Gun possession is considered to be limited by gun control laws in an effort to ensure the safety of everyone who may be in the presence of a firearm. Whether it is illegal to possess a gun largely depends on a few different factors such as:
- A person’s age;
- Their background;
- The type of gun possessed; and
- Whether they are in violation of concealed carry laws.
Gun possession may be further restricted based on various factors, including:
- The Person’s Age Associated With The Type of Gun: Federal law prohibits the sale of a handgun to anyone who is under the age of 18, although the same restriction does not apply to long guns such as rifles and shotguns. However, each state has the ability to implement more strict age requirements; as such, the law differs by state, and the minimum age to purchase a handgun is 21 years old in many states; and
- Background: Federal law prevents the sale of a gun to anyone who:
- Has been convicted of or charged with a crime in federal court that carries a possible sentence of over a year in jail, which are generally felony crimes;
- Has been convicted of or charged with a crime in state court that is a felony crime, or is a misdemeanor punishable by more than 2 years in prison;
- Is a fugitive;
- Is known to be addicted to controlled substances, which is sometimes inferred from multiple recent drug convictions;
- Has been found by a court or other lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others;
- Has been involuntarily committed for drug and/or alcohol abuse, or mental health issues;
- Has been convicted of specific crimes, or is subject to a court order associated with domestic violence or a serious mental condition;
- Is in the U.S. illegally; and/or
- Was dishonorably discharged from U.S. Military Service.
Similar to the age requirement, each state has the ability to be more strict than federal law in terms of who can possess a gun based on their background.
There are some locations in which gun possession is prohibited, even by someone who can legally possess a gun elsewhere. Federal law prohibits gun possession at:
- Federal facilities;
- Post offices;
- Airports and on airplanes, except when the weapon is unloaded, is in a checked bag, and the
- airline was made aware of the weapon; and
- School zones K-12, except when someone has a state-issued concealed carry permit.
Most states prohibit guns in courthouses and other government owned buildings; however, the laws can be different for those that possess an open carry permit. Some other areas in which guns are commonly prohibited by states include:
- Bars or restaurants that serve alcohol;
- Polling places; and
- Daycare facilities.
What Is A Deadly Weapon?
According to state and federal criminal laws, the term “deadly weapon” refers to firearms, as well as any instrument that is specifically designed and produced for the purpose of inflicting serious injury and/or death. The term includes, but may not be limited to:
- Various types of knives;
- Billy clubs;
- Bludgeons and nunchaku; and
- Brass knuckles.
It is important to note that there may be some variation in terms of deadly weapon laws from region to region. However, the basic idea is the same; any instrument that is created for the purpose of killing and/or causing serious physical harm can be considered a deadly weapon. As such, deadly weapons generally require a license in order to own or carry them.
Additionally normal, everyday items can be classified as deadly weapons depending on how the item is used. An example of this would be how if a pair of scissors is used to inflict serious harm on another person, the scissors may then be considered a deadly weapon, even though they were not designed for that purpose.
Other examples of everyday items that are often used as deadly weapons include, but may not be limited to:
- Sports gear, such as baseball bats or golf clubs;
- Sticks or branches;
- Chains or other metal items;
- Sharp implements, such as shaving razors or even pencils; and
- Items that can be thrown.
Some jurisdictions go so far as to consider pets such as a dog as a deadly weapon, depending on the circumstances. An example of this would be how if the dog has been trained to attack on command, and the owner commands it to do so, the dog might be considered a deadly weapon. In some areas, the hands and feet of a trained martial arts expert such as a black belt must be registered as deadly weapons.
The use of a deadly weapon during the commission of a crime is referred to as an aggravating factor. What this means is that what would normally be a misdemeanor charge may be turned into a felony charge. An example of this would be how assault is generally a misdemeanor offense resulting in small criminal fines, and jail time of up to one year.
However, if a deadly weapon is used in the assault, the charges become aggravated assault which is a felony charge resulting in higher fines and prison time of greater than one year. The use of a deadly weapon is common in many other types of crimes, such as:
- Shoplifting; and
- Many other types of theft crimes.
What Weapons Laws Does Washington State Have?
Washington State has specific gun possession laws in order to prevent people, such as felons and those without gun licenses, from owning firearms. An example of this would be how a person who does not have a license to carry a firearm may be charged with a misdemeanor charge for carrying a concealed weapon in the state. Additionally, the State of Washington has laws against possessing or selling dangerous weapons.
To reiterate, a deadly/dangerous weapon refers to any instrument designed and created for the purpose of causing serious bodily harm and/or death to someone. These types of weapons are considered to be too dangerous for anyone to own.
Firearms are generally considered to be dangerous weapons in Washington State. However, the following items are also considered to be dangerous weapons:
- Brass knuckles;
- Metal knuckles;
- Firearm silencers;
- Slingshots; and
How Can I Be Charged Under Washington State Dangerous Weapons Laws?
Washington State defines the charge of possession of a dangerous weapon as when a person:
- Manufactures; and/or
- Attempts to sell a dangerous weapon.
The crime is generally charged as a gross misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are considered to be the less serious offenses when compared to felonies, and are generally penalized with jail time up to one year, as well as lesser fines. Gross misdemeanors result in considerably harsher penalties if convicted, and they are generally considered to be more serious than regular misdemeanors.
There is not one specific definition of a gross misdemeanor, as each state’s criminal code defines what crimes are considered to be gross misdemeanors. As such, a crime that is considered to be a gross misdemeanor in one state may not be considered as such in another state.
In many cases, gross misdemeanors involve the defendant engaging in reckless behavior. What this means is that the defendant knew or should have known that the conduct they engaged in would cause harm to another individual. However, not every gross misdemeanor involves reckless conduct. Some include acts that are more serious than regular misdemeanors, but less serious than felonies. An example of this would be petty theft, which is theft of property with a low value.
In Washington State, conviction for a dangerous weapon charge is punishable by a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $5,000.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Washington State Dangerous Weapons Laws?
You will need to discuss your criminal charge and how to resolve it with a Washington criminal lawyer.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to Washington State criminal law, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.