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Am I prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law?

You have an individual right to possess and operate a firearm under the Washington Constitution and the United States Constitution.  But this right is not absolute.  

You face legal restrictions under Washington law.  You face similar legal restrictions under federal law.  

Unlike state firearms laws, federal firearms law apply in every state or United States territory in which you are present.  In other words, if you live in Washington but go hunting in Alaska, the federal law applies.  

State firearms laws can be more restrictive than the federal firearms laws but they cannot be less restrictive. 

Federal Firearms Law

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) is the source of firearms law across the country.  The GCA sets forth who can and cannot own or operate firearms in the United States.  The main components of the GCA are located in 18 U.S.C. 922.  

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is the federal law enforcement agency that enforces the GCA.  

Under U.S. law, only citizens and lawful permanent residents who are at least 18 years old can possess or sell firearms or ammunition.  

Under 18 U.S.C. 922(g), the following people are prohibited from possessing firearms:

  • You have been convicted of a crime with a maximum possible punishment of more than one year
  • You have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence 
  • You are subject to a court order that prohibits you from harassing, stalking, or threatening a close family member
  • You have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or you have been found to be mentally defective
  • You are a fugitive from justice
  • You are under indictment for a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year
  • You are a drug addict or unlawful drug user
  • You have been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military
  • You have renounced your U.S. citizenship



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