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Gun rights and private gun sales in Washington

Gun rights in Washington State can be a complicated topic, primarily because there are so many different laws and regulations that can affect gun owners, dealers and purchasers. If gun owners do not follow all applicable state and federal laws, they may be accused of committing a crime. In many cases, if a weapon was used in certain alleged crimes the penalties can be much higher than they would be otherwise. For instance, a simple assault can bring forth the possibility of prison time if a weapon was used in the incident.

How residents purchase weapons can also entail legal trouble if the purchase was not done according to the law. Last year, Washington was the first state to start requiring background checks on private gun sales. Now, in order to purchase a gun from a private seller, you must perform the transaction through a federally licensed firearm dealer, or FFL. For his or her part, the FFL must conduct the sale in compliance with both federal and state laws as if he or she were selling from a dealer's inventory. The FFL must also perform the proper background check on a purchaser.

It is possible to transfer a firearm to a buyer from an unlicensed seller without a background check, but only if certain conditions are met. Antique guns can be transferred without a background check, and bona fide gifts between certain family members, such as spouses, siblings and domestic partners, can also be transferred minus the check. In addition, transfers can legally occur without a background check in order to stop an impending death or severe injury to someone. However, in this situation, the transfer must be temporary and last only as long as needed for prevention of the injury or fatality. In addition, the person who receives the weapon can't be prohibited from firearms possession per either state or federal laws.

Washington's background check requirements have proven confusing for many, especially after the law requiring private sellers to use background checks went into effect last year. If a person sells a gun and that weapon is used in a crime, the person who sold it without the proper background check might face legal trouble. A Spokane criminal defense attorney can assist a resident facing weapons charges and related charges of theft, robbery or murder.

Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, "Private sales in Washington," accessed April 5, 2015

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