Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



Judiciary Committee

HB 1501

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

Title: An act relating to protecting law enforcement and the public from persons who illegally attempt to obtain firearms.

Brief Description: Protecting law enforcement and the public from persons who illegally attempt to obtain firearms.

Sponsors: Representatives Hansen, Hayes, Kagi, Smith, Tharinger, Clibborn and Muri.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Requires firearm dealers to report to the Washington State Patrol all instances where they deny an application for the purchase or transfer of a firearm based on ineligibility.

  • Requires the Washington State Patrol to maintain a database of reported denials and to investigate cases of denied purchases or transfers and to refer cases to the Attorney General for prosecution.

  • Requires the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to create and operate a statewide, automated system to notify a registered person when a respondent subject to certain court orders has been denied the purchase of a firearm based on ineligibility.

Hearing Date: 2/8/17

Staff: Alex Pearson (786-7291) and Edie Adams (786-7180).


Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.

Both federal and state law disqualify certain categories of individuals from possessing firearms.

Criminal disqualifiers include those who are: convicted of a felony (with minor exceptions) or are found not guilty by reason of insanity; convicted of certain specified gross misdemeanor domestic violence crimes; subject to certain protection and restraining orders; under indictment for a felony offense; fugitives from justice; persons free on bond or personal recognizance for a serious offense; and offenders under supervision of the Department of Corrections.

Mental health disqualifiers include those who are: committed to a mental institution by a court or other lawful authority; adjudicated as a mental defective; involuntarily committed for mental health treatment under state law; and ruled criminally insane or incompetent to stand trial.

Miscellaneous disqualifiers include those who are: under the age of 18 (with exceptions); in the United States illegally or on non-immigrant visa (with exceptions); non-citizens (with exceptions); unlawful users of controlled substances; dishonorably discharged from the armed forces; and persons who have renounced citizenship.

Background Check Requirements for Firearm Purchases and Transfers.

State and federal law require firearm dealers to conduct background checks for sales or transfers of firearms to unlicensed persons.

Federal Background Check Requirements. Under the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, any federally licensed firearms dealer must conduct a background check to determine if the purchaser is prohibited from owning a firearm by state or federal law. These background checks are conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or state agencies via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

A NICS check typically returns an immediate response. However, if the NICS system response is delayed, the dealer may deliver the firearm to the purchaser three business days after initiating the NICS check if the dealer has not received a notification from NICS in that time that the transaction is denied. The FBI reports NICS denials to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives field divisions for further investigation and possible referral for prosecution.

Washington Background Check Requirements. Voter approved Initiative 594 extended criminal and public safety background checks to all firearm sales or transfers, with some exceptions. All sales or transfers must occur through a licensed firearm dealer who must conduct a background check. A dealer may not deliver a firearm until either: (1) the background check has indicated the purchaser is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm; or (2) ten business days have elapsed from the date the dealer requested the background check.

For transfers of pistols, the dealer must contact the local sheriff or police department to conduct the NICS check and a state background check for all transfers where the purchaser does not have a valid concealed pistol license (CPL). If the purchaser has a valid CPL, local law enforcement must conduct a state background check, and the dealer must conduct the NICS check, if required. For transfers of long guns the dealer must conduct the NICS check, and no state background check by local law enforcement is required.

Protection Orders, Restraining Orders, and No-Contact Orders.

Generally. Numerous Washington statutes allow or require a court to enter a protection order, restraining order, or no-contact order, which restrains a person from having contact with or threatening another person or that excludes the person from certain locations or coming within a specified distance of certain locations. During the pendency of the petition process, the court may order a temporary protection order (without notice) if irreparable injury could result if an order is not issued until the time for response has elapsed. After a full hearing, a final order that lasts for a fixed term may be issued.

A copy of the order must be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency, which must enter the order into any computer-based criminal intelligence information system available in Washington, used by law enforcement agencies to list outstanding warrants. Such orders are fully enforceable in any county in the state.

Protection orders are available for victims of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, sexual assault, and vulnerable adult abuse. A court may enter a civil restraining order in family law proceedings that may include provisions restraining a person from contacting another or excluding the person from certain locations. In the context of criminal proceedings, a court may issue a no-contact order to protect the victim of the crime during the pendency of the criminal proceedings or as a condition of the sentence.

Surrender of Firearms under Such Orders. A person who is subject to a protection order, restraining order, or no-contact order may be required to surrender his or her firearms, dangerous weapons, and CPL while the order is in place. Circumstances under which a court may order the surrender include:

The court may require the person to surrender his or her firearm or dangerous weapon to the local law enforcement agency, the persons' counsel, or another person designated by the court. Law enforcement agencies are required to have policies and procedures regarding the acceptance, storage, and return of surrendered firearms and weapons.

Summary of Bill:

Reporting Requirements.

Firearm dealers must report to the Washington State Patrol (WSP) information involving each case where the dealer denies an application for the sale or transfer of a firearm due to a background check indicating the applicant is ineligible to possess a firearm under either state or federal law. Dealers must make these reports to the WSP within two days of the denial and include specified information, including the applicant's identifying information. Dealers must update reports that indicated an initial denial but are subsequently approved within one day of the approval.

Database Requirements.

The WSP is required to maintain a database consisting of the information received from firearm dealers regarding purchase or transfer denials. The database must be accessible to law enforcement agencies and officers connected to the WSP electronic database. Upon receipt of information from dealers that an initial denial has been subsequently approved, the WSP must remove the record of the original denial from the database.

The database must only be used for law enforcement purposes and for the notification requirements described below, and the WSP must ensure that the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) is given access to the data necessary to implement those notification requirements. The database is not subject to public disclosure under the Public Records Act.

The WSP must prepare an annual report regarding the number of denied firearm sales and transfers reported and submit the report to the Attorney General and appropriate committees of the Legislature. The report must include specified information, including the total number of cases reported, total number of cases investigated, and total number of cases where a conviction was obtained.

Investigation and Prosecution Requirements.

Subject to amounts appropriated for this purpose, the WSP must investigate denied firearm purchases or transfers reported by dealers to determine if the applicant knowingly attempted to acquire a firearm in violation of federal or state law or knowingly provided false information in the application. If after investigation the WSP believes a knowing violation occurred, it must refer the case to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution. The Attorney General has concurrent authority and power with the prosecuting attorneys to investigate and conduct such prosecutions.

Notification Requirements.

The WASPC must create and operate a statewide system to automatically notify a registered person when a respondent subject to a court order has been denied the purchase of a firearm based on ineligibility. The system must allow a person to register or update his or her registration information by calling a toll-free phone number or by accessing a public website. The registered person may choose to be notified by telephone or electronic mail.

The notification requirements apply to any of the following court orders where the order prohibits the respondent from possessing firearms or, by operation of law, the respondent is ineligible to possess firearms during the term of the order:

Information and records received by the WASPC regarding the notification system, including information provided by persons registering to participate in the system, may only be used for the notification system and is exempt from the Public Records Act. Public officials, employees, or agencies, and the WASPC specifically, are granted immunity from civil liability for damages resulting from any release of information related to the statewide automated protected person notification system, so long as the release or failure to release was without gross negligence.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.