Citizens’ Guide to Initiative 1639, to enact new restrictions on firearms ownership in Washington state

Oct 1, 2018

Download the full Policy Note

Key Findings

  1. The initiative would re-define most commonly-owned sporting, collectable and self-defense rifles as “assault” weapons.
  2. The initiative would create a new criminal offense; gun owners would be charged with a class C felony if any of their stolen firearms were used by someone else to commit a crime.
  3. Applicants to buy a firearm would be required to give up their health care privacy and allow government employees full access to their medical and counseling records.
  4. Government employees would be granted immunity from lawsuits for violating the civil rights of a person to legally buy or possess a firearm.
  5. The right of adults age 18 to 21 to buy a firearm would be repealed.  They would also lose the right to possess a firearm except in their home, place of business, or on their own property.
  6. Initiative 1639 would restrict the civil rights of people who already follow the law, but would have less effect on people who choose to engage in violence and break the law.
  7. By restricting and stigmatizing legal ownership, Initiative 1639 would make it more difficult for state residents to protect themselves, neighbors or family members from criminal acts.


Initiative 1639 seeks to increase public safety by enacting a series of new restrictions on firearms ownership in Washington state.  In particular, the initiative would define most rifles in private ownership as “assault rifles,” make certain storage practices illegal, impose training and waiting requirements, ban certain out-of-state sales, and repeal the right of adults under 21 to buy a firearm or possess one in a public place.

Legislation introduced earlier this year with similar provisions faced bi-partisan opposition from Democrats and Republicans in Olympia and failed to pass. 

This study presents the main provisions of the initiative, describes how they would change current law, how they would create new criminal liability for firearms owners, and in general how the measure would affect firearms ownership across the state, 

The study also assesses the impact Initiative 1639 would have on the public interest, whether or not it would increase public safety, and the effect these policy chances would have on the ability of citizens to act in self-defense, or to reduce and prevent crime at times when police protection is not immediately available.

Download the full Policy Note