In most states, possession of a stolen item is not enough to convict a person of receiving stolen property. Virtually all “possession of stolen property” arrests require an element of “knowing” that the property was stolen. Arizona, for example, has a “trafficking in stolen property” statute . . .

A. A person who recklessly traffics in the property of another that has been stolen is guilty of trafficking in stolen property in the second degree.

B. A person who knowingly initiates, organizes, plans, finances, directs, manages or supervises the theft and trafficking in the property of another that has been stolen is guilty of trafficking in stolen property in the first degree

Bottom line: if police arrest you for or with a stolen gun, you need to provide a “satisfactory explanation” as to how you came to own it. The Silver State Legislature has codified permissible inferences in ARS 13-2305:

1. Proof of possession of property recently stolen, unless satisfactorily explained, may give rise to an inference that the person in possession of the property was aware of the risk that it had been stolen or in some way participated in its theft.

2. Proof of the purchase or sale of stolen property at a price substantially below its fair market value, unless satisfactorily explained, may give rise to an inference that the person buying or selling the property was aware of the risk that it had been stolen.

My retired peace officer friends tell me that prosecution in cases where a private individual buys a firearm – without “reasonable knowledge” that it was stolen – are unheard of. Equally, remaining in possession of a firearms stolen more than three years previous to the sale significantly reduces the possibility of being charged with trafficking in stolen property. A case out of Wisconsin confirms my understanding of the law.

Darrail Smith [above] was at the scene of a number of shooting incidents. He had a concealed carry permit. When police arrested Smith they discovered that several guns in his possession were stolen. From jsonline.com:

Darrail claimed ownership of the two guns found in the Tahoe, telling police he bought them online several months prior, and disclosed he was a concealed-carry permit holder, the complaint says. One of the guns was reported stolen from a parked car in Milwaukee in 2013.

Carrington was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and posted his $5,000 bail soon after his arrest.

Milwaukee police referred a charge of receiving stolen property against Darrail, but prosecutors declined for lack of evidence that Darrail knew the gun was stolen, according to Lovern, the deputy district attorney . . .

Six months later, Darrail Smith again came to the attention of Milwaukee police officers.

Darrail had a Ruger pistol sticking out of his waistband.

By then, other officers had arrived to help.

Darrail told one of the officers he had a second gun, which had fallen down his pants leg. When officers searched him, they found not only a Glock 9mm pistol in his pants, but also a Springfield 9mm pistol in a holster on his waistband.

All three guns were loaded, and the Ruger pistol had been reported stolen. Police seized all three, and a couple of weeks later, Darrail filed a petition asking a judge to order the guns returned to him.

The point is that a known associate of criminals at a couple of crime scenes who was found with two separately stolen guns was not prosecuted because there was a lack of evidence that he knew the gun was stolen. Darrail was eventually charged with another crime, but not for possession of a stolen gun.

On May 26, prosecutors charged Darrail and Carrington with two counts of conspiracy to commit possession of a firearm by a felon. Carrington is also charged with being a felon with a gun and bail jumping.

Carrington was arrested on May 28 and posted $5,000 bail. He has pleaded not guilty.

Darrail remains at large.

If Darrail wasn’t prosecuted for possession of a stolen gun, it’s highly unlikely that a legitimate purchaser who can explain how he legally purchased a firearm that turned out to be stolen, would be prosecuted. If police or prosecutors determined that you had a stolen gun in your possession, you might end up having to return it to the rightful owner. And that’s about it. And that’s as it should be.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.

25 Responses to Can You Be Busted for Possessing a Stolen Gun?

  1. I try and only buy firearms through an FFL so I can avoid ending up having to explain why I might be in possession of a stolen firearm. On the rare occasion I buy a firearm from another individual, I always do a bill of sale, unless it’s a close friend or family member.

    • Even going through an FFL does not protect you. I purchased a gun from a pawn shop, and when stopped by the police a couple of days later, they showed it as stolen 3 years previously. I lost not only the pistol, but the money spent on said pistol. I will not ever purchase a gun from a pawn shop again……

  2. I only buy new guns, and those can only be sold by an FFL. So the chain of ownership is crystal clear.

    As for selling guns? Well, every single firearm we own has a purpose. So I’ve never had occasion to sell one.

  3. So he had one gun in a holster, and two stuffed in his waistband? Something tells me that Darrail’s job might be as a walking armory for his “prohibited person” buddies… That photo suggests he might have plenty of waistband capacity for more, too.

  4. The original owner may not want it back if they received an insurance payout due to risking being accused of insurance fraud.

  5. It’s good to see that the law is no more strict because it’s a gun than it would be for a computer or bike.

  6. Let’s just coddle him, send him to drug and anger management class, tell him he is a good person and it is really societies fault that he is a p.o.s., and let the liberals cry when he shows up at their daughter’s house late one night with his “not-stolen” handguns.

  7. Wow things are loose in cheese-head land…and that’s about it. That’s a lot of stolen gats…

    • It’s not loose here, it’s about following the law, and what can be PROVEN. They’re saving themselves from a screwup that could clearly result in a lawsuit.

      Innocent until proven guilty.

  8. I don’t know about guns but I once supervised a guy doing community service for recieving stolen property. A very expensive set of rims and tires that were practically new. He paid an obscenely low price for them. You get great discounts from tweakers.

    His defense in front of the judge was he didn’t know they were stolen. I’m mangling the judges reply but it went something like this. “Bullshit. You’d have to be retarded not to know that getting this product for this price was, literally a steal.”

    I once had a guy offer to sell me an m16 out of the trunk of his car complete with giggle switch and butt number for 2 hunnert bucks. I said No. Think it might have been stolen?

  9. He had a concealed carry permit. When police arrested Smith they discovered that several guns in his possession were stolen. From jsonline.com
    Darrail claimed ownership of the two guns found in the Tahoe, telling police he bought them online several months prior, and disclosed he was a concealed-carry permit holder, the complaint says.
    Carrington was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and posted his $5,000 bail soon after his arrest.

    Do we have a situation here of a Felon with a Permit?
    But, but…………..

  10. My Dad bought a stolen gun. I believe he will be getting a refund from the gun store he worked with since it really should have come up stolen somehow at some point. Maybe it wasn’t reported stolen until after he bought it? He bought it from Gunbroker and everything cleared through the FFL, so there was literally no way for him to know it was stolen. Until he got a letter that said it was. Some punk kid stealing his Dad’s stuff apparently.

    Anywho. Be careful out there. Sucks when something you thought was yours is not actually yours.

    • Purchasing by credit card enables the buyer to commence a chargeback if the gun turns out to be stolen.

  11. How about this i found a gun i knew nothing abou went to turn it in and instead of getting a thank you i got charged with possession of stolen property and criminal possession of a weapon.wtf and my bail for this good deed was $50,000 3 months in jail and 3 yrs probation .loss of job 10,000 in debt loss of car and apartment.pretty hefty price for being a good sumaritian.

  12. i have a question. i recently pawned a gun at a local pawnshop. i’ve had to do it a few times in the last 4 months while in a bind. i’ve had the gun 2 years almost to the day when i pawned it again. this time it came back stolen. the guy i bought it from acknowledged he sold it to me and that he actually bought the gun from the same pawnshop i had it in. here’s my problem. the gun was a ruger 1022 and the only thing left of the original was the receiver and bolt assembly. i’ve upgraded everything else and put about $600 worth of parts on it. do i have any chance of getting my parts back? also a $200 scope

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *