Ever been wary of buying a gun from an individual because you don’t know if it’s clean? While rare, it can happen. Be smart and stay safe.
Guns can be checked against the NCIC Stolen Gun Database. Any law enforcement officer can run the check. Some states have their own stolen gun database, open to the public. HotGunz.com is a public database, but the information is user-supplied and not official, meaning it’s not related to crime reports.
Want to learn how to check your gun’s serial number, or avoid the situation altogether? It might come in handy.
Can I look up My Gun’s Serial Number?
Guns officially reported stolen are entered in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Stolen Gun Database. The NCIC database is accessible 24/7 by any law enforcement agency. However, outside of law enforcement and federal agents, no other person has access o this database.
Now, there are some states that do have their own public use Stolen Gun Database. The only ones I know of are Ohio and Florida, but there will probably be more soon. It would be neat to just be able to type in a serial number and see if it’s legit before completing a sale.
Currently, there are several websites offering a public use database with a serial number lookup for firearms. These are all run by user-submitted information but do have a good track record of not being abused. The biggest and most well-known is hotgunz.com. Its main weakness is that it requires people to self-report a stolen gun.
Although simple to do (just input a serial number) most people don’t use it, mainly because they don’t know about it. it also requires you to know the serial number. Law enforcement tells us that most people don’t know and can’t find the serial number of guns stolen from them.
Can Gun Dealers Check a Gun’s Serial Nuber?
Gun Dealers, or FFL’s, do not have access to the NCIC Stolen Gun Database. They cannot look up a gun in the national database and see if it’s stolen. Apparently that’s privileged information. what a gun store or FFL can do is oversee a Private transaction of firearms.
Generally for around $15, a gun dealer is willing to run a background check on the buyer and seller in a private sale. If you are selling a gun, it may be worth your peace of mind. And if you are buying, Being sure the seller isn’t a known criminal means the gun likely isn’t stolen.
I do want to interject here that it’s generally not necessary to do this. Sure, it can offer you peace of mind. It’s just interesting how some people have an unrealistic fear of buying a stolen gun. Would you want to do a stolen property check on anything you bought at a garage sale? It’s somewhat the same thing.
Unless given a reason otherwise, it’s safe to assume a gun is clean, and a buyer is legitimate. Where some put the responsibility on the government, I put the responsibility on the people. Use your intellect. If something doesn’t feel right about a sale, walk away. If the integrity of a buyer or seller is genuinely questionable, you can refuse. That’s your right and responsibility.
Many people would see a gun laying in the woods and assume it was used in a crime when in reality it was left by a careless squirrel hunter. But, if a cell phone was found at a garage sale, nobody questions if it’s hot or not, even though cell phones are stolen more than guns in the US.
What Happens if My Gun Ends up Being Stolen Property?
If you have reason to believe you are holding a gun that is actually stolen property, you need to act quickly and responsibly. Don’t go hide it or destroy it, call the police. You don’t need to tie up a line on 911, instead, call the actual police or Sherrif office and calmly and clearly explain what you think is going on.
They’ve been through this before and generally work it out with you smoothly. Police will confiscate the gun and run a double check to make sure it’s actually stolen. If it comes back clean, you get your gun back. Otherwise, they will usually hang on to it until the propper owner has their gun recovered.
If you bought a gun from a licensed dealer who follows state and national laws, chances are next to nill that you bought an implicated gun. Besides the paperwork and legalities involved, gun store clerks are very good at reading into a person’s character. Licensed dealers do refuse to buy guns from someone they don’t trust.
I wrote an article on what police do with a stolen gun and if you will get your stolen gun back. You can find it here.
Will I go to Jail if I Bought a Stolen Gun Unknowingly?
Buying and Possessing stolen guns are crimes. In order to be charged, a prosecutor should prove you to have known or should have known that it was stolen. Primary indicators are, buying a gun in suspicious conditions, and for an unrealistically low price.
Many states allow the private sale of a firearm without a background check and require no registration or official records. That’s actually a good thing believe it or not, and it worked fine centuries before we started licensing and checking backgrounds. But we’re talking about a different topic, so I’ll leave it at that.
I know people who have gotten in trouble for buying stolen guns. every one of them was fairly certain the gun was probably stolen or otherwise implicated in criminal activity. Some people do accidentally and honestly find themselves in the possession of a stolen firearm, and laws and methods exist for aiding the honest man
The best and fastest way out of that situation is to be prompt, honest, and work with law enforcement. Evan a mean cop tends to treat a nice guy alright. Communicate everything as clearly as you can, and show a willingness to do the right thing.
As a citizen, do your part to aid in living in a civil society. You need to make the best determination you can about the specific transaction. No good citizen wants to be supporting or promoting a violent criminal lifestyle.
How to Know if a Gun is Stolen or Legit
If you bought a gun, following the local regulations, and nothing seemed shady about it, you should be totally fine. Be honest with yourself. Does something feel shady or suspicious? The vast majority of adults are capable of making a sound judgment of a situation. If you are the exception, you probably shouldn’t be getting a gun.
Here’s how you should approach a private sale of a gun (no dealer involved). If possible, talk to the seller before the meeting. Get their name. Ask them to send a picture of themself so you can identify them. with a name and a picture, you can probably look them up on social media. that will tell you a lot about the person.
If you’re nervous, see if you can get ahold of any of their friends or family to ask about the integrity of the individual. It may seem weird, but it’s highly practical. Use good intuition and follow your gut. if at some point you lose trust in the individual, politely call the deal off. that’s an okay thing to do.
if you really want to be safe, don’t buy a gun from a person you wouldn’t trust to watch your kids. That’s kinda the ultimate trust test there. And guess what, Joe Biden doesn’t pass that test.
Any gun you can be checked out by law enforcement. You’ll probably have to make an appointment first. They will take the gun and check the serial number. If it comes back clean, you are good to go. if it comes back stolen, they hold on to it and will attempt to notify the person it was stolen from.
With all this talk about lawlessness, consider buying some body armor. I’m not saying you’d ever need it, but it’s both cool and a little peace of mind to have around.
Can I get in Trouble if the Police Check My Gun and it’s Stolen?
If you are stopped by police and they realize you are in possession of a stolen firearm, you may have trouble. You may get put in handcuffs, you may get a free ride to the police station. That doesn’t mean you will be in legal trouble. the first job of the police is to collect information, and second, to figure out what happened.
If an officer thinks you may be involved with theft, they will probably arrest you, and that makes sense. If even though police found you in the possession of a stolen gun, you’ve not given them any reason not to distrust you, you might very well just go home. But expect a follow-up visit with more questions soon.
Of all the stolen guns that were recovered from someone who bought them, almost all of them were taken after the buyer committed a small crime or offense. Stay out of trouble, and don’t buy guns at a super deal from a shady-looking fellow on the street side who’s in a hurry and won’t tell you his name.
At times, an honest person is found to have stolen property. Be decent about it. Do what you can to right the issue. In any dealing with law enforcement, be respectful and as helpful as you can. That’ll go a long way for you.