Policy Topics

68% of likely Washington voters support enacting a permit-to-purchase law for guns

Near­ly sev­en in ten like­ly 2024 vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton sup­port strength­en­ing the Ever­green State’s gun safe­ty laws to require a per­mit to pur­chase a firearm, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s lat­est statewide sur­vey has found.

68% of 874 vot­ers inter­viewed across the state from March 7th-8th sup­port the poli­cies pro­posed by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Liz Berry (D‑36th Dis­trict: Seat­tle) and dozens of her House col­leagues in House Bill 1143, which is now under con­sid­er­a­tion in the Sen­ate. 29% are opposed and 3% said they were not sure.

Well over a major­i­ty — 56% — of our respon­dents said they were strong­ly sup­port­ive, while an addi­tion­al 12% were strong­ly supportive.

10% were some­what opposed and 19% were strong­ly opposed.

Visu­al­iza­tion of NPI’s per­mit to pur­chase gun safe­ty poll find­ing (NPI graphic)

House Bill 1143, pre­filed on Jan­u­ary 5th, was request­ed by Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee. Its Sen­ate com­pan­ion, SB 5211, is prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor Marko Liias.

The amend­ed bill, accord­ing to non­par­ti­san staff:

  • Pro­vides that a deal­er may not trans­fer any firearm to a pur­chas­er or trans­fer­ee until com­ple­tion of a back­ground check indi­cat­ing the per­son is eli­gi­ble to pos­sess firearms and ten busi­ness days have elapsed since the deal­er request­ed the back­ground check.
  • Pro­hibits a deal­er from trans­fer­ring a firearm to a pur­chas­er or trans­fer­ee unless the per­son pro­vides the deal­er with proof of com­ple­tion of a rec­og­nized firearm safe­ty train­ing program.
  • Updates firearm trans­fer and back­ground check process­es, includ­ing updates to con­form to imple­men­ta­tion of a state firearms back­ground check program.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed to pass HB 1143 on March 7th by a vote of 52–44, with 2 excused. The bill is sched­uled to be con­sid­ered in exec­u­tive ses­sion next Tues­day fol­low­ing its hear­ing today in the Sen­ate Law & Jus­tice Committee.

Here’s the ques­tion we asked and the answers we received:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose enact­ing a per­mit-to-pur­chase law for firearms, which would require peo­ple who want to buy a gun to get fin­ger­print­ed, take a class in gun safe­ty, and pass an enhanced back­ground check first?


  • Sup­port: 68% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 56%
    • Some­what sup­port: 12%
  • Oppose: 29%
    • Some­what oppose: 10%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 19%
  • Not sure: 3%

Our sur­vey of 874 like­ly 2024 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, March 7th through Wednes­day, March 8th, 2023.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and online answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

Giv­en the toplines, it was not sur­pris­ing to see sup­port for per­mit-to-pur­chase among all age groups and in all regions of Wash­ing­ton State.

78% of like­ly vot­ers in King Coun­ty sup­port per­mit-to-pur­chase, along with 71% of vot­ers in North Puget Sound, 69% of South Sound vot­ers, 62% of vot­ers on the Olympic Penin­su­la or South­west Wash­ing­ton, and 53% of vot­ers in East­ern and Cen­tral Wash­ing­ton, the most Repub­li­can region of the state.

60% of inde­pen­dent vot­ers also sup­port per­mit-to-pur­chase, along with 91% of Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers. Repub­li­cans are split: 52% oppose the idea, but a sig­nif­i­cant minor­i­ty, 40%, they say sup­port it. 40% of Repub­li­can vot­ers in sup­port is a huge, huge per­cent­age for a gun safe­ty bill! It just goes to show that not every Repub­li­can vot­er agrees with the abso­lutist posi­tions of the NRA and gun lobby.

NPI has been research­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ sup­port for gun safe­ty bills for more than half a decade, and we have con­sis­tent­ly found robust majori­ties in sup­port of every pro­posed law that we have test­ed so far, including:

HB 1143 ranks as one of the most pop­u­lar ideas we’ve test­ed, with the sup­port of near­ly sev­en out of ten vot­ers. Leg­is­la­tors should act swift­ly to get this leg­is­la­tion to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee’s desk so it can be signed into law.

Andrew Villeneuve

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