DISCLAIMER! I write this from a strictly academic point of view. I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice. This article only represents my layperson’s analysis of the laws in Washington State. My analysis and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Washington Civil Rights Association as a whole. This is simply a walk through some of the gun laws in Washington State, and why they may not apply to you or I. I am also not encouraging or condoning breaking the law or engaging in militant behavior.

Constitutional & Legal Summary

We are not going to talk about the Bruen decision, we won’t be talking about Heller. They are not necessary for this thought experiment. We will start with a review of some items from our State constitution and the Revised Code of Washington, however.

To summarize, the heavy reading below:

  • All citizens in the state of Washington have a right to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state
  • Washington DOES have a militia
  • Washington’s Militia is broken into two categories
    • Organized: Washington National Guard and Washington State Guard
    • Unorganized: Everyone who is able bodied and over the age of 18
  • You don’t have to be part of the militia in times of peace if you pay a tax (which is not being collected currently to my knowledge)

So what else does this mean? Quite plainly, it means that you are technically exempted from portions of Chapter 9.41 of the RCW so long as you don’t bear conscientious scruples to military duty in a time of peace. Some of these include the following:

  • RCW 9.41.300 – Weapons prohibited in certain places—Local laws and ordinances—Exceptions—Penalty.
  • RCW 9.41.370 – Large capacity magazines—Exceptions—Penalty.
  • RCW 9.41.190 – Unlawful firearms—Exceptions.
  • RCW 9.41.305 – Open carry of weapons prohibited on state capitol grounds and municipal buildings.
  • The “new” AWB in HB 1240

They all specifically exempt members of the Armed Forces of Washington State as a whole in some form or other.

Other areas of the RCW specifically exempt the organized portions of the militia, so RCW 9.41.060 would still apply to you and I in some capacity when it comes to carrying concealed.

Reference Material

Constitution of Washington State, Article I, Section 24: Right to Bear Arms

The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.

Constitution of Washington State, Article X, Section 1: Militia; Who Liable to Military Duty

All able-bodied male citizens of this state between the ages of eighteen (18) and forty-five (45) years except such as are exempt by laws of the United States or by the laws of this state, shall be liable to military duty.

Constitution of Washington State, Article X, Section 6: Militia; Exemption from Military Duty

No person or persons, having conscientious scruples against bearing arms, shall be compelled to do militia duty in time of peace: Provided, such person or persons shall pay an equivalent for such exemption.

RCW 38.04.010: General Definitions

When used in this title, the following words, terms, phrases shall have the following meaning:

The word “militia” shall mean the military forces provided for in the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington.

The term “organized militia” shall be the general term to include both state and national guard and whenever used applies equally to all such organizations.

The term “national guard” shall mean that part of the military force of the state that is organized, equipped and federally recognized under the provisions of the national defense act of the United States, and, in the event the national guard is called into federal service or in the event the state guard or any part or individual member thereof is called into active state service by the commander-in-chief, the term shall also include the “Washington state guard” or any temporary organization set up in times of emergency to replace either the “national guard” or “state guard” while in actual service of the United States.

The term “state guard” shall mean that part of the military forces of the state that is organized, equipped, and recognized under the provisions of the State Defense Forces Act of the United States (32 U.S.C. Sec. 109, as amended).

The term “active state service” or “active training duty” shall be construed to be any service on behalf of the state, or at encampments whether ordered by state or federal authority or any other duty requiring the entire time of any organization or person except when called or drafted into the federal service by the president of the United States.

The term “inactive duty” shall include periods of drill and such other training and service not requiring the entire time of the organization or person, as may be required under state or federal laws, regulations, or orders, including travel to and from such duty.

The terms “in service of United States” and “not in service of United States” as used herein shall be understood to mean the same as such terms when used in the national defense act of congress and amendments thereto.

The term “military” refers to any or all of the armed forces.

The term “armory” refers to any state-owned building, warehouse, vehicle storage compound, organizational maintenance shop or other facility and the lands appurtenant thereto used by the Washington national guard for the storage and maintenance of arms or military equipment or the administration or training of the organized militia.

The term “member” refers to a soldier or airman of the organized militia.

RCW 38.04.030: Composition of the Militia

The militia of the state of Washington shall consist of all able bodied citizens of the United States and all other able bodied persons who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, residing within this state, who shall be more than eighteen years of age, and shall include all persons who are members of the national guard and the state guard, and said militia shall be divided into two classes, the organized militia and the unorganized militia.

RCW 38.04.040: Composition of Organized Militia

The organized militia of Washington shall consist of the commissioned officers, warrant officers, enlisted persons, organizations, staffs, corps, and departments of the regularly commissioned, warranted and enlisted militia of the state, organized and maintained pursuant to law. Its numerical strength, composition, distribution, organization, arms, uniforms, equipment, training and discipline shall be prescribed by the governor in conformity with, and subject to the limitations imposed by the laws and regulations of the United States and the laws of this state: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the minimum enlisted strength of the organized militia of this state shall never be less than two thousand. The organized militia may include persons residing outside the state of Washington.