What are voluntary waivers?
Voluntary waivers allow individuals to proactively add themselves to a list of people who are not allowed to purchase firearms. These voluntary restrictions, which require a simple court order to be put into place, are a unique feature of Washington’s gun laws; no other state gives individuals the agency to prohibit themselves from buying guns.
The law came into effect on January 1, 2019, following the passage of Substitute Senate Bill 5553 in 2018.
How do they work?
Voluntary waivers build on existing processes to help individuals make choices to keep themselves safe. Individuals must file waiver forms in person at the local court, where the clerk will confirm their identity before transmitting the information to the Washington State Patrol. From there, Washington’s robust background check system takes over and works exactly the same way for people who have voluntarily waived their firearms rights as it does for other prohibited purchasers.
Why do they matter?
Voluntary waivers are a suicide prevention tool. Firearms are a particularly lethal means for suicide. Research has shown that many people who are at risk of suicide would choose to voluntarily waive firearms rights if given the option. By allowing individuals who may struggle with suicidal ideation or other mental health challenges to take action to keep themselves safe from firearms, Washington is helping prevent suicides in our state.
Voluntary waivers are just one of the ways that Washington continues to be a leader in the gun violence prevention movement and we look forward to other states following suit.