Stolen Guns
Courtesy Massachusetts State Police
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Proposed laws requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms are becoming popular across the United States. The latest example is in Missouri, where State Representative-Elect Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, has pre-filed House Bill 1824, to require reporting of lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours of discovering the loss.

These laws are generally pushed as incentivizing gun owners to report the loss and help the police; the implication being that they are irresponsible, and only penalties will get them to to do the right thing. Aldridge is typical.

“And if I would have lost my gun or if someone stole my gun I think it’s very important as a gun owner to make sure that you work with local law enforcement, who already have a tough job as it is,” Aldridge says.

The reality is that these laws address straw purchasers who provide firearms to criminals, then declare, “It was stolen!” when a trace on a crime gun leads back to them… i.e. traffickers.

HB 1824 penalizes failure to report a civil infraction with a $100 fine for the first offense, $1,000 for a second, and a third offense would be a misdemeanor with a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Someone who “loses” firearms three times and fails to report them is either really unlucky and/or none too bright, or a trafficker. Someone who is knowingly providing weapons to criminals should face consequences. The right consequences.

Like most states, if not all, Missouri already has a law against trafficking firearms. It’s 571.060 Unlawful transfer of weapons, penalty, a class E felony, good for a “term of years not to exceed four years.” In my state it’s O.C.G.A. 16-11-113, also a felony.

While blaming honest firearm owners who have a vested interest in not arming criminals — whom we arm ourselves against — Aldridge is proposing to effectively reduce the penalty for criminal trafficking from a serious felony to no more than a misdemeanor.

It almost makes you wonder who Aldridge considers to be his real core constituency. When sworn in, he will represent district 78 in Saint Louis.

Source: Missouri Secretary of State

Compare that to crime scenes in Saint Louis.

Crime in Saint Louis (Source: Saint Louis Metropolitan Police Department)

Another issue with these laws is enforceability. The average time-to-crime for traced firearms in Missouri is 6.61 years (the national average is 9.3 years). If this bill passes, will someone whose firearm was stolen six years ago — before required reporting was the law — face a fine retroactively when the weapon turns up?

Will those who, for whatever reason, failed to report need to rush to report the loss now, thus incriminating themselves for taking more than 72 hours to comply? Or will it apply to losses occurring after the law is enacted? One would expect for the latter, but I’ve learned to assume the worst with gun control laws.

Unless enforced retroactively, these laws won’t have any appreciable effect on the violent crime Representative-Elect Aldridge claims to be addressing for years, if ever. In fact, straw purchasers will consider their odds of getting away with it to be pretty good, given the low recovery rate of stolen firearms and the long average lead time.

Aside from reducing penalties for criminal acts, these reporting laws are pointless.

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  1. Any firearm stolen prior to such a law’s enactment would not be covered as it would violate the ex post facto clause of the Consitution.

    • Unconstitutionality doesn’t mean they won’t try hoping the SCOTUS is too busy with more important things to hear the case.

        • True.

          But not all of the States have the right to keep and bear arms in their constitutions. They would be California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.

    • Not necessarily. One could construct the law to mandate people report the items as stolen now, regardless of when they were stolen, and it could be Constitutional. The crime in question- failure to report a theft- could not be prosecuted for any time that passed before the law was passed but it could still be enforced (theoretically) for any time that passes afterwards.

      For this particular legislation the theft is not the crime in question- the failure to report is. And that failure would only apply after the enforcement of the bill began.

    • The ex post facto clause died, remains cremated and scattered over the land, when the Lautenberg Amendment was enacted.

      You may also recall a more recent action in which lumps of plastic retroactively became machine guns.

      • Why are we still puzzled over “ex post facto” laws? The concept is simple, and straight forward.

        A law that states one must do or avoid something after a law is enacted is perfectly legitimate. For instance, “any firearm not registered with XYZ is illegal to posses.” This is the practice of any law…from the date of enactment (or other date identified in the law). A law that states, “any firearm that was not registered prior to the effective date of this law is illegal to possess, buy, sell, transport, gifted.” is illegitimate, and truly “ex post facto”.

        “Ex Post Facto” is the making of legal activity prior to the new law illegal as of the effective date of the law. It is the “reach back” element of a law that is “post facto”. A ban on something as of today means you are in violation after today. The fact that you held in the past what is now contraband is not illegal. The fact that something you owned pre-ban is illegal after the ban is not an “ex post facto” law.

        • Nope.
          If I am a legal possessor of something now, I cannot be made into a criminal possessor of that same thing with a future law. It is literally a prohibition against making things illegal “after the fact”.
          The prohibition against Ex Post Facto law is why we commonly have “grandfather clauses” .

          • ” I cannot be made into a criminal possessor of that same thing with a future law.”

            A future law cannot hold you criminal for a legal act today. But that future law can make your legal activity today, criminal after the effective date of the new law. Happens all the time.

            A law could be enacted today making hip-hop music illegal to possess, create, perform, broadcast. Anyone who possesses, creates, performs, broadcasts hip-hop violates the law. Essentially, such a law creates a new category of contraband. However….

            The fictitious law cannot hold anyone in violation of the new law based on proof that a person did possess, create, perform, broadcast hip-hop prior to the enactment of the law. Such a law would run afoul of the prohibition of an ex post facto law.

            Consider slavery. It was legal in many places in the US, prior to the 13th Amendment. After that, holding or dealing in slaves was illegal. However, people who held slaves two years prior to the 13th Amendment could not be charged for holding slaves two years before slavery became illegal. Same in those states which had abolished slavery prior to the 13th Amendment. Those states could not bring criminal charges against people who held slaves prior to abolishment of slavery.

            Ex post facto means making something illegal before a law is enacted.

    • No one is going to try to enforce such a stupid law, because author’s analysis is wrong. The intent is that it will be completely unenforceable without a REGISTRY!! Picture, please, “where is that gun you bought last week?” Answer “I don’t remember”. End of that investigation. Wait! I can fix that! If we had a means to say “tell us where the gun you registered last week is, or we’ll put you in prison for the next 10 years!”, the rat-bastard couldn’t defy us like that, what we need is a registry! We need to open our eyes, all the common sense gun laws for the past 30 years has all had the same goal, which is a registry. Followed by confiscation or death, just as Beto and Swallowswell promised.

  2. Hmmmm…..what if someone had so many firearms, that they could not realistically assess exactly how many they had at any given time? And therefore would not reasonably know if one or more were stolen?

    Asking for a friend.

    • Probably not going to be a realistic defense if your gun turns up in the hands of a criminal. And likely to add in perjury and that gun running charge also. Possibly obstruction.

      Sure, I can see how it might take awhile to realize a gun was stolen. Say, from a cabin or vacation property or if you were away on business or vacation for a long time. That said, unless you leave your collection unsecured and a burglar just happened to be nice enough to carefully sneak in and decide to steal only a gun that was kind of hidden in your unlocked gun room of your unlocked house…

      We also don’t need to give ammo to legislators where some are already pushing requirements that all guns must remained locked up unless under our direct control. Criminalizing the victim if stolen and not secured.

      • If you are accused of not reporting the loss or theft, why not just claim you sold it? To a guy at a gun show? Don’t recall his name, but his greenbacks were real so I’m happy. I am not an FFL, and I am not required to keep records on who I sold my fishing pole or my rifle to.
        PS. If you don’t see the trap of UBC, you should begin thinking about it, this is not a coincidence.

  3. ‘The Truth About Guns’ is such an odd name for a website that clearly appeals to left leaning, nanny state loving homosexuals…

    • To Poony
      I’m surprised you’re so honest. Having grown up in California, I can say gays do very much like the nanny state.
      In fact it was the proud gay man, state senator Tom Ammiano who wrote the law that makes stalking victims, rape victims and everyone else, wait an extra 10 days to get a gun.

      It seems homosexual men think they are smarter than a woman who has been raped.

  4. “Someone who “loses” firearms three times and fails to report them is either really unlucky and/or none too bright, or a trafficker.”

    Someone’s never lived in a bad neighborhood.

    • It’s my property, my choice to report it stolen/lost, or not.

      Secondly, we are going to criminalize forgetfulness or downright victimization? (don’t answer that) Grandsons punk friend over for a visit steals grandmas .38 she has had sitting in the drawer in the nightstand for the last 32 years that she doesn’t open. Uses it in a crime two weeks later. Grandma now gets charged with a crime?

      • I’m referring to the fact that if you live in certain areas none of the three suggestions fit.

        You could legitimately be the victim of repeated theft. It could happen in ways you didn’t know about for 72 hours.

      • “Uses it in a crime two weeks later. Grandma now gets charged with a crime?”

        Yes, if she violated a storage law, that requires guns be kept where children cannot easily get to them.

        It would be interesting to discover if those laws would pass constitutional scrutiny…

    • That’s silly. How would anyone know how many guns I lost in a given period? And if it might get me targeted as a “trafficker”, why would I EVER report a loss or theft? I would not now, other than for NFA items, since I am certain they would never be returned to me under any circumstances.

  5. “Aldridge is proposing to effectively reduce the penalty for criminal trafficking from a serious felony to no more than a misdemeanor.” – This simply isn’t true. Prosecutors can charge people with more than one crime at once, and trafficking is far harder to prove than having failed to report a lost gun three times.

    • Thank you for proving my point. Prosecutors will go for the easy conviction, thus the trafficker will only face a violation or misdemeanor instead of the tougher-to-prove felony.

    • Really. Pray tell, just how WOULD you prove someone had lost 3 weapons in whatever amount of time? How would you prove I had even OWNED 3 weapons in that period of time? You talk like it would be so easy, go ahead and tell me HOW?

  6. I doubt that the sort of women who are willing to date gangbangers are going to say ‘no, I could go to prison’ when the boyfriend wants a new gun.

    I also have doubts that the politicians are willing to imprison enough gangbanger’s girlfriends to make this work.

  7. It would be both crazy and irresponsible to not report a stolen firearm purchaced from an F.F.L. holder. If used in a crime or recovered in a legal action such as drug raid or traffic stop of a prohibited person. The firearm will eventually be traced to your purchase. And all that does is bring scrutiny on you from allready suspicious fedral agencies.
    On the other hand many legal guns pass thru the hands of several people over their lifetimes as legal sales for many legitimate reasons. I’ve purchased a couple over the years at yard sales, with no names ever being exchanged, both of which had their s/n’s checked by law enforcement and came back with no problems. When you live in gun country or the country so to speak thats a common thing with the hunting/plinking world. Widows and divorced women sell them to individuals becouse gun dealers and pawn owners never want to give them a worthwhile price. Look in the classified adds you’ll find many that some guy wants to sell becouse he doesn’t shoot them anymore, they didn’t meet his expectations or he wants to buy the next best thing on the market hype, that he really needs to fix his car, or kids need dental work and so on.
    This is a fact of life. And there is allways a chance it’s hot from many years gone buy, has been thru several hands and nobody knows its history.
    American rifleman (i think thats the right publication) used to print a list of stolen arms and their s/n’s. Ive got a few vintage copies that have this list in them. Not for sure why they stopped doing this, but this would be a very good thing to start up again. A web site would be even better. With guarinteed anominaty. Which I’m sure the Fed’s would never go for or approve of.
    In Missouri there are many lake cabins that go unused at various times, which if robbed could cause problems for the owners if a firearm is stolen, used in a crime and recovered by law enforcement befor the owner discovers it’s been stolen. Im sure this is a thing accross the intire country. So what then. Even kept in safes in these places means nothing, if the person robbing the place knows he has time to peel the many bad gun safes sold. Just watch some of those u-tube videos and your an expert in no time. Sad to say.
    So there really needs to be some real common sense and education to these kinds of laws along with exceptions to the facts to protect those who have done the right thing and still face scrutiny from the impractical moron who thinks every thing is black and white to the laws passed by snowflakes caught up in the moment and looking for donations to their campaign.

    • You’re mistaken. The vast majority of “illegal” guns (meaning illegally possessed or the weapon itself is illegal) will never be traced. Why? Because it’s a resource intensive process that very rarely yields relevant information. The ATF handles gun tracing and they consistently have a backlog of months or even years worth of gun traces due to the fact that it takes a lot of legwork. If a cop arrests an ex con gang banger on an unrelated charge and confiscated a firearm in the process they’re highly unlikely to bother attempting to trace it. Murder weapons? Yeah, maybe. Anything else? Highly unlikely

      • And why trace it if it could get forgotten in an evidence locker for awhile and then return to the “public domain”.

    • You need to brush up on the legal system. Yeah, the gun I sold 30 years ago was used in a crime. Prove I did anything wrong. Period. Until you do, leave me alone.

      With the unimaginable amount of data that can be reviewed now, it’s nearly impossible to have sold or bought a gun in the last 10 years or so that doesn’t have some sort of digital footprint.

      The onus is not on the individual to prove their innocence. I have zero control of it after the firearm leaves my hand. As long as I didn’t commit a crime when I sold it, I can hold my head high, and they have no reason to bother me until they do the research and believe they found I did something wrong.

      I’m not helping them find (or make up) a reason to make my life difficult, which unfortunately should pretty much be your posture with many LEO encounters anymore.

    • I have firearms I purchased in 1971 and 1972, and many years since. There are guns I sold as far back as 1965. I do not record SNs of my guns, do not know a single one. But you’re telling me that if one was stolen and used in a crime, someone is going to trace it to me? Many FFLs who sold me a gun are dead by now. The number of guns sold since are in the hundreds of millions, and even if somebody wanted to trace them, someone would have to leave them at the scene of some crime before they would even be on the radar, unless the criminal left a note with the SN listed on it. This is SILLY. And the proposed laws are silly, except as to how they would be enhanced if we only had a registry. That is the only goal.

  8. I don’t know how effective this web site is but should be added into the conversation:

    They maintain a database of lost and stolen guns you can add to or use to research a potential purchase. I learned about it some time ago when buying a used gun and have only used it once or twice at most, but it has been operational four or five years to my knowledge.

    • I see HotGunz is tooting that they have 24,000 guns listed.
      Approx 240,000 get stolen every year.
      I’m betting that the only guns that make this listing are expensive collector items.
      The 24,000 is better than nothing…but just barely.

  9. How about cars? Knives? Baseball bats? Hammers?
    If we give make model and SN of our lost gun are they going to go look for it ? Should a misguided youth steal a gun and use it to steal money for college, and get caught, will said gun be returned promptly to the rightful.owner?

    So many questions, so many laws.

    • An acquaintance once had a super Blackhawk .44 mag 7″ stolen. Michigan has had pistol registration since the 1920s. He got his stolen revolver back after it sat in an evidence locker for 11+ years, it was so rusted and pitted it had zero value left.

      • I live in Michigan too. Since my handguns are all registered, if one or more were stolen, I would be highly incentivized to report it to the cops. Of course, there would certainly be an investigation, but I would then be off the hook were one of my guns then to be found at a crime scene.

        • I thank God I don’t live in Michigan. Even uber-left CA didn’t start our onerous registration schemes until 1991. And that’s only for handguns. Long guns didn’t start until 2014. Lots of guns here that are still unregistered due to grandfathering.

          Lots of guns.

        • How would you be in trouble anyway? My gun was used? Are you sure? Well, darn. What does that have to do with me? Why didn’t I report it stolen? What for? I’d never get it back anyway.

  10. I have a 6″ stainless Python in my safe. The only reason is that I had the serial number recorded. It was recovered in a stolen car car two years after my burglary. If you can’t give the serial number to LE your FA looks like every other one built that day. Still hoping to recover the Browing Hi-Power, S&W Mod 24. Ruger Super Blackhawk….No serial number. No chance.

    • That’s why I record mine, but the list is kept at a relative’s place.

      If a confiscator came here, there’s no list here of what guns I own. If I get burglarized, I retrieve the list…

      • Take pictures of the gun that includes the serial number. If you’re worried about confiscation, encrypt them and store the file somewhere discreet.

        Useful if they’re stolen, useful if an insurance agent wants documentation for a burglary/fire/etc claim, and not useful to anyone if you don’t want them to be.

  11. Because in most LibTURD states they want to charge you with some form of criminal neglect.Because it was YOUR firearm that was stolen.Try to give some 3rd party legs to make the original owner responsible.

  12. The reason for these laws is not to stop traffickers. It’s to prevent the regular gun owner who faces confiscation from claiming that his guns were lost in an unfortunate boating accident or stolen. It’s nobody’s business where my stuff is, including my firearms.

  13. I’ve had two gunms stole. First thing I did was call the cops. Good thing too, the gunms were used in armed robberies and when they caught them and after court I got my gunms back. Should not be a law against not reporting however. And if the lawmakers think that a law will stop a person from selling a stolen gunm,, well that’s just dumb. Straw purchasing, I have many gunms, 8 have paperwork the rest were bought from Fred, Joe, Henry, Bill , Bob, Frank, Jim,, Kevin Alex, Paul. Bryan Tim, Steve, Roy, NickJose,Edd,Donnie,Rick,Mark,Ted,Ray,Phil,Wes,Dean,Dave, Andy, Harold,Tyler, Cisco, Pe’pe, Charo, Dan, Bernard, Jack, Ramone,Gerard, Jerry,Hank, Conrad, Arron,Erick Whiskers, Larry, Chris, Nancy,Kenny,Dara,Angelita, Nathan Levi, Fawn, Tiny, Luke, Catfish, Adam,Doug,Mark,Herb,Ronnie,Pat,Robert,Tom,Harvey, Charles,Sam,Peggy Sue,Charolette, Juanita, Pam,”the Coons of Doom” and a whole bunch from a guy named Fingers.

    • “Straw purchasing, I have many gunms, 8 have paperwork the rest were bought from Fred, Joe, Henry, Bill , Bob, Frank, Jim,, Kevin Alex, Paul. Bryan Tim, Steve, Roy…”

      As TTAG’s Ralph once said, where do you live, and when are you not home? 😉

  14. The purpose of these laws is the same as the purpose behind most laws and essentially ALL laws pertaining to firearms. That purpose is to deter citizens from exercising their rights. To punish those that do and if possible to turn ALL of us into convicted felons so they can DENY US OUR RIGHTS. This isn’t complicated.

  15. They want to have something to charge you with when they come to confiscate your evil black rifle and you tell them about the boating accident.

    • They like to confidently say that “well then you’ll be charged with failure to report ”
      As they say you can beat the rap but you won t beat the ride.

    • Sounds like somebody made a mistake somewhere. Nobody knows how many black rifles I have, nor any other kind of gun. And I’m not telling.

      • “Nobody knows how many black rifles I have, nor any other kind of gun.”

        The important question is, do “they” know if you have a boat?

  16. The key here is the requirement to report it stolen within 72 hours of discovering its loss.

    Most of these ill thought out laws require you report it within a certain time period of when it was stolen. It is quite easy to not notice a missing gun if it is stored in a vacation cabin or you have guns stored in multiple rooms.

    The other interesting thing is that the liberal states are lessening (or eliminating) the crime for theft of items less than $1000. So this law makes having your gun stolen more criminal than the one actually stealing the gun.

  17. If a straw purchaser lives in a location with this sort of law, wouldn’t they simply limit how many times they would sell per year and report all the guns they sold stolen shortly after selling them? In that way they would not risk any danger from the law, and it shouldn’t really matter much to the person they sold them to, since that person is likely not to be allowed to have the firearm anyhow.

  18. These reporting laws are a blatant end run around the 5th Amendment protection against self incrimination in trafficking cases. Gives the prosecutors a charge to file when they cannot make a trafficking case.

  19. I’ll take: “What is gratuitously burdening what they can’t ban with admini-clutter, selective enforcement, and creating new criminals?”

    What do I win?

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