By Richard Hayes
This time of year is a favorite among many gun owners, getting away from the world, hanging out with some close friends, and going on a ritual hunting trip. Perhaps you prefer hiking, fishing, or some other getaway. Unfortunately, the best laid plans can become the worst trip imaginable when you find your truck or your car broken into, windows smashed, and your gun is missing. What should you do right now? Better yet, what could you have done to avoid this, if anything?
If this ever happens to you, you’ll need to protect yourself by talking to an attorney to have their advice on how to handle your police report. It’s hard to believe you were just the victim of a crime, but in many places you may feel like you are being treated as the criminal.
Know the Reporting Requirements for a Stolen Gun
Be aware that some states have mandatory reporting requirements if your gun is stolen. And even if a state doesn’t require it, you’ll want to have a paper trail establishing when the firearms left your possession so that you are not implicated in a future crime. Worse than having your gun stolen is to be falsely accused of a crime. If you fail to report your gun stolen and then find yourself confronted by law enforcement weeks, months, or even years later, you may learn that your stolen gun has been used in a crime such as a murder or a robbery.
Having your U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney at the ready becomes even more critical in these cases. Some jurisdictions will send an officer out to take a report, and some will take the report over the phone. But you’ll need to have some information ready in order to make that report, such as the make, model, and serial number of the stolen weapon or weapons.
More importantly, you will want to have the advice of your U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney so that when you are talking with the police, you will understand all of the gun laws applicable to the situation and avoid any of the legal “gotcha’s” relating to your possession of the weapon, how it was stored, or even its accessibility to children or others.
After you make your report, police will enter the firearms and flag them as stolen in the National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”). This crucial step will have the biggest impact on being notified if your firearm winds up at a crime scene, or perhaps even at a pawn shop.
Check the State Laws and Check Your Vehicle Before Heading Out
Another consideration is when your getaway travel plans take you beyond the borders of your home state. You must check the laws of any states to where you travel when you’re traveling through them before you hit the road. This is especially true if you plan on hunting, because you’ll want to be aware of all the firearms and wildlife laws before you take aim at that 10-point buck.
And if you stop for a bite to eat or an overnighter on your journey, do not leave your firearms visible in your vehicle. The volume of vehicle break-ins seems to be increasing daily, and firearms are the top prize for a criminal. You also don’t want to accidentally bring a weapon that is legal in your home state, but illegal in the state, county, or city you are visiting. Many jurisdictions require firearms to remain concealed within a vehicle. The last thing you want is to leave for your getaway only to return home on probation.
If you have not already done so, make sure you take photos of your firearm serial numbers and back them up electronically. Of course, if you don’t want to send pictures of your guns to the cloud, keep a written log of the make, model, and serial numbers of your firearms, and keep the logs stored in a separate, secured location away from your gun collection.
It is important to know the laws of the state you find yourself in before traveling and preparing for your getaway hunting, hiking, or fishing trip. And I hope this year’s getaway is your best ever.
Richard Hayes is an Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield.