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Thread: Washington State Frequently Asked Questions About Open Carry

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    State Researcher Bill Starks's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Nortonville, KY, USA

    Washington State Frequently Asked Questions About Open Carry

    1) Where can I carry in Washington?
    Washington State follows British legal tradition, which states that anything that is not proscribed as unlawful is lawful (which stands for the proposition that whatever is not prohibited by law is allowed.)
    So the real question is; where can you NOT carry in Washington? There are four main state statutes that one must be cognizant of: RCW 9.41.050 (Carrying Firearms), RCW 9.41.280 (Carry on School Grounds), RCW 9.41.300 (Weapons Prohibited in Certain Places), and RCW 70.108.150 (Firearms in Outdoor Music Festivals). It is your responsibility to read and understand the definitions and exceptions in the law. RCW 9.41.050 is the primary law which affects gun carrying on a day to day basis. This law makes it unlawful for one to conceal a pistol without a concealed pistol license (hereinafter called CPL), and also makes it unlawful for one to carry a loaded pistol in any vehicle, whether it be openly carried or concealed carried unless a person has a valid CPL(see RCW 9.41.060 on Exceptions). Loaded is defined as having ammunition inside of the gun itself (magazine inserted with ammunition with semi-auto, ammunition in cylinder for revolvers). Localities may also prohibit the carrying of handguns in the stadiums and convention centers that they operate, however they MUST exempt those who possess a concealed pistol license. There are also federal statutes you must be cognizant of: 18 USC 922 (q), which prohibit the carrying of a handgun within 1000 feet of a school unless you are licensed to carry or meet another exemption to this law. The constitutionality of this law is questionable in light of United States v. Lopez and District of Columbia v. Heller. To our knowledge, there has been no prosecutions of this law where this is the sole charge. 18 USC 930, which prohibit the carrying of firearms in any "federal facility" or any "federal court facility."

    2) What is "Warranting alarm", why do people (firearms instructors, police officers, gun shop employees) say that this law makes it illegal t o open carry? In 1969, RCW 9.41.270 was passed in light of the intimidating actions of the Black Panther Party in both the State of California and in Seattle. Analysis of the legislative intent behind the bill and final law indicated that the Washington State Legislature never intended this to be a gun control bill, and stripped out in committee provisions of the bill which would have prohibited carry within 500 feet of any "public building" for fear it would ensnare a peaceable open carrier walking nearby, thereby violating a persons rights under Article 1, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution. This is not to say that all forms of open carry are lawful. The key word is "peaceable". If your pistol is in a holster, and you're generally not touching it or making gripping movements (except of course, in an actual act of self defense), or opening a coat to expose your pistol to intimidate someone to do something, then the current body of case law (state v casad, state v. spencer) generally makes such carry lawful.

    3) Can I open carry on a Bus, Train, Ferry, Personal Auto, Motorcycle or Bicycle? (RCW 9.91.025) The right to carry a gun or ammunition in a fashion is not otherwise prohibited by law on a MUNICIPAL TRANSIT VEHICLE (Greyhound /Amtrak is not a municipal transit vehicle). Busses, Trains & the Ferries are considered vehicles in Washington. You may carry loaded either openly or concealed in or on any vehicle if you possess a CPL (RCW 9.41.050 (2a)).
    If there is nothing Prohibiting such Conduct..., then, it is Safe to assume such Conduct Legal. However, Federal Law, Enumerated under TITLE 18 PART I CHAPTER 97 § 1992, states: § 1992(7) Commits an Act, Including the USE of a Dangerous Weapon, with the Intent to cause Death or Serious Bodily Injury to any Person who is on Property described in SubParagraph (A) or (B) of Paragraph (4);
    Under Federal Law, the USE of Firearms with such INTENT is what is ILLEGAL, not just having them. Under Federal Law 18 U.S.C. 930, Trains, including Amtrak, do NOT qualify as Federal Facilities, because Amtrak employees are NOT federal Employees.
    If found to be carrying you more than likely would have to disembark at the next stop.

    4) Can I carry in a bank, grocery store, church? They are all private property and may impose their own rules. The Federal Government may own shares of a bank but they DO NOT function as Federal Property.

    5) Can I carry at or near a school? Or College? (RCW 9.41.280)
    If you have a valid CPL and are picking up or dropping off a student you are allowed on the school grounds. Firearms are not permitted in school buildings. Colleges set their own policies, most of which seem to ban lawfully carried guns. South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia is the only college in this state we know of that does not specifically ban lawfully carried guns from their campus.

    6) I saw a park sign saying no firearms. Is that legal? (RCW 9.41.290) No. Washington State has preempted all firearms laws regarding possession. You may carry in any city, county, state, National Forest or National Park in Washington State.

    7) Can I carry with a round in the chamber? (RCW 9.41.010)(10) & (RCW 77.15.460) defines "loaded" in Washington state. Unloaded means; Empty cylinder, empty chamber, no full mag or tube, not capped or primed.

    8) How old do you have to be to carry a loaded handgun? (RCW 9.41.240) You must be 21 years of age to carry a loaded handgun in public. See RCW 9.41.060 for exceptions.

    9)What states accept the Washington CPL?
    Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin

    10) Can I carry in a bar? (RCW 9.41.300) No. You cannot carry in a place where alcohol IS consumed AND is off limits to persons under 21. Restaurants that serve alcohol are fine.

    11) Where can I get information about firearms & licensing in Washington state?

    12) Who am I required to show my CPL to, and when? The law is somewhat vague, but essentially IF you are required to have a CPL in your possession, you are obligated to produce it to qualified persons (such as law enforcement) if they demand it. Also since you have to have a CPL to carry loaded in/on a vehicle, regardless of OC or CC, I would argue a transit vehicle operator might also want to see a CPL before allowing you on the vehicle. There are no firm rules or laws on this matter that I am aware of though.

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    14) Is there a list of gun friendly businesses? Yes, Friend or Foe is a website you can plug in a zip code or city and find those pro businesses. Green is pro / red is anti.

    Check the TSA & ATF regulations on the airline on which you are traveling, they may have rules against weapons.

    16) Gun Ranges and Gun Shops across Washington

    17) Can I own and use a suppressor? ( RCW 9.41.250) Yes, as long the suppressor is legally registered and possessed in accordance with federal law.

    18) Carrying while engaging in a outdoor activity (RCW 9.41.060)
    (8) Any person engaging in a lawful outdoor recreational activity such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, or horseback riding, only if, considering all of the attendant circumstances, including but not limited to whether the person has a valid hunting or fishing license, it is reasonable to conclude that the person is participating in lawful outdoor activities or is traveling to or from a legitimate outdoor recreation area;

    19) Do “No Firearm” signs hold the weight of law in Washington State?
    No Firearm signs have no force of law unless they are posted on property that is specifically mentioned in RCW 9.41.300 as being off limits to those with a Permit/License to Carry. If you are in a place not specifically mentioned in the law that is posted and they ask you to leave, you must leave. If you refuse to leave then you are breaking the law and can be charged. Even if the property is not posted and you are asked to leave you must leave. Always be aware of the possibility that responding Police Officers who may have been called without your knowledge and may not know the laws on trespass and could arrest you even if you are within the law.

    No license is needed to open carry however it is highly recommended that any person who open carries in the State of Washington acquire a CPL. Washington is a “Shall Issue” state for CPL’s. Meaning that if you meet the requirements in RCW 9.41.070 you will be issued a license within 30 days(resident) and 60 days(non-resident) by law.

    This document is in no way legal advice. Consult an attorney on legal matters.
    Last edited by Bill Starks; 08-25-2018 at 11:00 AM. Reason: updates

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