Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2021 ‘Background Check Procedures in Washington.’ Background Checks. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 28 September
Background Checks in Washington
Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state "point of contact" and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS") database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
Washington is a partial point of contact state for the NICS. In Washington, local law enforcement departments serve as state points of contact for implementation of the Brady Act for all dealer deliveries of handguns. Transfers of rifles and shotguns by licensed dealers are processed through the FBI.
Licensed dealers must conduct background checks on prospective purchasers each time a dealer transfers a firearm. Washington requires firearms dealers to use NICS, the Washington State Patrol electronic database, the Department of Social and Health Services' electronic database, and other agencies or resources as appropriate when processing firearm transactions.
Washington does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm…
Concealed pistol license holders whose licenses were issued on or after July 22, 2011, qualify as exempt from future background checks when purchasing a firearm, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) chart that outlines those permits that qualify as alternatives to the federal Brady Act. Please note that ATF's exempt status determination for a given state is subject to change without notice.
Under federal law, persons who have been issued state permits to purchase or possess firearms are exempt from background checks if those permits were issued: 1) within the previous five years in the state in which the transfer is to take place; and 2) after an authorized government official has conducted a background investigation, including a search of the NICS database, to verify that possession of a firearm would not be unlawful…
[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]