How does someone lose the right to own a gun in Washington State?
A person can lose the right to own or possess a firearm in several ways. First, a person convicted of any felony criminal offense loses the right to own or possess a gun. Second, anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving domestic violence loses their gun rights. Third, anyone involuntarily committed for mental health treatment or found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity will lose their gun rights. Finally, anyone who is subject to a restraining order (can be called a Protective Order, an Anti-harassment Order, or a Domestic Violence Protective Order) will be barred from possessing guns.
What happens when a person loses their gun rights?
When a person loses their firearm rights, it becomes a crime for them to own or possess guns, ammunition, or even parts to firearms. A person could be charged with the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm even if the weapon does not belong to him/her (for example: a situation where a spouse, roommate, or friend stores their weapon in the place where the person lives). A person could also be charged with a crime even if they did not know a gun was nearby (for example, a person borrows a car from a friend that contains a gun in the glovebox). Because of the constant risk of being charged with unlawful possession, some people choose to have their gun rights restored even if they never personally intend to own a weapon in the future.
Are gun rights automatically restored in Washington?
No. Gun rights are not automatically restored. Sometimes, a court will automatically restore some civil rights after a person completes a felony criminal sentence (for example, the right to vote or serve on a jury). However, gun rights are never automatically restored. Similarly, even if a person petitions a court and has their criminal conviction "vacated" (removed from their record), this does NOT automatically restore the right to possess firearms. The only way to get your rights restored is to petition a county Superior Court to have your rights formally restored.
How do I petition to restore my firearm rights?
The easiest way for most people to file these petitions is to hire an attorney experienced in this type of work. Although there will be a cost to hire the attorney, most people will save a great deal of time and frustration trying to figure out the court system and the paperwork.
There are a number of steps involved in successfully petitioning to have these rights restored. These include: Filing the petition in the proper county Superior Court; Serving copies of your petition on all necessary parties; Documenting all necessary information to show that you meet the legal requirements for getting your rights restored; Scheduling hearings with a judge & filing a note for motion; Attending the scheduled court hearing; Drafting & filing a proposed order restoring firearm rights for the judge to sign; Filing a copy of the judge's signed order with the appropriate law enforcement agencies to ensure you clear future background checks; Other steps as needed.
Additional resources provided by the author
When in doubt, anyone considering petitioning to have firearm rights restored should always consult with an experienced attorney before getting started.