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Firearm, Explosives & Ammunition Possession

Individuals supervised by the Department of Corrections (DOC) shall not own, use, or possess firearms, ammunition, or explosives (RCW 9.41.045, RCW 9.94A.706). Individuals releasing from prison should communicate with Department release planners, community corrections officers, as well as their family and friends, to make plans to avoid firearms, explosives, and ammunition. A court of record may restore firearm possession rights (RCW 9.41.047).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can supervised individuals possess firearms, amunition, explosives, or body armor?

No. Individuals supervised by the Department of Corrections shall not own, use, or possess firearms, ammunition, or explosives (RCW 9.41.045, RCW 9.94A.706).

Individuals under Department supervision found to be in actual or constructive possession of firearms, ammunition, explosives, or body armor will be reported to local law enforcement or local prosecution for consideration of new charges and/or subject to the appropriate violation process and sanctions (RCW 9.41.045, RCW 9.94A.706, DOC Policy 380.420 (pdf)).

What does "possession" mean?

United States case law defines actual possession as having physical custody or control of an object (United States v. Nenadich, 689 F.Supp. 285 [S.D. N.Y. 1988]). For example, a person with a firearm in their hand or pocket has actual possession of the firearm. Per RCW 9.94A.706, constructive possession means the power and intent to control the firearm, ammunition, or explosives. For example, a firearm kept in the car or home for self-defense constitutes constructive possession of the firearm.

What is a firearm?

A firearm is any weapon or device that expels a projectile, fires a bullet, by the action of an explosive, such as gunpowder, or any weapon that is designed or may be readily converted to do so. Gun also has the same meaning as firearm (RCW 9.41.010(11)(12); 26 U.S.C. §5845).

Can supervised individuals possess a firearm if they are on active military duty?

Per DOC Policy 380.420 (pdf), an individual under Department of Corrections supervision who is on active duty in one of the military services, including Active Reserves and National Guard, may possess and control firearms and ammunition only while actually engaged in military duty.

What is an explosive?

"Explosives" means any chemical compound or mechanical mixture that is commonly used or intended for the purpose of producing an explosion, and which contains any oxidizing or combustible units or other ingredients in such proportions, quantities or packing that an ignition by fire, by friction, by concussion, by percussion or by detonation of any part of the compound mixture may cause such a sudden generation of highly heated gases that the resultant gaseous pressures are capable of producing destructible effects on contiguous objects or of destroying life or limb (RCW 46.04.170).

What is body armor?

Per 18 U.S.C. §921(a)(35), body armor is personal protective body covering intended to protect against gunfire, regardless of whether the product is to be worn alone or is sold as a complement to another product or garment.

Who else is prohibited from possessing a firearm, explosive, or body armor?

The federal Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. §922(f)(2)(g), makes it unlawful for certain categories of persons to possess firearms or ammunition, including convicted felons and individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor. RCW 9.41.040 also stipulates a person may not lawfully own, possess, or control a firearm if they (1) were previously convicted of a felony offense, (2) were previously convicted of certain gross misdemeanor crimes when committed by one family or household member against another, (3) are subject of certain types of protection or no contact orders, or (4) have pending charges for certain serious offenses.

The federal law on the Importation, Manufacture, Distribution, and Storage of Explosive Materials (18 U.S.C. §842(d)), prohibits convicted felons, and people under indictment for a felony crime, from possessing or using explosive materials.

Federal law 18 U.S.C. §931 prohibits the purchase, ownership, or possession of body armor by violent felons.

Who is a felon?

A felon is a person who was convicted of a crime punishable by more than three hundred and sixty four days of imprisonment, or a fine of more than five thousand dollars, even if the actual sentence imposed is less than one year of imprisonment (RCW 9A.20, 18 U.S.C. §3156).

If the individual is being released from a Washington State prison facility then he or she was convicted of a felony.

Can a felon possess a gun if they move to another state?

The federal Gun Control Act, 18 U.S.C. §992(g) makes it unlawful for certain categories of persons to possess firearms or ammunition, including convicted felons and individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

State gun control laws differ. State Firearm Laws provides state-specific gun control law information.

Can firearms, ammunition, or body armor be confiscated?

Yes. Community corrections officers, supervisors and specialists will immediately confiscate or cause confiscation of any firearm, ammunition, or body armor found in the possession of an individual under Department of Corrections supervision (RCW 9.41.045, DOC Policy 380.420 (pdf)). A law enforcement officer or a state court may also confiscate or order forfeiture of a firearm (RCW 9.41.098).

Confiscated firearms, ammunition, and body armor that are not turned over to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency as evidence for a new prosecution will be disposed of per DOC Policy 420.395 (pdf).

How can the right to possess a firearm be restored?

Per RCW 9.41.040(4), an individual may petition a court of record to have his or her right to possess a firearm restored. The individual may only petition the court of record that ordered the petitioners prohibition on possession of a firearm or the superior court in the county in which the petitioner resides.

Only a court of record may restore firearm possession rights (RCW 9.41.047). Restoring the right to possess a firearm under state law does not necessarily mean the right to possess a firearm has been restored under federal law (RCW 9.41.040(4)).