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I wish to store my AR-15 with the BCG (bolt carrier group) removed, rather than use a lock. I prefer this because it's easy to do, easy to undo, and more aesthetically pleasing than the cable lock I have. I would store the BCG in a lock box, with a handgun, making that part's storage as RCW 9.41.360 complaint as the handgun. However, I would store the remainder of the AR-15 on an easily accessible gun rack.

It is utterly inconceivable that someone could make an AR-15 fire without acquiring a proper BCG. It is so improbable that it is arguably more secure than the cable lock. Honestly, I could cut the cable lock with a big enough pair of wire cutters.

Would this method of storage be lawful compliance with RCW 9.41.360?

RCW 9.41.360 says nothing about removing parts necessary to make a complete gun, though, correctly doing so absolutely would render a gun nonfunctional.

It only says:

The firearm [must be] in secure gun storage, or secured with a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm;

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A prior question that you should ask (in order to understand the law) is what RCW 9.41.360 prohibits. Note para (6): "Nothing in this section mandates how or where a firearm must be stored". The part that you should focus on is the part that say "If A, then B". There are two crimes defined, "Community endangerment due to unsafe storage of a firearm in the first degree" (class C felony) and "Community endangerment due to unsafe storage of a firearm in the second degree" (gross misdemeanor). The distinguishing feature of these crimes pertains to the bad act that follows, namely death or person injury for the first degree crime, and discharging, using in a crime, or threatening. Taking the misdemeanor version, first, there has to be involvement by a "prohibited person", and that person does at least one of

(i) Causes the firearm to discharge;

(ii) Carries, exhibits, or displays the firearm in a public place in a manner that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons; or

(iii) Uses the firearm in the commission of a crime

A prohibited person is "a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law". There is no prohibition against storing your firearm in that manner, instead, there is a consequence (for you) if a prohibited person does certain things with your weapon.

The law is not limited to actual potential for a weapon to fire. The purpose of paragraph 3 is to specifically immunize you against prosecution in case a prohibited person gets your firearm. Various exceptions are given, such as lawful self-defense by prohibited person, lawful permission of the parent or guardian and supervised by an adult, or

The firearm was in secure gun storage, or secured with a trigger lock or similar device that is designed to prevent the unauthorized use or discharge of the firearm;

By the letter of the law, you have not used a device designed to prevent unauthorized use (instead, you have removed a device that enables its use). This being a new law, we cannot tell how the courts will react in case your non-operating firearm is obtained by a prohibited person who then uses the weapon in a crime (plastic guns that don't actually fire are also used in crimes). There exists limited legal precedent regarding exceptions to firearms restrictions and firearms that have been rendered permanently inoperable (machine gun laws), but your plan doesn't do that.

Until case law is created that concludes that the law "really means" that the gun must be rendered inoperable, the courts will interpret the law literally: it has to be in a box, or have an added device designed to prevent its use (regardless of whether it will actually fire). Since this is from an initiative measure, the Washington courts will especially look at the letter of the law.

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  • Thank you. This is about what I figured too. I will probably mark this as accepted, as I think this is the most correct answer so far. Even without the BCG, it could easily be used as a tool to commit crime by virtue of the fact that it still appears to be a 100% real and functional gun. A bright orange tip, or cable lock sticking out of the breach, makes that less likely. – Charlie Mar 1 at 20:57
  • What's interesting to note is that (ii) could be solved by putting a bright orange muzzle device on the gun, but that would cause other very serious problems. – Charlie Mar 1 at 20:58
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US law defines the firearm as the lower receiver; that is the item which carries a serial number and is controlled and tracked by firearms regulations. Putting the BCG in a lock-box does not count as keeping the firearm secured. If you were to disassemble the AR-15 and put the lower receiver in a lock box then that would be OK (but that isn't what you want to do either).

If a cable lock can be cut so easily then it probably doesn't count as secure storage either.

As for your comment on rendering the gun non-functional, the BCG is a component which is not tracked as a firearm, and would therefore be much easier to obtain than the lower receiver.

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  • The cable lock makes me legal as far as is known; a device specifically designed to prevent unauthorized use of a gun. Officials and rules support this. Even so, I really could just cut it with a pair of common tin snips with enough strength. With bolt cutters it would take mere seconds. Without a BCG someone would at least need to (a) wait a week for shipping, (b) go into a gun shop, or (c) know someone cooperative that has access. I can get bolt cutters in almost any general store, be I felon or child. I don't know if this has been tested in court, I doubt it has. – Charlie Mar 1 at 19:08
  • @BCG vs. Lower: I have 3D printed at least a large fraction of a lower receiver using my 3D printer. I could easily complete it, and make it quite functional. It's also possible to use other tooling to make a functional lower. People continuously show this being done, YouTube has tons of proof of that. However, I could NEVER, with all my tools in my shop, make a functional BCG. If I needed one, I would need to acquire a proper one period. I don't think any one person has ever made one. – Charlie Mar 1 at 19:18

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