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2020 Legislative Update on Firearms Regulations

2020 Legislative Update on Firearms Regulations

This post summarizes recent legislation related to firearms regulation. All the bills are effective June 11, 2020.

Firearms Background Checks

New bills from the Washington State Legislature's 2020 Regular Session offer local law enforcement new relief from administrative burden associated with background checks for some firearms sales or transfers.

E2SHB 2467 requires the Washington State Patrol (WSP) to create a firearms background check system to serve as a single point of contact for dealers to conduct background checks for firearms sales or transfers under chapter 9.41 RCW and the federal Brady handgun violence protection act (18 U.S.C. Sec. 921, et. seq.). This bill puts into effect RCW 9.41.090(3)(b), which clarifies that once the program is in effect the state, not local law enforcement, is responsible for notifying the dealer whether the statute allows the purchaser to possess a firearm.

Thirty days after the WSP notifies dealers that the system established by the WSP is ready to go, dealers will have to use that system to conduct background checks.

This bill may reduce the workload for local law enforcement, as they will no longer be required to conduct background checks for firearms transfers. However, local agencies are still required to conduct background checks related to an application for a concealed pistol license under RCW 9.41.070.

Also enacted by the Washington State Legislature (Legislature) this session is SHB 2555, which will require dealers to use the state firearms background check system to conduct background checks on purchases or transfers of firearm frames or receivers. A firearm frame or receiver is that part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel. There does not appear to currently be a requirement for background checks for these items, so this requirement should not affect local agencies.

Possession of Firearms

This bill introduces new limitations on where firearms may be carried or stored.

As we’ve written before, the state pre-empts local governments from regulating most firearms issues. This session, the Legislature enacted SSB 5434, adding childcare-related facilities to the list of places in chapter 9.41 RCW where certain weapons cannot be carried. The new statute prohibits firearms, air guns, and stun guns from being on the premises of licensed childcare centers and on the transportation provided by those centers. The new statute will also apply to other facilities, but only in the parts of the building that are being used exclusively by a childcare center.

While the bill does not prohibit weapons within the homes of family daycare providers (in-home childcare of not more than 12 children), such providers are required to store firearms, ammunition, and other dangerous weapons in a secure area (i.e., inaccessible to children, such as a locked gun safe or a locked room).

The 2018 legislative session also included several bills addressing firearms regulation in Washington State. For a summary of those bills, see Firearms Regulation at the Local Government Level.

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

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About Steve Gross

Steve Gross joined MRSC as a Legal Consultant in January 2020.

Steve has worked in municipal law and government for over 20 years as an Assistant City Attorney for Lynnwood, Seattle, Tacoma, and Auburn, and as the City Attorney for Port Townsend and Auburn. He also has been a legal policy advisor for the Pierce County Council and has worked in contract administration.