Evidence gun
(U.S. District Court for Massachusetts via AP)
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By Lee Williams

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has quietly tested every single recovered firearm – even those not used in the commission of crimes – without probable cause or a search warrant for as long as anyone at the department can recall, according to a story published recently by WISHTV.com.

Once the firearms were tested at the police department’s crime lab, the data was then sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which used it to create an illegal gun registry.

Police admit they never obtained search warrants to test the firearms. The testing was done as a matter of policy, whether the guns were used in crimes, held for safekeeping or recovered through other means.

“I-Team 8 is told the Indianapolis department is carrying out this practice without a search warrant or probable cause, making this decades-old practice a possible violation of federal rules and the Fourth Amendment,” the news story states.

Most gun owners who had firearms recovered by IMPD are likely unaware their weapons were tested or that ATF now has their ballistic data as part of a national gun registry.

IMPD Assistant Police Chief Chris Bailey told reporters the practice started decades ago, and he confirmed that officers did not have probable cause or search warrants to conduct the tests.

firearm testing police
Courtesy WISHTV.com

“Not that we know of. We went back and checked how long this has been going on. A former employee who came on in 1973, and it was happening then in the 1970s, and she worked another 30 years here and retired a couple years ago,” Bailey told WISHTV.com. He added there are currently more than 21,000 firearms in IMPD’s property room.

Bailey said the department’s attorneys are currently examining the testing policy, and that they would make changes if it was determined it violated the U.S. Constitution or other federal rules.

No one at IMPD or the ATF’s Indianapolis Field Office returned calls seeking comment for this story.

Richard Essex
Courtesy WISHTV.com

No action likely

Indianapolis-based investigative reporter Richard Essex broke the gun-testing story for WISHTV.com. Unlike most journalists, Essex is a gun owner, who told the Second Amendment Foundation he recently purchased a Smith & Wesson Model 29 “because I’ve always wanted one.”

At one point during his video story, an ATF agent melts down on camera under questioning by Essex.

“It’s the most compelling soundbite I’ve had in over 15 years,” Essex said. “They’re building a national database but they won’t admit it.”

Essex said his story produced eight pages of comments on an Indiana gun owner’s forum. The commenters complained about the unconstitutionality of the testing, ATF’s illegal gun registry and the incredibly lengthy and expensive process needed to get a firearm returned by IMPD.

“For legal gun owners, this story has been a sore subject for many, many years,” Essex told SAF. “It doesn’t take long to find someone who has lost a treasured firearm and waited years to get it back.”

The IMPD, Essex said, claimed they are going to change their policy. “But it’s been over a month and I haven’t heard a thing,” he said. “I doubt they’ll make any changes. They’ll wait for someone to challenge this.”

Greg Burge is a retired IMPD police officer who owns Beech Grove Firearms. Burge told SAF that law enforcement is somewhat “confusing” in Marion County, Indiana.

“IMPD is the primary law enforcement agency in the entire county. They’re the biggest and have been doing whatever they want with firearms for years,” Burge said Monday. “They make it as difficult and cumbersome as possible to get firearms back. We’re not talking about a bank robber who drops his gun while running across a parking lot or a gun found at a murder scene. Basically, any type of incident, like if your car is towed for unpaid parking tickets and your gun was in the console.”

Burge described a typical scenario of how someone’s firearm can end up in IMPD’s property room.

“Let’s say you’re in a crash and knocked out. There’s a gun in your console. The officer can’t send the gun on the gurney with you to the hospital, so they take your gun, your wallet and your cellphone and put it in a bag marked ‘safe’ for safekeeping. Once you’re released from the hospital, you can get your cell and your wallet, but not your gun. You’ll be told IMPD has to ‘process’ it. Keep in mind they would need a search warrant to search your cellphone. Once the gun is tested, ATF now has a ‘fingerprint’ of your gun. Then, ATF will conduct a trace of your firearm and they’ll get the 4473. Six months later, IMPD will tell you that you need to provide proof of ownership, so you’ll need to go to the gun store where you bought it. It can take us several days to dig out the paper receipt. Now, IMPD has three things that identify you as the owner of the firearm, but you still can’t get your gun. You need to make an appointment with the department, get fingerprinted and they’ll run a background check. If you’re lucky, in a year or two they will hand your firearm back,” Burge said.

Burge said he asked department officials numerous times to justify the process.

“If a laptop comes in, we can’t just turn it on without a search warrant. What gives them the right to ‘turn on’ a firearm?” he asked. “The average handgun people carry costs around $500. When they get the runaround from the city and go talk to an attorney for help – and attorneys don’t work for free – they’ll find out it could cost them around $10,000 to get back a $500 handgun. Most don’t. We’re talking about thousands of people who have been victimized.”


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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.

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    • “Let’s say you’re in a crash and knocked out…”

      This has been my concern, and why I nearly always have my gun on my person when driving instead of in my CC bag (my gun goes into it when I enter the gym, for example, but the bag stays with me the entire time).

      CA requires any gun you carry under a CCW to be specifically listed on that CCW, so I’m sure the AFT already has info on my gun, in addition to CADOJ. I don’t trust either of them to respect privacy in practice, even though they say it’s their policy.

      • Haz, my brother, I am sure you have valid reasons for remaining in the fascist state of KKKalifornia, and I empathize with your situation (hey, I stayed in that fascist state for decades), but . . . WHY????

        KKKalifornia has, objectively, the most idiotic ‘gun laws’ in the entire country. Lots of idiot, Leftist/fascist states compete to keep up, but KKKalifornia is the absolute nadir of ‘gun law’ idiocy. Dude, seriously, just GTFO. In a decade or so, you’ll be able to go back to a largely depopulated state, and buy property for pennies.

  1. How many people have been found guilty because of this illegal gun registry? I would hope that some legal beagle would chase down this info and first start a class action suit. Second, they should then go after the city and the ATF for the illegal registry.

    • It sounds like something right up Guy Relford’s alley. I know he’s had clients impacted by IMPD’s unconstitutional seizure of firearms.

  2. This should surprise no one who knows anything at all about IMPD. I’m currently out of the country and so haven’t gotten to engage yetvin the INGO forum discussion. I’m surprised it’s only up to 8 pages.

    • Chip,

      UNPOSSIBLE!!!!! How can Indianapolis be anything but a socialist paradise, after having had Mayor Buttgig as the mayor for two terms??? Two terms of Pete should have rendered the city perfect, amirite???

  3. Which now begs the question, how many other PDs have been “quietly” doing this for decades? I’d bet money that most of them were “encouraged” by the ATF traitors to “participate”.

    • Gov Newsom and AG Bonta hate private gun ownership, so I’m sure CADOJ has info on everyone.

      All your pork and beans are belong to us.

  4. “Burge told SAF that law enforcement is somewhat “confusing” in Marion County, Indiana.”
    How convenient. So confusing that we’ve been stomping on your rights for decades.

  5. I hate to break this to everyone but, all federal law enforcement agencies and quite a few of large cities P.D.’s participants in theATF’s NIBN program and do this firing and imaging of spent casings.

    As a matter of fact Glock admitted years ago of sending spent casings from newly manufactured pistols to the ATF, just like the ones they include with the pistol for jurisdictions that require them.

  6. The clock is winding down for Jim Crow Gun Control democRat joe et al. Expect drama queen democRats to launch a barrage of Gun Control Rockets if and when another deranged individual cuts loose on unarmed, defenseless victims.

    The door is held open for such knee jerk Gun Control when the History of Gun Control is kept out of sight and out of mind.

  7. So much for moving to Indiana. I’m speaking for those poor souls in IllAnnoy. I couldn’t live in In. Worked in Louisville for a while a few years ago, close as I could stand to living in In.

    • Meh…as if all the so-called “free states” don’t have a version of this. Still moving to Indiana. Sure as he!! not leaving for Indianapolis🙄

    • Just stay away from Marion County, and perhaps the Region.

      The rest of Indiana is fantastic. You will not find bwtter firearms laws or policy almost anywhere.

  8. We had an armed robbery/homicide once. Insurance office. The investigator working the case would submit every handgun we confiscated to FDLE for ballistics comparison to the recovered bullet. If it met a certain criteria: Correct caliber, confiscated under criminal circumstances. It didn’t take long to get a hit. (When I say not long, I mean a year or two.) I was in patrol at the time and Tommy called me to back him up on the service of the warrant. I was happy to do so. The victim was the mother of my son’s best friend in pre-school. When I screwed that cocked and unlocked 1911 into that piece of shit’s ear 0200 hrs, while he peacefully slept, I wanted him to reach under the pillow.

    • It would take some kind of stupid and desperate to rob an insurance business. Did he think staplers were hot items? That’s about the most senseless thing I’ve heard of, but you probably saw worse. The likelihood of having to deal with those kinds of things is one of the reasons that kept me from going to the patrol academy after college.

  9. What would be fun is watching LE try to unload a black powder revolver that’s had its powder get wet.
    They fcked up my SKS trying to detach a 30rnd mag.
    And when I got my tt33 back they gave me all the bullets that it had too. So unless they had some 7.62×25 of their own(doubtful) they never tested it.
    However all that was not in Indiana.

  10. San Francisco has/had a similar policy after it somehow successfully defended a lawsuit challenging the policy. (Oakland, which also had such a program, settled out of court.) In California, you have to get a letter from the Attorney General releasing the firearm, but even with that in hand, SFPD would not release a handgun–which they usually had taken from you in the first place–unless you provided “proof of ownership.” Those who successfully recovered their guns typically spent several years and thousands of dollars doing so. Which was the point: the police have no intention of returning your gat, so they make it as onerous as possible for you to comply with their demands.

  11. Hah. I’d have a real problem PROVING a number of my pieces of hardware are actually MINE. Bought lots of them off tables of privte sellers at gun shows before BloomBurg bought this state a “universal background check” law. The only paperwork involved were the Benjamins I handed the former owner from whose table I picked up the piece.
    And NO ONE thought anything wierd about it. Thus NO receipt.

  12. This silly myth of “Ballistic gun testing” is as moronic and phoney pseudoscience as are phrenology, reading palms or “lie detectors”. More big popo BS of the corrupt FBI.

  13. “Bailey said the department’s attorneys are currently examining the testing policy, and that they would make changes if it was determined it violated the U.S. Constitution or other federal rules.”

    Notice that they offer no explanation or excuse for why they’re doing it in the first place, just that “well, I didn’t start it. They were already doing it when I got here.”

  14. “they would make changes if it was determined it violated the U.S. Constitution or other federal rules”


    Ok sure we’re stupid we’ll believe anything.

    Notice nobody working there seemed to care if they were doing something illegal until after the world found out about it.


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