Firearms dealers must be licensed under both federal and state law and must comply with federal and state law when making firearms transfers. Dealers are required by state and federal law to conduct background checks on prospective firearm purchasers to determine whether the purchaser is eligible to possess a firearm.
Federal Law. Under federal law, a dealer must, with few exceptions, conduct a background check on all firearm transfers to determine whether the purchaser is prohibited by state or federal law from possessing a firearm. This background check is conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Washington acts as a partial point of contact state (POC) for the federal check, which means the NICS check for pistol transfers is conducted by the state and the NICS check for long gun transfers is conducted by the firearms dealer. Local law enforcement agencies have the responsibility of serving as the partial POC for licensed dealers in conducting the NICS checks for piston transfers.
State Law. Under state law, a state background check, in addition to the federal NICS background check is required for the purchase or transfer of a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle. The state background check must be conducted by the local law enforcement agency, or the state if a state background check system is established.
A firearm dealer may not deliver a pistol to a purchaser or transferee until one of the following occurs:
A dealer may not deliver a semiautomatic assault rifle to a purchaser until:
A dealer must hold delivery of a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle if the application has an outstanding arrest warrant, or the law enforcement agency has notified the dealer of an investigative hold based on open or pending charges or proceedings.
The recognized firearm safety training program required for semiautomatic assault rifle purchases must be provided by specified entities and must include certain minimum instructional components, including basic firearms safety rules, firearms and children, firearms and suicide prevention, secure gun storage to prevent unauthorized access and use, safe handling of firearms, and state and federal firearm laws.
An applicant for the purchase of a pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle must complete and sign an application that includes specified information concerning the applicant and information relating to the firearm being purchased. The dealer must deliver a copy of the application to the local law enforcement agency where the purchaser resides for a background check. The dealer must make a record of all pistol and semiautomatic assault rifles sold that includes information concerning the purchaser and firearm. The dealer must retain a copy of the transfer records for six years. A copy of the transfer record must be sent to the local law enforcement agency and the Department of Licensing (DOL). DOL must retain records of applications to purchase pistols of semiautomatic assault rifles and records of pistol or semiautomatic assault rifle transfers.
A dealer must charge a fee set by DOL for applications for the sale or transfer of semiautomatic assault rifles. Currently the fee is set at $18.
State Firearms Background Check System. Pursuant to legislation enacted in 2020, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) Firearms Background Check Program is in the process of establishing a centralized state firearms background check system, which is expected to be operational statewide beginning January 1, 2024. Once the state system is operational, firearms dealers must contact WSP Firearms Background Check Program to conduct background checks for all firearms transfers.
Once this system is operational, WSP will charge a fee of up to $18 for all firearm transfers, and the intent of the Legislature is that this firearm transfer fee replaces the fee for semiautomatic assault rifles.
The bill as referred to committee not considered.
A dealer may not transfer any firearm to a purchaser or transferee until completion of a background check indicating the person is eligible to possess a firearm and ten business days have elapsed since the dealer requested to background check.
A dealer may not transfer any firearm to a purchaser or transferee unless the person produces proof of completion of a recognized firearm safety training program within the last five years, or proof of an exemption from the training requirements. The training program must include instruction on components currently required for firearms safety training for semiautomatic assault rifle purchases and must include instruction on, state laws pertaining to the use of deadly force for self-defense and techniques for avoiding a criminal attack and how to manage a violent confrontation. Proof of training must be in the form of a certification stating under penalty of perjury that the training included the minimum requirements.
Exemptions from the training requirement are provided for:
Provisions governing investigative holds on the delivery of a firearm based on outstanding warrants or open or pending criminal charges are eliminated.
Firearm transfer and background check processes are vised to conform to the procedures that will apply upon implementation of the state firearms background check program, including requiring background checks through WSP Firearms Background Check Program rather than local law enforcement agencies. A dealer must transmit the information from a firearms purchase application through secure automated firearms e-check to WSP Firearms Background Check Program. The program must transmit the application information to DOL daily. The fee applicant to the purchaser or transfer of semiautomatic rifles is eliminated.
PRO: Voting this bill through will save lives. The waiting periods in this bill will help prevent individuals from committing suicide. In Washington 60% of suicides involved a firearm. This is common sense legislation. This bill builds on the enhances training and background check requirements that are in current law. Requiring training and waiting periods for the purchase of any firearm will help reduce the number of gunshot victims in this state. Handling, using, and storing firearms safely is important to all Washingtonians. These safety measures have been tested in other states and will help insure those with firearms handle them safely. This is a matter of life and death for black and brown families throughout Washington. This will strengthen gun laws in Washington by closing dangerous gaps in the law. This is a smart and popular policy. Waiting periods created a buffer between temporary suicidal ideation and access to a firearm. This elevates safety and protects lives.
CON: This bill would restrict access to firearms by marginalized communities and will not address the root causes of gun violence. The 10-day waiting period is arbitrary. To address this issue the Legislature should focus on mental health. The Legislature should be protecting the rights enshrined in the Constitution. This is an unnecessary delay on an individual's ability to exercise the constitutional right to bear arms. This delay will put lives in danger. This act infringes and impairs the rights of every citizen in Washington. This creates an unclear set of guidelines regarding what training is needed and who is qualified to give that training. Some cities do not even have training facilities. This creates a pay-to-play system. This will not stop illegal use of firearms. In emergency situations, this will prevent those who need guns for self-defense from accessing those tools.