In the United States, the theft of firearms has been on a steady increase. Reports have shown that between 2006 and 2016 firearm theft was up over 60%. The current average is just over 380,000 guns are stolen each year, with only 60% of those being reported.
The reasons behind gun owners not reporting stolen firearms are not very clear. A few instances suggest it is because of lost serial numbers or fear of being punished for negligence.
What To Do Now (Before A Theft)
1. Record All Of Your Serial Numbers
It seems simple enough, but many firearms owners do not record this information. When it comes time to report the weapon stolen, this is the key identifying piece the authorities need to identify the weapon. It will be up to you to figure this out. Where purchasing a firearm from an FFL dealer would most likely leave a record on file, in-person cash sales or trades leave it up to the buyer/seller to record and store this information.
2. Keep Firearms Secure
Again, a simple and commonsense measure, but locking them up can go a long way. Most thefts are those that are quick and easy opportunities. The more difficult you make it, the more likely the criminal will not dedicate the time while performing a quick grab. We understand this doesn’t fit all cases, but it fits a large percentage.
Side note: “Truck Guns”
It’s never a good idea to just leave a firearm in your vehicle when it isn’t occupied. In the situations where this has to be done, a lockbox or secure mechanism which is hidden from view will be key.
3. Keep Records
Aside from the serial number, records can include past transfers through private sales, identifying marks on the firearm, or anything that can help identify that weapon if the number was ground off. Sometimes this combination of information will help determine if a recovered firearm is yours or not.
4. (Optional) Legal Insurance
There are some instances where a stolen or lost firearm ends up in the wrong hands. When the theft or loss isn’t reported before the crime takes place, and the culprit gets away- law enforcement has no choice but to go after the last known owner of the firearm. In these cases, some entities offer insurance to make sure you have legal representation for this at the ready.
What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Gun?
Report The Theft
You must report the theft. Even if you feel that you may have been negligent and are worried, the punishment for not reporting is much greater.
While you should report the loss or theft in any state in which you live, or where the theft occurred, there are 14 that make it mandatory. Of these 14, they each have different timelines allotted for how long you have to report the theft.
These 14 states are (with time to report):
- California (Report Within 5 Days)
- Connecticut (Report Within 72 Hours)
- Delaware (Report Within 7 Days)
- District of Columbia (Must Report Immediately)
- Hawaii (Report Within 24 Hours)
- Illinois (Report Within 72 Hours)
- Maryland (Report Within 72 Hours)
- Massachusetts (Must Report Immediately)
- Michigan (Report Within 5 Days)
- New Jersey (Report Within 36 Hours)
- New York (Report Within 24 Hours)
- Ohio (Must Report Immediately)
- Rhode Island (Report Within 24 Hours)
- Virginia (Report Within 48 Hours)
How To Report A Gun Theft For FFL’s
If you are an FFL, you must report the theft first to your local law enforcement agencies. The next step is to report it to the ATF’s Stolen Firearms Program Manager. The last step is to complete ATF forms 310.11 and 3310.11A which gets mailed to the ATF’s National Tracing Center.
ATF Stolen Firearms Program Manager 888-930-9275
ATF National Tracing Center:
Bureau of ATF
National Tracing Center
Attn: Stolen Firearms Program
244 Needy Road
Martinsburg, WV 25405
How To Report A Gun Theft For Non-FFL’s
If you are a Non-FFL (a private citizen), you only report the theft to local authorities. This is where the serial number and any other identifying information is provided. From here, it gets entered into the stolen guns database.