SHB 1501

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

C 261 L 17

Synopsis as Enacted

Brief Description: Protecting law enforcement and the public from persons who illegally attempt to obtain firearms.

Sponsors: House Committee on Judiciary (originally sponsored by Representatives Hansen, Hayes, Kagi, Smith, Tharinger, Clibborn and Muri).

House Committee on Judiciary

House Committee on Appropriations

Senate Committee on Law & Justice

Senate Committee on Ways & Means


Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.

Both federal and state law disqualify certain categories of individuals from possessing firearms.

Persons disqualified based on criminal offenses include those who are: convicted of a felony (with minor exceptions); convicted of certain specified gross misdemeanor domestic violence crimes; under indictment for a felony offense; fugitives from justice; persons free on bond or personal recognizance for a serious offense; and offenders under supervision of the Department of Corrections.

Persons disqualified based on health reasons disqualifiers include those who are: committed to a mental institution by a court or other lawful authority; adjudicated as a mental defective; involuntarily committed for mental health treatment under state law; and ruled criminally insane or incompetent to stand trial.

Other disqualified persons include those who are: subject to certain protection and restraining orders; under the age of 18 (with exceptions); in the United States illegally or on nonimmigrant visa (with exceptions); noncitizens (with exceptions); unlawful users of controlled substances; dishonorably discharged from the armed forces; and persons who have renounced citizenship.

Background Check Requirements for Firearm Purchases and Transfers.

State and federal law require firearm dealers to conduct background checks on persons applying for the sale or transfer of firearms.

Federal Background Check Requirements. Under the federal Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, federally licensed firearms dealer must conduct a background check to determine if the purchaser is prohibited from owning a firearm by state or federal law. These background checks are conducted through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or state agencies via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

A NICS check typically returns an immediate response. However, if the NICS system response is delayed, the dealer may deliver the firearm to the purchaser three business days after initiating the NICS check if the dealer has not received a notification from NICS in that time that the transaction is denied. The FBI reports NICS denials to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives field divisions for further investigation and possible referral for prosecution.

Washington Background Check Requirements. Voter approved Initiative 594 extended criminal and public safety background checks to all firearm sales or transfers, with some exceptions. All sales or transfers must occur through a licensed firearm dealer who must conduct a background check. A dealer may not deliver a firearm until either: (1) the background check has indicated the purchaser is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm; or (2) 10 business days have elapsed from the date the dealer requested the background check.

For transfers of pistols, the dealer must contact the local sheriff or police department to conduct the NICS check and a state background check for all transfers where the purchaser does not have a valid concealed pistol license (CPL). If the purchaser has a valid CPL, local law enforcement must conduct a state background check, and the dealer must conduct the NICS check, if required. For transfers of long guns the dealer must conduct the NICS check, and no state background check by local law enforcement is required.

Protection Orders, Restraining Orders, and No-Contact Orders.

Generally. Numerous Washington statutes allow or require a court to enter a protection order, restraining order, or no-contact order, which restrains a person from having contact with or threatening another person, or that excludes the person from certain locations or coming within a specified distance of certain locations. Protection orders are available for victims of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, sexual assault, and vulnerable adult abuse. A court may enter a civil restraining order in family law proceedings that may include provisions restraining a person from contacting another or excluding the person from certain locations. In the context of criminal proceedings, a court may issue a no-contact order to protect the victim of the crime during the pendency of the criminal proceedings or as a condition of the sentence.

A copy of the order must be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agency, which must enter the order into any computer-based criminal intelligence information system available in Washington, that is used by law enforcement agencies to list outstanding warrants. Such orders are fully enforceable in any county in the state.

Surrender of Firearms. A person who is subject to a protection order, restraining order, or no-contact order may be required to surrender his or her firearms, dangerous weapons, and CPL while the order is in place. Circumstances under which a court may order the surrender include:

The court may require the person to surrender his or her firearm or dangerous weapon to the local law enforcement agency, the person's counsel, or another person designated by the court. Law enforcement agencies are required to have policies and procedures regarding the acceptance, storage, and return of surrendered firearms and weapons.


Reporting Requirements.

Firearms dealers must report to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) information involving each case where the dealer denies an application for the sale or transfer of a firearm due to a background check or completed and submitted application that indicates the applicant is ineligible to possess a firearm under state or federal law.  Dealers must make these reports to the WASPC within five days of the denial and include specified information, including the applicant's identifying information.  Dealers must update reports that indicated an initial denial but that are subsequently approved within one day of the approval.  Dealers must retain original records of attempted purchases or transfers of firearms for a minimum of six years.

The WASPC must create and maintain an electronic portal for dealers to report records of denied firearm purchase or transfer applications.  Upon receipt of information from a dealer that an initial denial is subsequently approved, the WASPC must purge any records of the initial denial and inform the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and any law enforcement agency participating in the investigation grant program of the subsequent approval information.  The WASPC must destroy records of denied firearm purchase or transfer applications when the data is no longer necessary to carry out its duties under the act.

The WSP must generate and distribute a notice form to all firearm dealers informing denied applicants of the right to appeal a background check denial. Dealers must provide applicants denied based on ineligibility with a copy of this notice form. The notice form must inform the applicant of:

Database Requirements.

The WSP must incorporate records of denied firearm purchase or transfer applications received from the WASPC into its electronic database accessible to law enforcement agencies.  Upon receipt of information from the WASPC that an initial denial has been subsequently approved, the WSP must remove the record of the original denial from its electronic database.  The WSP must also remove from its electronic database records of persons who provide satisfactory proof that they are no longer ineligible to possess firearms.

Upon receipt of documentation that a person has appealed a background check denial, the WSP must remove the record of the person from its electronic database and keep a separate record of the person's information for a period of one year or until the appeal has been resolved.  Every 12 months, the WSP must notify the person that the person must provide documentation that his or her appeal is still pending or the person's record will be put back in its electronic database.  Upon receipt of documentation of a granted appeal, the WSP must remove any record of the person from its electronic database.

Grant Program for Law Enforcement Investigation.

Subject to amounts appropriated for this purpose, the WASPC must establish a grant program for local law enforcement agencies to conduct criminal investigations of persons who illegally attempted to purchase or transfer a firearm within their jurisdictions.  Each grant applicant must submit reports to the WASPC on the number of cases where a denied firearm purchase or transfer was investigated for potential criminal prosecution, and the number of cases where an arrest was made, the case was referred for prosecution, and a conviction was obtained.

Notification Requirements.

Subject to amounts appropriated for this purpose, the WASPC must create and operate a statewide system to automatically notify a registered person when a respondent subject to certain court orders has been denied the purchase of a firearm based on ineligibility.  The system must allow a person to register or update his or her registration information by calling a toll-free phone number or by accessing a public website. The registered person may choose to be notified by telephone or electronic mail. 

The notification requirements apply to any of the following court orders where the order prohibits the respondent from possessing firearms or, by operation of law, the respondent is ineligible to possess firearms during the term of the order:

Public officials, employees, or agencies, and the WASPC specifically, are granted immunity from civil liability for damages resulting from any release of information related to the statewide automated protected person notification system, so long as the release or failure to release was without gross negligence.

Other Provisions.

Subject to amounts appropriated for this purpose, the WASPC must prepare an annual report regarding the number of denied firearm sales and transfers reported under the act. The report must be submitted to the Legislature by December 31 of each year and include specified information, including the total number of cases reported, total number of cases investigated, and total number of cases where a conviction was obtained.

Information and records prepared, owned, used, or retained by the WASPC and the WSP under the act are exempt from public disclosure under the Public Records Act.

Votes on Final Passage:







(Senate amended)




(House concurred)


July 23, 2017