Answers to frequently asked questions regarding Washington State's recently passed Initiative Measure No. 594 and transferring possession of firearms.
When does I 594 take effect?
I 594 should take effect on December 4, 2014, when the election results are certified.
Will I be required to register my guns?
No, I 594 does not create a registration requirement for anyone who owned a gun prior to the law being enacted.
Is it true that I can't legally hand a gun to another person, even just to show it to them?
Yes, with few exceptions that will be discussed below. Generally, you cannot physically transfer a firearm without going through a licensed firearms dealer who will conduct the legally required background checks and charge a fee.
What do I do if I want to privately sell, gift or temporarily transfer a gun?
You are going to have to take the firearm to a licensed firearms dealer. The person buying or receiving the gun will have to fill out all applicable paperwork as if they were purchasing the gun from the licensed dealer, and the dealer will conduct background checks as if they were the one selling the firearm. The law permits the dealer to charge a "fee" that reflects the fair market value of the administrative costs and efforts incurred.
What if I'm at a gun range or a shooting competition?
The law has provided an exception for the temporary transfer of firearms at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located. There is also an exception for a temporary transfer at a lawfully organized shooting competition, or while participating in or practicing for a performance by an organized group that uses firearms as a part of the performance.
What if I want to teach my minor child about guns?
The law provides an exception that allows temporary transfer of a firearm to a person under 18 years of age for lawful hunting, sporting or educational purposes if they are supervised by a responsible adult who may legally possess firearms.
What about hunting? Can I give a hunting partner a firearm while hunting?
If you are a hunter, there is an exception that allows temporarily transfer of a firearm if you are in a place where you can legally hunt and the person you are handing the gun to has completed all training and holds all licenses or permits required for such hunting and is otherwise legally able to possess a firearm.
What about my spouse? Can we own the same gun?
The law provides an exception for the temporary transfer of firearms between spouses and domestic partners.
What about my immediate family?
There is an exception that allows you to transfer a firearm to an immediate family member ONLY if the transfer is a gift. Immediate family is defined as spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles.
What if I'm in law enforcement or the military?
There is an exception for law enforcement and corrections agencies. There is also a more specific exception for law enforcement and corrections officers, US marshals, members of the US armed forces and National Guard and federal officials provided that the person is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment or official duties.
What if someone dies and wills me their guns?
If someone dies and leaves you a pistol, the law provides a 60 day period in which you may collect the pistol and either legally transfer it to another person or contact the department of licensing to report that you have possession of the pistol and intend to keep it. "Pistol" means any firearm with a barrel less than sixteen inches in length, or is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand. It seems this requirement does not apply to firearms other than pistols.
What if I'm a gunsmith?
There is an exception for gunsmiths provided they are federally licensed and the firearm is possessed only for the purpose of servicing or repairing the firearm.
What if I need to give someone a gun for self-defense?
There is an exception to the law that allows you to hand a firearm to another person if it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. You can only give them the firearm for as long as is immediately necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm, and this person cannot be otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm under the law.
What about antique firearms?
There is an exception for antique firearms. "Antique firearm" means a firearm or replica of a firearm not designed or redesigned for using rim fire or conventional center fire ignition with fixed ammunition and manufactured in or before 1898, including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system and also any firearm using fixed ammunition manufactured in or before 1898, for which ammunition is no longer manufactured in the United States and is not readily available in the ordinary channels of commercial trade.
Can I still be charged with a crime if I fall under one of the exceptions?
Yes, you could still be charged. The new law defines each of the exceptions as "affirmative defenses." This means if you were charged with the unlawful transfer of a firearm, you would have the burden of proving your actions were covered by one of the enumerated exceptions under the law. Currently there is division within the legal community as to whether placing this burden on the person facing charges is constitutional, but we will all have to wait for legal challenges to the law to play out in the court system to learn how the law will be applied.
What are the penalties for violating the law?
The first conviction is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Any following convictions are class C felonies punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
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