NICS Reverses Stand on Gun Rights for Domestic Violence Convictions in Washington

The FBI-NICS no longer issues denials for most non-felony convictions for domestic violence entered in Washington State. This is based on the 2013 case of Descamps v U.S. Up until recently, anyone that had been convicted of a Fourth Degree Assault determined to be domestic violence in Washington State was in a tough position because the NICS did not recognize a Restoration of Rights for Washington state non-felony domestic violence convictions. State and federal laws on the subject of domestic violence and gun rights are very technical and you should schedule a legal consultation in order to look carefully at any convictions that you think resulted from allegations of domestic violence.

Many Washington State citizens with misdemeanor DV convictions who had their right to possess firearms restored were seeing their rights denied by federal authorities. The intent of Congress has along been that a state court order restoring firearm rights should remove federal prohibitions on posssessing firearms.

“A person shall not be considered to have been convicted of such an offense for purposes of this chapter if the conviction has been expunged or set aside, or is an offense for which the person has been pardoned or has had civil rights restored (if the law of the applicable jurisdiction provides for the loss of civil rights under such an offense) unless the pardon, expungement, or restoration of civil rights expressly provides that the person may not ship, transport, possess, or receive firearms.”

The FBI-NICS was taking the position that a Washington State court order restoring firearm rights to misdemeanants does not remove firearm prohibitions under federal law because the conviction does not result in the loss of civil rights.

Note that vacating a Washington conviction does not completely expunge or set-aside the conviction as required by federal law. Thus, restoring gun rights in Washington requires a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Restoration of Firearms Rights; merely vacating the conviction or expungement does not meet the requirements of Washington law nor will vacating a conviction satisfy federal criteria for restoration of the right to possess firearms.

If you have been convicted for felonies and Washington state restores your right to possess a weapon then the NICS will recognize Washington’s restoration of your gun rights and you will also be eligible for a Washington Concealed Pistol License. The federal government has now determined that conviction for a Fourth Degree Assault (DV) does not prohibit possession of firearms because the statute for that offense is too vague.

Nevertheless, there is still a need to obtain a restoration of firearms rights in order to satisfy state law requirements and federal interpretations of Washington State law related to firearms rights seem to change unexpectedly.

Note well: When answering the questions for a NICS background check: Question 11i on Form 4473 should be answered with strict accuracy: answer “yes” if, and only if, you have a conviction for an offense that meets the federal Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence definition pursuant to 18 USC 922(g)(9).

Thus, you should state no regarding convictions for domestic violence if you only have a Fourth Degree Assault conviction that was entered in Washington State. All of those offenses listed in 9.41.040(2)(a)(i) fall outside the federal definition of Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence.

Assault in the Fourth Degree, Coercion,
Stalking, Reckless Endangerment,
Criminal Trespass in the First Degree,
Violation of the provisions of a protection order or no-contact order restraining the person or excluding the person from a residence.

See RCW 9.41.040

On the other hand, when applying for a Washington State Concealed Pistol License the answer would be yes to the offenses listed above but not necessarily for every conviction identified as DV on your criminal history. Thus, you will need legal advice from an attorney with very technical expertise if you have a domestic violence conviction in Washington.

3 replies
  1. Justin
    Justin says:

    Is this still valid today? 9/12/18
    I just received my CPL in the mail today. I’ve had a rights restoration granted 3 years ago. I don’t want to be denied a purchase

    My conviction was for domestic violence court order violation.

    Reply

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