervening crimes. It is important to remember that in order to fully restore firearm rights you may have to vacate the conviction which led to the loss of firearm rights in the first place.