Kittas County Sheriff Gene Dana (courtesy icrimewatch.net)

“The other day I was listening to Kittitas County [WA] Dispatch send a Deputy to a reported domestic violence call,” a TTAG reader writes. “As part of the call the Deputy was told that the male had several handguns registered to him. They gave specific make & model of the guns. My question is how do the Dispatchers know? I can understand that if the person has a Concealed Pistol License that this info would be available. But I’m very concerned about where they got the specific gun ownership information. I asked a Deputy ‘friend’ and he didn’t answer me, he got very evasive and changed the subject.” The Federal Firearms Owners’ Protection Act (FOPA) outlaws gun registries. But what are the odds that the local, state and/or federal po-po already know exactly how you roll firearms-wise?

113 Responses to Question of the Day: Do The Cops Know You’re A Gun Owner?

    • Yup, unless they’ve tapped into a CCW database or other local law that requires registration. Very low. There is no national database that that can be accessed by LEOs.

      • I thought so. Thanks for the affirmation.

        I’m afraid this is one thing we can’t change for the foreseeable future. Maybe we need to buy from Muggs on the corner like the criminals do.

    • Here in California it is high. I have done a ride-a-long and asked this very question. When dispatched to a call, its not always that this information will pop up, but depending on the call type, the dispatcher can and will access this type of information and have it sent to the officer responding to the call. I see both sides of it. On my hand, I don’t want the government knowing about what I have. Yet put myself in their shoes and if I am responding to a call where the person is violent in whatever case, of course I would like to know what they have so I can be better prepared to handle the situation. Unfortunately I don’t have a choice, I live in California.

      • Al, there is an important distinction you’re leaving out. Criminals won’t be listed in a registry, only law abiding citizens. So in the most dangerous situations, the cop is in the dark.

        The end result, police have to approach every call as if there could be a weapon. In an enclosed space, a knife could be more dangerous than even a firearm.

        Sorry, I don’t see any meaningful benefit for the officer – especially one that would rise to a higher level than my own desire for privacy.

        • I never said I was for it, I am not. I just said if I was in the officers shoes I would probably rather know before hand if the person had any guns registered to them. As any other LEO, I’m sure I would expect it either way, but if they did have any why wouldn’t I want to know.

        • We have a “choice?” – I think most of us would leave if we could do all of the following…

          a) get a job in our current field.
          b) get a job that pays comparable to our current wage/salary

          Just saying. I’m planning on checking out Austin. When my job here is done, I’ll be leaving the state. I’m extremely dedicated to the company and would like to see the project through to the end. My career is the only thing keeping me here.

        • I am well aware I can leave California. What I mean’t was, I live in california, so I don’t have a choice, my handguns are already in a registry.

          It isn’t that easy to just up and leave. While I am single and in my 20s, I don’t have family anywhere else. So taking off and starting over again requires funds I do not yet have. But trust me, I dream of living in Texas. I love that damn place.

      • Al, handguns in ca are registered, but are long guns? I was under the impression that long guns in ca were not.

      • I just want to be clear, my answer was to the question that was asked: “Do the cops know you’re a gun owner?”

        Quite a few people are having trouble with reading comprehension. The question wasn’t “Does the govt know?” or “Can the govt find out?” The answer to both of those is “probably,” but as far as being able to put their hands on that info between a 911 call and showing up at my door? No.

        • Shoot, if the po-po have to come out to my house, they will probably have my up-to-the-minute anti-LEO posts off of TTAG at their disposal.

  1. That’s because it’s Washington where all FFL’s are required to report your information and the make and model of every pistol you own to the police for registration.

    • Exactly. For handguns you fill out separate paperwork for WA state registration when you buy from an FFL.

      • Hey! Your sweater (or whatever it is; too small to tell) is the same color as your last name. Did you plan that?

    • Weird thing is that they will know you bought the gun but don’t know if you still have it. There is NO reporting required if you sell it or otherwise no longer have possession. WA State doesn’t consider it a registry because of that — it’s a notification of purchase but absolutely can’t be used to set an expectation that you own or should own the handguns in question, since you’re 100% within your right to sell them and not tell the State.

      No. I don’t like it at all. Still wanted to point out that they can’t legitimately knock on your door and say “where’s the G17, serial XYZ123? We know you have it.” because you could say “I sold it two years ago” and maybe you did and maybe you didn’t but they’re purposefully not supposed to know.

      • No. I don’t like it at all. Still wanted to point out that they can’t legitimately knock on your door and say “where’s the G17, serial XYZ123? We know you have it.” because you could say “I sold it two years ago” and maybe you did and maybe you didn’t but they’re purposefully not supposed to know.

        Except I’d bet $20 that a judge would rule proof of purchase as enough evidence to get a search warrant so they can ransack your home looking for it.

  2. Ha,and the FOPA is supposed to prevent being arrested for travelling with guns.That didn’t work out too well for George Revell,whose plane made an emergency landing in NJ.

    Its 2013.Between the ATFs eTrace registry ,local state registries like Clark County NVs database and creative pattern matching software ,every gun we own is on file somewhere.All the government need do is cross reference visitors of this website with Google searches on Gun Control,and Bobs Yer Uncle.

    • I live in CT, I can tell you 100% that they do from personal experience.

      If I am in my car and I get stopped, the officer walks up to the car and asks “do I have weapons in the car or on my person”. If I am driving my GF car and get stopped, they have no clue and do not get asked.

      They are NOT suppose to be able to do this, but they do. If you ask a LEO, they all evade the question.

      As far as I know, they should treat every stop as if the person in the car is armed, why they single out people with permits is beyond me.

      • Same thing happened to me in CT. If you have a carry permit, you’d better expect the question.

      • They are NOT suppose to be able to do this, but they do. If you ask a LEO, they all evade the question.

        Yet more proof that LEO’s are not the good guys.

    • In CT every gun you buy from (or via) a dealer is entered in registries at the town and state levels. I presume that these predate FOPA, and are thus grandfathered in.

      I haven’t been pulled over since getting my Permit, but if our nanny ever gets pulled over driving the wife’s car, she is in for a nasty surprise.

    • I wonder if CT police making a traffic stop have similar info about out-of-state folks whom they pull over? To what extent might states be sharing this info with one another?

      Say you’re traveling the country in an RV and have the required resident and non-resident CCW licenses to, at a minimum, legally have a gun locked-up in a box where it is not easily reachable, etc. as is generally required. Can you assume that officers outside of your gun license issuing states, but within states that have reciprocity with your license issuing states, will not know that you might be legally transporting a weapon?

  3. In states with tighter restrictions that have things like state registrations, then yes, cops know everything there is to know about your gun ownership down to serial numbers. In most every other state, yes they still know. They may not know make/model or quantity, but if you ever applied for a permit to carry in your state (or any similar permits), then you better believe it’s on your permanent profile with the fuzz.

  4. Maryland State has a registry of all “Regulated” guns in the state. It is part of the reason we have the “Regulated” guns in the 1st place. For those who don’t live in the slave state of MD. “Regulated” is all handguns and evil black guns. They know nothing about the cash and carry stuff.

    Thanks
    Robert

  5. Tennessee is a non-registry state and you are not required to have a carry permit or present one for any purchase, including handguns. 4473, wait ten minutes, pass and leave.

    That said our carry permit number is the same as our drivers license number so it probably dosnt take anything for an officer to see you can carry. We are not required to notify that we are carrying unless asked.

    I do have police officer freinds who know but otherwise unless I choose to notify or am OC’ing, they dont know.

    ETA: Almost forgot, the Commercial Appeal was posting Shelby County residents online but that was stopped. They still have old info (including me) but cant post anything new.

  6. In Arizona when I took my CCW class I was told that the police are told if you are a CCW holder when they run your license plate.

  7. 100%. That’s why I feel that in New York come Jan 2014 a whole lot of people who pledged “will not comply” to the gun registration requirements of the NYS (un)SAFE Act are going to get a visit from the fornicator in charge’s Stazi. And that is when we all will have some very hard decisions to make.

    • Only if you previously registered your firearms with the city of Chicago or one of the handful of other municipalities in Illinois that require(d) it. In most of the state, the police may know you have an FOID card, but they have no good way of knowing exactly what you own.

      Even if the ATF/FBI/NSA somehow has this information, it is not currently being passed down to the locals in database form.

  8. It’s like that here in PA. When you buy a handgun, the state police records your info and the firearms’s serial and keeps it indefinately. They have been doing this since the 60’s. It has stood up in court too based on the fact that it is for handguns only and not long guns. I don’t see how it can stand personally, it seems to be a direct violation of FOPA. I don’t read anywhere in the FOPA language where it says “except handguns”………

      • Federal Law 18 U.S.C. 926 (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/926) being:
        No such rule or regulation prescribed [by the Attorney General] after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.

        I am not a lawyer, but I believe this is suppose to extend to state law enforcement agencies as well but I know of no challenge in court about this and thus why LEO are evasive to the question.

        • Rossignol is right. The portion you quote is accurate, but it only limits the actions of the attorney general. “No such rule or regulation prescribed [by the Attorney General] . . . .”

        • @Sertorius

          Yes and no. I am not so sure. Given all the responses about police being evasive to the question of if they know and if they have a database, if it was clear cut, they would not be evasive.

          I am not sure it is so clear cut that that they should have the information but at the same time, I do not believe courts have ruled.

        • Pascal, I don’t know what else I can say. The language you quoted only applies to the attorney general. It plainly says so.

        • Wait, isn’t the ATF housed in a facility owned by the United States? How the heck can they keep FFL records from businesses that shut down? Oh, I see, the buildings are rented, huh?

      • Rosignol is correct. What the law says is that the Feds cannot maintain a database, and that the Feds cannot report information they receive from FFLs to state entities. But in a lot of states, as detailed above, the state maintains its own database from information submitted to them by the FFLs. California and Colorado, for example, do their own background checks, not using NICS–so they get the record of sale directly. If you move into California with guns, you are supposed to report them to the Department of Justice. The only thing currently excluded are long guns (other than assault weapons which are registered), but as of 2014 all long gun sales will be registered too. There is also a bill pending to require retroactive registration of all “assault weapons” as newly defined (which will require the registration of mini-14s as well as 10/22s if passed). And of course, I don’t think there is anything in FOPA that prevents the Feds from accessing databases maintained by state entities–just as long as the feds don’t “maintain” that database..

    • Yes, in PA that’s the way it is, when a dispatcher gives a high priority call to a unit they regularly run a check of the residence/person (or at the request of the officer) and everything comes up. Guns owned, previous calls to the residence, Protection orders, warrants…etc. The database only contains handguns (still very wrong) but its been that way for years in PA.

    • The state agencies have no way of knowing that you have filled out a 4473, since it goes directly to the Feds. And the Feds are forbidden from keeping a record of those.

      In WA, however, there is a separate, state-mandated form that you also have to fill and submit when purchasing handguns from a dealer. That goes to Olympia, with a copy to your local sheriff, and both can do whatever they want with it (e.g. compile a database).

      • In Tennessee, the background check goes through “TICS” managed by the TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) who then processes it through NICS and then responds back to the FFL.
        NICS supposedly can’t keep the info but I couldn’t determine if “TICS” does or not.
        Anyone out there know?

  9. I’m a CCW permit holder (Missouri), so – yes, the police know I own firearms. In fact, that information is displayed if my plates are run at a traffic stop (or by one of the cruisers the city has equipped with scanners to automatically pull and create a record of the plates of every car that passes).

    There’s no need for a national registry to get confiscation started, they can always start with the citizens who have a license to carry. And those plate scanners are just scary.

  10. Computers, internet, the info age. Of course they know. Unless you have never bought a round of ammo or reloading components or never landed on a site like TTAG yes they know. Gray man really doesn’t exist anymore.

  11. FOPA does not purport to stop state level gun registries. It only bars federal action.

    This is a state-law issue in Washington. Washington law (9.41.110(9) if you are curious) requires gun dealers to submit detailed info on pistol sales to the chief of police within six hours of the sale. Data included on the required form includes ” the date of sale, the caliber, make, model and manufacturer’s number of the weapon, the name, address, occupation, and place of birth of the purchaser.”

    What an awful law. Repealing that would be a high priority if I lived in Washington.

    • Welcome to a Dem state. Which seems to mean “Well it ain’t mah hun’n gun, so it’s all good”.

  12. In Ohio the police can see you have a CCW pemit when they run your license plate, but individual weapons data is not shared.

  13. Of course they do. between the federal reporting by FFL’s to the fact that they have the complete data dump for all your web searches and online purchases from google, they know it all. or at least they can find it all in a millisecond with a search.
    since a “registry” would be illeagle, it’s probably called a ” approved transactions confirmation support data file ” or something.
    Have you ever seen data mining software work, well not work but the results of it. I have given a general topic and one party’s name, it can fine e-mails that were sent and deleted in a few hours 6 years ago, and send them to you.
    they know everything you have ever searched for on a google supported web search.
    in some states they may not know of all the models or serial numbers, but they absolutely know you are a gun owner.

    Who’s job would it be to prosecute the BATF if they actualy did keep a log? I don’t see a “controlling leagle authority”.

  14. Where I live (Minnesota) permits to carry/purchase do not show up when cops look you up in the system. But they are required to make a note if they know that guns are present in your house (even if you haven’t broken any laws). As a result of that if they are ever called to your house at a later point they will know that guns are likely present in the house and they will be much more cautious in how they approach the house. My neighbors (who thankfully aren’t there anymore) were arrested several months ago on weapons/drugs charges. The SWAT team went in with full body armor, submachine guns, and deployed flashbangs through their front and back windows before going in. And yes, they knew that guns were likely present in that house before going in to arrest them.

  15. Domestic violence = probably an ongoing situation = cops have asked him about his weapons on past visits. This is probably true in every state, but the fix is simple. Don’t beat your wife.

  16. As a resident of NY state I am 110% certain that my local, county, and state po-po know exactly what I own. He’s how it works in NY: 1) you buy a gun 2) you apply with the county for a permit for said gun (so the county po-po know) 3) wait six months while the state police do the background checks for the county (so the state po-po know) 4) if approved, you pick up your permit, a copy of which has been sent to your local po-po.

  17. In Oregon, it is a misdemeanor for the police to keep records. I used to shred them after the buyer/seller record cleared.
    Of course any FFL dealer has to keep all of the 4473 records, but that’s guns, not ammo.
    When a person calls and says my husband/wife is beating me, the 9-1-1 dispatcher automatically asks if there are any weapons in the home….
    So then, a permanent record is created… Not by caliber or make or model usually, but…

  18. 100%, friend of ours was stopped for speeding (legitimate). First question was are you carrying? She wasn’t, that’s in North Cadrina for all us Tin foilers.

  19. This is about to become a moot point. As soon as the NSA’s Utah Data Center comes online, I believe in September, EVERYTHING will be stored. Post on TTAG, stored. Call, email or text a buddy the picture of the new firearm you just bought, stored. Look at a we page about anything at all, stored.
    They have invented a new measure of storage for this center, the yotabyte which is one quadrillion gigabytes.
    Privacy is dead. Look it up.

    • Yes, but they have to do it in chunks and throw away the data that is not relevant. What I read is that they can process a YB but they can’t store it. There is no storage device(s) that can store that much data in a reasonable physical space. Using standard Terabyte storage it would take a facility the size of the sate of Delaware. The reason for that much processing power is to break every encryption method to access encrypted data everywhere in the planet.

      • Not true, if my math is right a yottabyte in just 1TB hard drives is roughly .4Km^3. In 4TB hard drives, 1/4th that. Add some overhead for extra hardware, and it could be done in a building the size of the Boeing factory in Washington, especially if you can bury a lot of it.

        That said, they’d probably need an onsite nuclear reactor just to power that many drives and associated support hardware (energy really is your only limit to collecting data and/or omnipresent drones).

        • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Data_Center

          The planned structure is 1 million or 1.5 million square feet[3][7][8] and it is projected to cost from $1.5 billion[9][10][11] to $2 billion when finished in September 2013.[2][3] One report suggested that it will cost another $2 billion for hardware, software, and maintenance.[3] The completed facility is expected to have a power demand of 65 megawatts, costing about $40 million per year.[2][3]

          Back in the 90s, I heard someone joke that the NSA measured computing power by the acre.

          1,000,000 sq ft = ~22.9568 acres.

          Guess it’s one of those jokes that’s funny because it’s true.

  20. Colorado went through a period after CCW became legal where some sheriffs would enter permit holders into the criminal database. Supposedly that’s been stopped.

    There’s no registry here, but Denver is notorious for going to the FFLs in the city and harvesting the data from their records.

  21. Michigan requires handgun registration with police. A pistol sales record is filled out and has to be turned in to the police within 10 days. Private sales also require a “license to purchase” issued by the police prior to buying the handgun, provided the purchaser does not have a concealed pistol license.

    • That has changed to 14 days, and pistols have to be registered. The police do not have access to the BATF records and its like pullling teeth to get info on people on federal probation or that has been seent to federal prison. The only times the police run “guns registered to”. Is generally when someone’s pistol has been stolen and we are trying to get it entered in NCIC like any other stolen property. Or we come across a firearm and run the numbers to find the owner for what ever reason. There are times when going to certain dangerous calls that we might run that but its usually like a barricaded subject or man with gun call.

      Also in MI if you have a CCW and are stopped by the police you are required to inform them.

      But for the most part the cops do not care what you have in your gunsafe or at your home, and we do not look at random.

  22. Washington state has a pistol registry that pops up on a police officer’s mobile terminals if they look you up.

    During the debate for universal background checks in our state (which are working so well for California), the Second Amendment Foundation said they would support it, IF, the state did away with the pistol registry.

    The state initially went for it, but balked after Law Enforcement groups said they wouldn’t support the bill in that form. Thus UBC didn’t get the support of gun rights groups and rightly died.

    Funny how they ask for compromise, but when real compromise comes up, they decide it wasn’t really worth it anyway.

  23. How far we’ve fallen. Bear with me here.

    I got my first CCW when I lived in Tacoma, WA., in the late ’70’s. I had to go to the Sheriffs office to get fingerprinted, fill out the application, and pay the $5.00 (?) fee.

    One or two months later, after my background check, I was notified by mail that I had been approved and could pick-up my license at the office.

    I was taken into the office carrying a paper B&I Circus Store bag that held my WWII 1911. I signed a document and he handed me my license. I held up my bag and asked him if he needed to see my pistol. He sat back and laughed saying ~ “We checked you out son, we don’t need to see your gun, and you don’t need to carry it in a bag anymore”.

    My requirement was met after being thoroughly vetted. No mandated training, no BS “need” requirement, just that I was a legal resident that had no disqualifiers in my past.

    Oh, and that $5.00 fee, (it might have been a bit more) was the total cost for a multi-year CCW.

    • So, how “far” have we fallen, exactly? I’ve got my WA CPL a year ago, and the procedure was exactly the same (except that I didn’t carry the pistol to the office), and the fee is $50. It’s good for 5 years. There’s no mandated training, and WA is a shall-issue state so there’s no “need” requirement.

      The only difference is that everything is computerized these days, so your record is in a database that can bring it up in a few clicks when a cop wants to check you.

      • My point of “fallen” refers to the ever-increasing national hostility toward gun owners by politicians and the media mostly shilling for the left.

        My WA. CCW was seamlessly easy, and I’m happy to hear that you are able to enjoy the same freedom that I was allowed in the ’70’s.

        What what once an easy exercise in rights now seems to be fought everyday on the Federal stage. More hostility, more whining, more “for the children” arguments, more denial of basic Constitutional rights…etc.

        You are (and I was) lucky to live in Washington. I’m now lucky to live in Arizona, where we enjoy Constitutional carry and where I first legally open-carried at 16 YO before spending several years in WA. But there are huge swaths of the country where our basic human right to self-defense do not exist.

        • >> What what once an easy exercise in rights now seems to be fought everyday on the Federal stage. More hostility, more whining, more “for the children” arguments, more denial of basic Constitutional rights…etc.

          It depends on the specific rights, though. In some ways we are in fact much better off – and carry is one of them (probably in part because Federal laws don’t apply to it, for the most part, so it’s all down to states). Washington is actually an exception in that regard – it’s one of the very few states where neither open carry nor concealed carry was ever limited, long before Florida started the shall-issue avalanche. But what you did in WA in 70s, you couldn’t do in Texas, where both open and concealed carry were illegal, with a few exceptions since 1871 (!!!). Arizona is another example – no-issue in 1986 (well, at least they didn’t ban open carry…), and constitutional carry today.

          Wikipedia has a nice animated map of how far we have actually progressed on carry in the last 30 years:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rtc2.gif

    • It should also be noted that WA is probably not a good basis for comparison, in any case, because it’s one of the few states that had legal concealed carry and open carry for decades, long before Florida started the new wave of gun liberalization. In most other states, you’re actually better off as far as handguns are concerned today than you would have been in the 70s.

  24. A lot of the info about the firearms ownership of TTAG readers may be gleaned from Google, but of course that supposedly doesn’t include their identities. However, correlative techniques might be applied and identities determined. F’rinstance, I use my real name.
     
    Many computing environments are less than secure, as well. Then there’s credit card/debit card data (purchases of ammo, parts and other non-FFL items), store membership card data, manufacturer warranty information et cetera.
     
    I live in the sticks in Kansas, so it’s probably assumed that I have something that goes boom, but I’ve specifically mentioned a Mosin, Nagant 7-shooter and TT-33 here, and a Taurus elsewhere.
     
    The truth is out there. Sorry.

  25. This brings up an interesting question: If the reality is that the information about who owns what exists due to a combination of legal requirement and technology (google searches), is it better in the long term to focus on opposing the (apparently redundant) collection of more data by the government or erecting legal and cultural safeguards around the data?

    A real world example of this debate is the Manchin-Toomey bill. It would expand the record keeping requirements for who owns which guns, but also creates a real criminal penalty for trying to misuse the information. If the information that would be acquired by M-T is truly new info a possible dictatorial government wouldn’t otherwise have M-T’s defeat may have done some good, but if Big Brother could just ask Google for information that is pretty much as effective to identify the gun owners how much good was done by defeating it?

    Conversely, by society saying “this information shall not be used to create a ‘registry’ (with all that that implies) and we are so serious we will make it a felony with serious time attached” the people responsible for actually enforcing the law (and theoretically disarming the populace) might be more likely to resist actions that they see society disapproving of (and holding them personally responsible for), whereas without M-T there is no personal penalty.

    I’m not sure what the answer is, but it is an interesting question.

  26. My CC class was taught by a former city police officer of 20 years who now works for the County Sheriff’s Department. He told our class that during his interview with the County they asked him about his own “black scary” gun collection and how would he behave if event ABC occurred. The interviewers actually knew (without asking) the make and model of guns that he had purchased 28 years earlier! When he called them out on it they became evasive.

  27. Well, given that I have a friend who is a local cop who shoots with me on a regular basis, I’m pretty sure the local police in a town this small know I’m a firearms owner. Since they all encourage it, I’m not that concerned.

    • Not at the state level. WA might be blue, but it’s very gun-friendly. The only exception is Seattle, which tends to elect anti-2nd-A mayors who try to enact annoying ordnances and are subsequently smacked down by the State AG. You see, WA is both shall-issue, and has a pre-emption clause. Regulating firearms is explicitly reserved to the state legislature, which is more inclined to abolish regs than impose them (most recently, the silencer ban was repealed).

      If things come to a boil (which I think is extremely unlikely), it’ll be because of federal action, not the WA state gov’t.

  28. Here in NJ, a pistol permit is required to purchase. A copy of the permit is kept by the state police and by the local PD.

    I don’t know if the info is computerized, but I would say it probably is.

    -ted

  29. I live in Massachusetts where all guns are registered, so I’m positive the cops see that.
    Just asked a cop friend, and yeah it comes up, as if we didn’t know that.

  30. In Washington there is a long standing pistol registry, many people don’t know about it because the law does not require one to change the registry when they sell the gun.

    when you buy a pistol from a dealer in WA, you fill out two forms, a 4473, and a “Pistol Purchase Application” from the Washington DoL. the PPA is a triplicate form that asks the same data as a 4473. one form goes to the DoL, the other to your local LEA, and the third is kept for dealer records. the registry is only changed when the gun next crosses the dealer. there is no law requiring you to change it if selling it privately.

    for many years the DoL was storing tens of thousands of these forms in file boxes in their archives. then in the late 2000s, they started scanning them into their computer, so when a name is run, it will bring up the handguns “registered” to that name. keep in mind that until the gun next crosses a dealer, the name on the registry doesn’t change. so if you sold a pistol 10 years ago, and it hasn’t come to an FFL since then, if the police pull you over today in WA, the gun is still registered to you even if you’re no longer the legal owner.

    it’s a stupid system, but tolerated because it’s so stupid and useless that it’s not effectively registration… barely registration lite….

    • I have to say that to the best of my recollection, I’ve never filled out a separate pistol form to purchase a pistol in WA. Just a 4473. Are you sure that the 4473 data isn’t being rolled into it somehow?

      I also had a weird experience over a year ago. I purchased two pistols online and had them delivered to my FFL. I completed the 4473, and they said they would have to hold them for the five-day waiting period, as I had no CCL at the time – WA waves this requirement for pistol purchases if you have one.

      About an hour later, I got a call back from them, and the employee seemed somewhat surprised to tell me that the LEO had already called back to authorize the transfer, which normally is what happens at the end of the five-day period. I drove back and picked up my pistols. Technically illegal? Who knows.

      • >> I have to say that to the best of my recollection, I’ve never filled out a separate pistol form to purchase a pistol in WA. Just a 4473. Are you sure that the 4473 data isn’t being rolled into it somehow?

        No, it is a separate form. RCW 9.41.090:

        “At the time of applying for the purchase of a pistol, the purchaser shall sign in triplicate and deliver to the dealer an application containing his or her full name, residential address, date and place of birth, race, and gender; the date and hour of the application; the applicant’s driver’s license number or state identification card number; a description of the pistol including the make, model, caliber and manufacturer’s number if available at the time of applying for the purchase of a pistol. If the manufacturer’s number is not available, the application may be processed, but delivery of the pistol to the purchaser may not occur unless the manufacturer’s number is recorded on the application by the dealer and transmitted to the chief of police of the municipality or the sheriff of the county in which the purchaser resides; and a statement that the purchaser is eligible to possess a pistol under RCW 9.41.040.

        The dealer shall, by the end of the business day, sign and attach his or her address and deliver a copy of the application and such other documentation as required under subsection (1) of this section to the chief of police of the municipality or the sheriff of the county of which the purchaser is a resident. The triplicate shall be retained by the dealer for six years.

        The chief of police of the municipality or the sheriff of the county shall retain or destroy applications to purchase a pistol in accordance with the requirements of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922.”

        And yes, this is very much in force. I’ve purchased several handguns in WA within the last year, and had to fill this for each one.

        >> About an hour later, I got a call back from them, and the employee seemed somewhat surprised to tell me that the LEO had already called back to authorize the transfer, which normally is what happens at the end of the five-day period. I drove back and picked up my pistols. Technically illegal? Who knows.

        It’s legal. From the same law:

        “(1) In addition to the other requirements of this chapter, no dealer may deliver a pistol to the purchaser thereof until:

        (a) The purchaser produces a valid concealed pistol license and the dealer has recorded the purchaser’s name, license number, and issuing agency, such record to be made in triplicate and processed as provided in subsection (5) of this section. For purposes of this subsection (1)(a), a “valid concealed pistol license” does not include a temporary emergency license, and does not include any license issued before July 1, 1996, unless the issuing agency conducted a records search for disqualifying crimes under RCW 9.41.070 at the time of issuance;

        (b) The dealer is notified in writing by the chief of police or the sheriff of the jurisdiction in which the purchaser resides that the purchaser is eligible to possess a pistol under RCW 9.41.040 and that the application to purchase is approved by the chief of police or sheriff; or

        (c) Five business days, meaning days on which state offices are open, have elapsed from the time of receipt of the application for the purchase thereof as provided herein by the chief of police or sheriff designated in subsection (5) of this section, and, when delivered, the pistol shall be securely wrapped and shall be unloaded. However, if the purchaser does not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or state identification card or has not been a resident of the state for the previous consecutive ninety days, the waiting period under this subsection (1)(c) shall be up to sixty days.”

        So basically your sheriff can clear you in advance and short-circuit the 5-day waiting period for you. Though I am rather surprised that this has actually happened in practice.

        • you can also voluntarily remove your name from the registration by filling out this form

          http://www.dol.wa.gov/forms/652004.pdf

          in reality it’s almost never done, that form is when you privately sell a gun it’s used to change the name the pistol is registered to, in practice few, if any, private gun sellers actually do it. it’s 100% voluntary.

          I only know one person who filled this form out, and it was with a gun she thought she had, then couldn’t find it, so in effect she used it to report it stolen, which you can also do, so it’s a dual purpose piece of paperwork. probably used much more often for theft report then for actual changing of the registration to a name

  31. I occasionally get warned about potential firearms when responding
    to a medical emergency. Generally, when LE gives me a heads up it’s
    a vague “probable firearms in house” statement. When specific
    information about the firearms comes down it’s always due to a third
    party. Generally a domestic feud is the root cause and the person
    reporting states that there are weapons and they paint the picture of
    an unbalanced person. In my personal experience about 50% of
    the reports that specifically mention firearms are made to further
    harass the other party. I’m not discounting that LE is probably
    (il)legally tracking gun owners, merely offering another possibility
    of where the info is coming from.

  32. FOPA prohibits the Federal government from establishing a registry, it doesn’t prohibit states and localities from doing so.

  33. In Kalifornia they know.

    A guy I work with got pulled over for a routine traffic stop and the first question the cop asked him was “do you have the Glock 19 you recently purchased with you in the car right now?”

    Based on this encounter it is very obvious that they are maintaining and accessing some sort of gun ownership database.

  34. Unfortunately here in Las Vegas (and all of Clark County) all handguns need to be registered with the metropolitan police dept. When you buy a handgun you fill out a “Blue Card” which is our registration system at the time of purchase, which the FFL then forwards the info to the dept. It used to be that you always had to have your “Blue Card” with you when carrying that cards gun, but now you no longer need to have it on your persons. Regardless, the police know what pistols you have, when you bought them, the serial, etc.
    For being such a “Gun friendly” state we sure do have some stupid gun laws and regs.

  35. if you have any kind of weapon permit, be it conceal or open or ownership, then absolutely. if you filled out any piece of paper, be it a 4473 or a bill of sale, absolutely, and they also know which gun you have.

    the only guns you can have that the government doesn’t know you have or can easily find out is if you got it in a face to face, cash only, no paperwork whatsoever deal.

    • The question was about what information is immediately available to the local PD, not what information some gov agency might be able to obtain.

  36. Michigan requires all handguns are registered. It used to mean taking the new gun to the local PD for a “safety inspection”, after you’d obtained a license to purchase, and bought the gun. Then you just had to drop of a copy of the paperwork(the previously mentioned license, or purchase record if you are a CPL holder, they recently changed it, so there is no longer the license to purchase(that you’d get prior to buying, from the PD), you just do the instant background check, and drop off the sales record(or mail it in, within 10 days. Cpl holders are exempt from the instant check, but still have to register. I’d bought a pistol from my dad, in a private sale. A few years later I stopped into the PD to drop off a new purchase record, I wanted to verify that they had the previously transferred pistol registered to me. They just looked up my address, and could tell me every handgun I owned.

  37. Don’t be idiots. I’ve got two blue cards in my pocket as proof that the Government knows exactly what handguns I own. Unless the government goes all tyrannous on us, they will never have a reason to care, as I’m a decent human being. They also have my finger print from my CCW app. It doesn’t harm you as a law abiding citizen, so try spending your energy bitching about something that actually matters.

  38. While I’m 100% positive that the locals know I own guns I don’t see that this information is very useful. Since 47% of Americans will admit to being gun owners a police officer could simply guess whether any given person is an owner and be right half of the time. Given that there are at least as many guns as people the only safe assumption one could make it that everyone has one.

    While I’m jealous of my privacy for any number of reasons and in general object to the Orwellian conditions extant in the US I don’t really see the police being aware of my gun ownership as being a serious liability in practice.

    First off, if all of my guns were to magically disappear I could rearm in literally a matter of minutes from the collections of sympathetic others. Second I’ve acquired guns by about every legal means available (inherited, received as gift, bought from private parties, at gun shows and from FFLs). What big brother could conceivably be aware of might make up a little over half my collection. (Yet another reason a police officer could only assume that everyone has a gun regardless of what the computer says).

    On principle, this information serves no legitimate state interest and ought not be maintain, but at the individual rubber meets the road level I don’t see how this information is valuable in any actionable way.

  39. It shows that Kittitas County was able to provide detailed description of the suspect’s firearms… In the state of Washington, prior to purchase, the dealer must provide the triplicate application with the detailed information such as make, model, manufacturer’s number of the particular firearms and is conveyed to the Sheriff’s department or Police Chief and that agency records and retains this record.
    In Pennsylvania the Pennsylvania State Police duplicate an instant check system and reviews all applications/records of sale for purchases and the information must be destroyed within three days. I was told the police keeps the records forever however I believe it is inaccurate. For instance in 2009, three Pittsburgh police officers responded to a domestic complaint similar to the one in Kittitas above, the dispatcher forgot to inform the officers of the firearms presented at the place of domestic. The suspect shot and killed all three officers and was sentenced to death. How the dispatcher was aware of the firearms, she asked the mother who dialed 911 and wanted her son out of the house if the suspect has any firearms, the mother said yes. This was how the dispatcher found out and somehow forgot to notify the officers. This was due that there was no information of firearms registration available to the dispatcher. Firearms registration is strictly prohibited in Pennsylvania.

    Here are the information of firearms law in every state you can look at: https://www.nraila.org/gun-laws/state-gun-laws/washington/ or you can select a map on any state you wish to seek information of that particular state respectively 🙂

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