How To Legally Transport A Gun In Washington State

Handguns and suppressors in a travel case to help illustrate how to legally transport a gun in Washington State.

The Second Amendment affords great protections. So great, in fact, that the question of how to legally transport a gun in Washington state is easily answered: So long as the firearm was legally obtained and legally held, you can transport it from Bellingham to Bingen and back again with nary a worry on your mind.

Still, there are some things to be aware of when transporting a gun in Washington state. Let’s go over those now.

Legally Transporting a Gun in Washington State

Washington State, known for its stunning landscapes and outdoor recreational opportunities, is also home to a set of firearm regulations that gun owners must navigate to ensure they stay on the right side of the law.
Whether you’re a hunter, target shooter, or simply a responsible gun owner, understanding the legal requirements for transporting firearms in Washington state is crucial.

In this blog, we’ll break down the key rules and guidelines to help you transport your firearms safely and within the boundaries of the law.

Know the Basics of Transporting a Gun in Washington

Before transporting a firearm in Washington, it’s essential to understand the basics of firearm ownership and state laws. Under Washington law, no one under 18 may possess a firearm (with some exceptions). It’s also against federal law to sell a firearm to someone under 18.

You’ll need to pass a federal background check and comply with all applicable federal and state regulations.

Unloaded and Secured for Non-CPL Holders

When transporting firearms in Washington, they must be unloaded and securely stored. This means that there should be no ammunition in the firearm’s chamber or magazine. The gun should be carried in a closed case, holster, or storage compartment that is separate from the ammunition.

Transport in a Vehicle

Transporting firearms in a vehicle is allowed in Washington State, provided you follow specific guidelines:

  • Unloaded: As mentioned earlier, the firearm must be unloaded, with no rounds in the chamber or magazine.
  • Locked and in the Trunk: Although not a legal requirement, ideally, the firearm should be locked in the vehicle’s trunk. If your vehicle lacks a trunk (e.g., an SUV or pickup truck), the firearm should be placed in a locked container, and the container should be located as far from the driver as possible. The firearm and ammo should be stored separately. Keep in mind that if you leave the firearm in the vehicle while you are away from it, then you are required to conceal it. If it’s stolen from your vehicle you can be subject to a gross misdemeanor charge per I-1639.
  • No Ammo in the Magazine: Ammunition should not be in the magazine, and any loaded magazines should be kept separate from the firearm.

Carry a Valid Concealed Pistol License (CPL)

If you intend to transport a concealed handgun in Washington state, you’ll need to obtain a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) unless you meet specific exemptions.

A CPL allows you to carry a concealed handgun on your person or in a vehicle, and it is relatively easy to obtain for those who meet the eligibility criteria, which include passing a background check and meeting residency requirements.

Notify Law Enforcement

If you are pulled over by law enforcement while transporting a firearm, it’s essential to notify the officer immediately. Keep everyone in the know and inform the officer of the firearm’s presence and location in the vehicle. If you have a CPL, that will show up when they run your license plate. Still, it’s a good idea to keep everyone informed.

School Zones and Prohibited Places

Be aware of federal and state restrictions regarding firearms in certain areas. For example, firearms are prohibited on school premises. Washington state law also restricts firearms in courthouses, government buildings, bars, jail facilities, airports, behavioral health facilities, state capitol grounds, and private property where guns are forbidden. Familiarize yourself with these restrictions to avoid legal trouble. SB5038 also prohibits open carry within 250 feet of public demonstrations.

In short, transporting firearms in Washington state is a responsibility that comes with specific legal requirements. However, as a lawful and law-abiding firearm owner, you’re likely already following the letter of the law anyway, so there are only a few more things to think about when transporting a gun in Washington.

Ensuring your compliance with these rules is not only essential for staying within the boundaries of the law but also for promoting gun safety. Always handle firearms responsibly, obtain the necessary permits if required, and secure your firearms properly when transporting them. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy your firearms legally and responsibly just about anywhere in the Evergreen State.


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