Should a Victim Who Disarms a Robber Get to Keep the Weapon?

In some small percentage of cases, a crime victim disarms their attacker. The attacker usually runs off. In one case, the bad guy even returned to ask for the gun back. My experience is that cases in which victims disarm attackers are considerably more common than the other way around. It’s not hard to understand why. The victim has a lot more to gain from snatching the bad guy’s gun, and the attacker more to lose if he continues the fight. Sometimes the victim turns the gun on the attacker, as happen in a recent case in Chicago. It happened in the 6600 block of South State Street, one of the most dangerous areas of the city.



After the victim handed over an undisclosed item, he made a move for the gun, Antonietti said. During a brief struggle, the gun went off and Esper was shot in his back, court records show.

Esper ran off, and the victim gave the gun, a .22-caliber Taurus Ultralight, to police. Antonietti said officers recovered six live rounds and two spent rounds.

In a science fiction novel, The Probability Broach, people who disarm their attackers get to keep the appropriated weapons. It seems reasonable enough, once it’s determined that the weapon wasn’t stolen or used in another crime. Certainly, there is no reason to destroy a finely crafted self defense tool like the little Taurus shown.

The victim took a serious risk in obtaining it. He accomplished a considerable amount of societal good by preventing further crimes that would likely have been committed by the attacker using it. It only seems just that he should have it, after due process, of course.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Gun Watch


  1. avatar DickG says:

    “Should a Victim Who Disarms a Robber Get to Keep the Weapon?”
    It only seems fair!

    1. avatar SD3 says:

      Not fair if it’s a Taurus (ugghhhh).

      1. avatar Art says:

        Taurus revolvers arn’t bad
        now their semi autos, not on a bet

    2. avatar borg says:

      Yes because it would be a good form of restitution to the victim. Even if the victim is not able to disarm the attacker they should have the option of receiving the gun if the criminal is later captured since that would be an excellent form of restitution. Criminals may be less likely to attack people if there is a risk that they will end up arming them in the end.

  2. avatar Heretical Politik says:

    Unless it’s stolen, yes.

    1. avatar Gregolas says:

      Yes, a long as it belongs to the perp, without another person’s legal claim on it, I say the Rules of Homer in the Iliad should be in effect. Take him down, take his weapon.

  3. avatar Another Robert says:

    I kind of figured if I ever disarmed an attacker who then got away, I wouldn’t even tell the cops. I might find some way the have the number run to make sure it was stolen. If it really did happen, tho, I probably would tell the cops. And they would want to keep it, of course, to auction off or something.

    1. avatar NJ2AZ says:

      i thought the same thing…though i wonder how you would go about running a gun without drawing suspicion. I guess go to the local smokies and say “Hey i bought this in a private sale, just want to make sure its clean?” knowing that you might not leave with it?

      1. avatar Duke says:

        Unless you have a buddy on the force, that’s the only way I could think to do it.

      2. avatar Ty King says:

        Depends on your state, but sometimes you can run numbers online. Here’s Florida’s:

      3. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Hey, if it’s stolen, I don’t want it! But how do you make sure it is returned to the owner?

    2. I know a guy who found two guns in the Mississippi. He couldn’t get the police to come out and get them. They didn’t want the paperwork! Told my friend to take them home. So he did, one was a stainless Ruger MK ll.

    3. avatar Cody says:

      Unless you live in a place with universal background checks….why would that matter, legally? You could have obtained that gun anywhere.

      1. avatar Steve In MA (now RI) says:

        Possession of stolen property.

    4. avatar Dan A says:

      What if the perp reports the gun stolen?

  4. avatar The Mountain that Rides says:

    Absolutely! Even if I kill my attacker, I’m keeping his weapon. Not like he’s going to need it anymore.

    Besides, who wouldn’t want a trophy weapon? I’d put it on display as a warning to others. We live in a more civilized age, where putting bandits’ heads on spikes outside of your home isn’t in vogue anymore. My HOA said so.

  5. avatar jwm says:

    Many years ago, before WV became shall issue, I was leaving a country bar when a fella fired a couple of shots at me. I always figured it was either mistaken id or he wanted to get payback on my rat bastard uncle.

    Anyways, I fired back and he scampered. I wasn’t hit and if he was I never saw anything about it in the news. Cops were few and far between in WV in those days and folks settled a lot of their problems off the books.

    I walked over to where he had been and found a Hi Standard .22 revolver laying there. I took it as a trophy.

    My future x wife asked me what if it was stolen or had been used in a killing? After some thought it went in the Ohio river.

    I guess if there was a legal and above board way to keep such a trophy I’d be for it.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      Clearly, you have lived in interesting times.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Still living in interesting times. Isn’t there something about a Chinese curse in that? 🙂

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    The defender should get to keep the gun. Also the robber’s wallet, car keys and Air Jordans.

    1. avatar Bruce Badger says:

      And his house, his car, and his woman.

      Well, he should get the option on his woman,,,you know, depending…

      1. I already have a woman. What the hell would I want with another one?

        1. avatar PeterW says:

          To keep her company while you’re at the range, silly.

      2. avatar Rog Uinta says:

        I prefer simply to hear the lamentations of his women. Woman. Whatever.

  7. avatar explainist says:

    PIs can not divulge the identity of their clients.

    get a private detective to run a check on the serial number to see if it’s stolen. fire a round into a sandbag and see if that weapon was used in a known homicide

    then determine what to do with your known clean trophy of combat.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      By the time you paid for that it would be cheaper just to go and buy a new taurus.

    2. avatar Hannibal says:

      “PIs can not divulge the identity of their clients.”

      Um… yes they can. Please state your legal source.

      “get a private detective to run a check on the serial number to see if it’s a round into a sandbag and see if that weapon was used in a known homicide”

      You have been watching way too much Magnum PI + CSI

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        Yeah, I am pretty sure there is no such thing as a searchable database for matching bullets, that is a one-on-one thing, your PI checking that bullet against millions of crime bullets, one at a time, would take decades and cost millions.

  8. avatar James Stewart says:

    They should get to! That way the next person that tries to rob them will have an even harder time. One could rack up a good collection like this in a bad neighborhood.

  9. avatar Defens says:

    I’m with Ralph – it’s automatically a stolen weapon if the perp left it but didn’t really intend to officially transfer possession to you, even if he acquired it legally (ROFLMAO….). So, unless you are concerned about getting caught with a gun that’s reported stolen from some previous crime, I’d say keep the danged thing. Unless its a Hi Point, in which case it should be melted, for the children.

  10. avatar Renegade Dave says:

    I actually was thinking that the other day. A plaintiff who diffuses an armed conflict should be awarded the weapons as trophies.

  11. avatar Mark Lloyd says:

    Finders keepers, losers……uh, bleed!

  12. avatar JasonM says:

    In video games and RPGs, you get to search the bodies of defeated enemies for loot.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      If real life is anything like Far Cry you’ll find five rounds of ammo and a lightbulb.

      1. avatar Troutbum5 says:

        A real incandescent light bulb from before the ban? Hell, that might be worth more than the Taurus.

  13. avatar JackinAlabama says:

    “spoils of war”, “you keep what you kill”, etc etc. I have a knife that was obtained in a similar fashion, by someone stupid enough to bring a knife to a gun fight. No shots were fired – I guess it would fall under “brandishing” had the guy who donated the knife to me wanted to involve the local constabulary? I’ll keep that knife forever – it has a special meaning to me!

    1. avatar Illinois Minion says:


      nice reference…

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        Beat me to it. First thing I thought of when I read the headline. “Keep what you kill” seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    2. For almost all of U.S. history (changed unilaterally by Bush I in the First Gulf War) American servicemen were able to keep trophy weapons. There were both formal and informal processes in place.

      We need to reinstate that tradition. We could do so legislatively.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        After the gca 68 we could still legally bring guns back. You went thru the provost martials office and filled out a sh*t ton of paperwork. No machine guns or explosives and no American made trophies. No bringing your battle field pick up m16 home. Guys did it, but it wasn’t legal.

        I got a tt-33. I covered a bet for a buddy in a barracks poker tournament and he put it up as collateral. He lost.

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          Yeah, what a bite in the butt. I wanted to take my 4″ Python to war with me, and was told I could not, although it would have carried nicely in my vest where I carried my Combat Masterpiece, issued. Come to find out, later, I certainly could have taken it, probably could not have brought it back. Which I would have done! Even then, some stories I heard said you could not bring back anything made in America, others said you could not bring back anything ever issued to the military, and Pythons never were, I might have even gotten to keep it. Same shit for Gulf 1, so I took a 9″ Cold Steel knife instead. Had my hand on it a few times while on the ground.

      2. avatar Yellow Devil says:

        One of my Army buddies made off with Saddam’s family photo albums he ransacked from one of his palaces. My previous 1SG ran off with one of his chairs. They obviously didn’t do the necessary paperwork or let their chain of command know.

  14. avatar Shrew McGrew says:

    Possession, without permission, even in the course of saving your own life, is illegal and should be discouraged especially in IL, WA (I-594), DC, NJ, and NY. Better to blow your rape whistle than to blow off universal background checks. Two wrongs don’t make a right as the good book says.

    1. avatar KCK says:

      I’m sure he “gave” it to him.

    2. avatar AllAmerican says:

      Yeah…right. Honestly in this situation after I shot him I’d probably just put one in his head to make sure he was dead and then roll, and keep the gun. Johnny law isnt going to care. Esspecailly in an area with high gang violence.

  15. avatar KCK says:

    If I was in Chicago without an FOID card or in NYC? I would have ALWAYS have taken the gun from the robber. I would shrug my shoulders and not be able to explain why his prints were not on the gun. In some cases I would be confused why he had two guns to start with. Hopefully I would be able to keep my, I mean his gun/s.

  16. avatar Skyler says:

    It seems to me that it was not misplaced, it was lost. The common law says that anyone who finds lost property has the highest claim to it other than the rightful owner.

    If the rightful owner wants to claim it, they can sue for it.

  17. avatar CM says:

    I keep the gun, but I’ll give them the lead back at a high rate of speed.

  18. avatar Scrubula says:

    Since it’s technically evidence of a crime, I understand why the police would want to keep it. Afterwards though when it goes to auction or the furnace, I guess giving it to the victim would be cool.

    1. avatar Chrispy says:

      This is the most logical way it could ever be done, the police would have to do their research and hold it as evidence of the crime for a pre-determined time after a trial, (if any). At that time it could come up for claim by the victim.

      But like the article says, this idea comes from a science FICTION novel… I don’t see it ever happening.

  19. avatar Jim R says:

    I’d say yes, as long as the weapon wasn’t stolen in the first place–in which case it should be returned to its rightful owner immediately if possible.

  20. avatar Matt from Oregon says:

    To parrot what folks are saying about returning the firearm to the owner I 100%. Although there is the chance that the firearm might have bodies on it. Meaning that the weapon has been used to commit crimes in the past or its ballistics are tied to a murder or other atrocities. Honestly unless the cool factor greatly outweighs the risk I would return it to police to deal with it. When was the last time a bad guy used a high end firearm to rob someone with? Do you think the average thug is going to use a SCAR-H to mug someone?

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Yeah almost certainly not worth it… if it’s a nice gun, it’s stolen.

  21. avatar Bobble says:

    I think no, for the simple reason that we don’t want to encourage people to attempt disarming when they should be shooting.

    1. Shooting can result in disarming.

  22. avatar JWTaylor says:

    I say yes, you should get to keep their arms. And by arms, I mean actual limbs. Let’s say, just by chance, you happen to hack off an arm, or some fingers, or maybe an ear, you should get to keep those. But you can’t eat them. That should still be against the law.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Well, the Constitution says that we have a right to keep and bear arms. But not legs or other body parts.

      1. avatar KingSarc48265 says:

        Just be careful, extending the index finger and thumb before shouldering the stump may turn that arm into a SBR. I’d check with the ATF before taking that arm to the range.

        Pew! Pew! Pew!

  23. avatar Bill West says:

    My father brought a Samurai sword home from WWII. He had an order authorizing him take a “Japanese Sabre”. I have both now. I think it is a war production blade so the Japanese government would not want it but they wouldn’t get it anyway.

  24. avatar forrest says:

    Assuming that the firearm in question isn’t stolen and does not already have bodies on it that the police are interested in, at such a point that I have disarmed and defeated my attacker, his firearm isn’t a firearm, it’s a trophy. I’m not going to shoot it any more than the AK rounds I brought back from firefights in Iraq. I’m going to place it in a nice display box with dates and a description of the event and mount that sucker to my wall.

    That’s assuming that the cops don’t decide to take it home themselves…

  25. avatar Carry.45 says:

    Seems appropriate cosmically. When one attempts robbery it is only fitting that they should forfeit assets to the intended victim.

  26. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    What is the saying, “Possession is 9/10ths of the law.” ?????

    1. avatar jwm says:

      This possession has a serial number on it.

  27. avatar former water walker says:

    Keep it. Gun? What gun? BTW this Chicago s##t neighborhood robbery confirms my theory of why shootings are up but MURDER is down. Lots of lowlifes use 22’s or small caliber. And LOTS of teenage thugs. 60th & State is a scary place. As are vast areas of the Westside.

  28. avatar Sean says:

    But almost all guns used in crimes are stolen. They should be returned to the proper owner. If someone in a stolen car hit you, you don’t get to keep that car as well.

    1. avatar George M says:

      yes and if the person didn’t tell others about their said tools then no one would take them..

  29. avatar George M says:

    I would say so after an investigation to make sure there are no deaths on the said firearm, but yes give it to the person that disarmed the bad unreasonable thief.

  30. avatar Bob says:

    Chevy Chase in Deal Of The Century – Reverse Mugging Scene

  31. avatar Roymond says:


    In fact, it should be awarded to the victor by the police chief or sheriff along with a medal. And if it was stolen, the police department should buy him/her one of equal value, or $400, whichever is greater, of his choice.

    And of the victor doesn’t have a concealed carry permit, one should be issued immediately, no paperwork of any kind required.

  32. avatar MatKep says:

    Just because someone commits a crime against you, does not give you the right to commit a crime against them. Did the perp give the gun to you? No, you took the gun without their permission. Glad you’re safe, but if you keep the gun, you effectively stole it. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and disarming someone is different than stealing a weapon from them. Now head straight to the Police Station and report the crime.

    1. avatar styrgwillidar says:

      The author’s question was — should it be legal?
      “It only seems just that he should have it, after due process, of course.” In the sci-fi story he sights, it’s legal and predicated on the weapon not being stolen or been used in another crime.

      In which case it would not be theft. It would be a part of the restitution process for a crime victim. If the weapon was stolen, but the original owner had been paid off by his insurance company, would the weapon be provided to the insurance company? Or would the original owner get it but have to pay back the insurance company. Not familiar with how recovery of stolen property works after the insurance has paid the owner.

  33. avatar Phil COV says:

    I say no, a weapon from a perp should go into the evidence locker. Most likely it’ll be a handgun and not very fancy. Secondly, they have committed a crime with said weapon, so the odds are high that another crime has been committed with the same weapon. Thirdly, the odds are high that the weapon itself was already stolen or obtained illegally.

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