There are several ways a person can lose their right to possess a firearm and each has their own specific procedure for getting those rights reinstated. But the restoration of firearms rights is a complicated business with intricacies, caveats and exceptions too numerous to fully outline is this post.
Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 9.41.040 states the three ways a person can lose their right to possess a firearm: 1) conviction of a felony offense, as an adult or juvenile, in Washington or in any other state or territory, 2) conviction of certain misdemeanor offenses when those convictions are accompanied by a “domestic violence” (DV) designation including “assault in the fourth degree, coercion, stalking, reckless endangerment, criminal trespass in the first degree, or violation of the provisions of a protection order or no-contact order”, or 3) by virtue of having been “involuntarily committed for mental health treatment” under RCW Chapter 71.
Each of these three situations requires a different procedure to reinstate those suspended rights. For felony convictions the most important thing to know is that certain conviction will suspend those rights permanently. Meaning nothing short of a pardon from the Governor will permit reinstatement. Those permanently excluding felonies include all class “A” felonies and most sex offenses. To reinstate your firearm rights after having been convicted of a felony you must have gone 5 years without a conviction, 3 years for misdemeanors. However that can be any 3 or 5 year period and does not have occurred directly before the petition to reinstate is filed. But any subsequent convictions cannot have suspended your rights.
Reinstating the right to possess a firearm
Reinstating the right to possess a firearm can be accomplished in either the superior court of the county where the person resides or the county of conviction. It is not part of the criminal case that triggered the suspension so it isn’t filed in the court where the person was convicted. Also, it is a “civil” procedure and thus usually requires a civil filing fee. In Whatcom and Skagit counties the fee is $240.
It is NOT necessary to have the suspending conviction vacated (although there are lots of good reasons to do that too) and importantly, vacating a conviction will not, by itself, reinstate a persons’ right to possess firearms. It must be accomplished in a separate civil action.
Reinstating after having been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment is more complicated as it requires a showing that:
(i) The petitioner is no longer required to participate in court-ordered inpatient or outpatient treatment;
(ii) The petitioner has successfully managed the condition related to the commitment;
(iii) The petitioner no longer presents a substantial danger to himself or herself, or the public; and
(iv) The symptoms related to the commitment are not reasonably likely to recur.
This usually requires a report a letter from a mental health professional that has performed a recent evaluation of the petitioner. Petitions in these cases may also be brought before either the superior court where the person resides or the court that ordered the involuntary commitment.
Washington Law versus Federal Law
It‘s important to remember that the procedures outlines above apply only to reinstating your rights under Washington law. While it may have the effect of reinstating your rights under federal law it’s always best to check if you are venturing into a federal jurisdiction like a national park, national forest or military base. In particular, current federal law generally does not accommodate reinstatement after conviction of an assaultive domestic violence conviction such as assault in the fourth degree.
As I wrote at the outset of this post, the restoration of firearms rights is a complicated business with intricacies, caveats and exceptions too numerous to fully outline is this post. Please give me a call if you would like us to evaluate your eligibility (always free) or petition for reinstatement.