Use of Silencers Soon to be Legal in Washington State

Christine Gregoire gave the legislature an additional thirty days- starting April 22nd- to produce a two-year state budget and it looks like the law makers finally have a budget after a special session that looked like it was about to go into another overtime. Gov. Gregoire signed three gun bills into law passed by lawmakers during the regular session. HB 1016 allows use of suppressors. Known as silencers, suppressors are common in many other states. Federal law requires some red tape with the BATFE, however. European gun enthusiasts have used silencers for years because it eliminates many of the complaints about noise that plague gun ranges.

HB 1455 deals with where to petition the courts for the right to possess firearms. People previously convicted of certain crimes or involuntarily committed on psychiatric grounds are presently able to petition for their gun rights in any county within the State of Washington. After July 22, 2011, petitioners must file in the county where he or she resides or in the county where the conviction or commitment occurred.

Under SHB 1923, a check with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) will determine whether individuals can obtain a Concealed Pistol License. Thus, a person with a valid, current CPL issued after July 22nd will not be required to undergo a NICS check when purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. But BATFE will have to make a formal determination that the new law meets the federal standard.

The legislative enactment that has gotten the most attention is the legalization of firearms suppressors. Neighboring states like Oregon permit silencers; Washington has permitted possession but not the actual use of a silencer. The BATFE issues tax stamps to gun owners in Washington- as they do in many other states. The stamp costs $200.00 and requires permission from a Chief Law Enforcement Officer; e.g., a Washington sheriff or police chief. The red tape involves a good deal of time and expense to own something that could not be used! Now shooting a round through your silencer in this state will no longer be a crime.

I advise an NFA Gun Trust. Federal law still requires the signature of a chief LEO but an NFA Trust makes the signature unnecessary. I am told that in the Seattle area obtaining the required signature can be problematic. Thus, people wanting to own silencers will now get more benefit from an NFA Trust because they can actually get out and shoot in peace and quiet without going to Oregon or Idaho! You also need to go to other states to own fully automatic weapons. The legislature is unlikely to allow private ownership of full auto weapons very soon, however!

All three of the bills above will take effect on July 22, 2011. Joe Waldron publishes a regular legislative update from which we obtained much of the legislative information above. There has not normally been too much gun legislation enacted in Olympia because the anti-gun legislators have been in a prolonged stalemate with pro-gun law makers. Every session, however, a number of proposed bills- both pro and anti-gun– die a natural death, often without being reported out of committee!

One of the most interesting developments, according to an addendum to the Goal Post for the month of May:

The week before the regular session ended, Rep. Brian Blake (D-19), one of the strongest proponent of our right to keep and bear arms in Olympia, introduced HB 2099. The bill would open the door once again to lawful possession of short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns. The bill was filed too late for consideration in this year’s session, but will be at the top of the stack for 2012.

Up until 1994, there was no restriction on the possession of short-barreled rifles and shotguns in Washington, provided they were possessed in compliance with federal law (just as suppressors are lawfully possessed). Back when Rep. Marlin Appelwick (D-Seattle), and Senators Phil Talmadge (D-Seattle) and Adam Smith (D-Federal Way) were drafting the so-called “Youth Violence Act” (E2SHB 2319), they added a provision banning the possession of these heavily (federally) regulated firearms. There was no good reason for the ban then, nor is there one today. Hopefully the bill will move forward next regular session.

Contact Joe Waldron at jwaldron@halcyon.com.

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