One of the most important responsibilities of a law-abiding gun owner is to keep their firearms secured and out of the hands of children, criminals, and other prohibited persons. Hundreds of thousands of firearms are reported stolen each year, and improper or lackadaisical storage certainly contributes to this statistic. Even more firearms are lost or not reported at all, which becomes problematic if they’re ever found in connection with a crime.
To address this growing concern, most states have some form of safe storage law on the books, but many have gone further, criminalizing the failure to promptly report a lost or stolen gun. In fact, most states have long had laws in place that make the gun owner criminally liable if a child obtains their firearm and injures themselves or someone else with it.
Unique Storage and Reporting Laws
Let’s discuss some examples of unique storage and reporting laws across the nation.
As of October 2019, 11 states have passed what can only be categorized as “stringent” firearm storage laws. For example, Massachusetts goes so far as to generally require all firearms to be stored with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device when not in use. Other states, including California and New York, have specific regulations about the standards, characteristics, design, and operation and construction of gun locking devices.
Local jurisdictions, like counties and cities, may have their own similar laws as well. So, please check with your Independent Program Attorney if you’re unsure whether you’re violating firearm storage regulations.
Lost or Stolen Guns
As for lost or stolen guns, more and more states are enacting laws requiring gun owners to notify law enforcement when they discover their firearm is missing or stolen. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring mandatory reporting of firearms that have been lost or stolen, and the State of Missouri recently introduced HB 1824 which would establish a 72-hour window for reporting a lost or stolen firearm.
But these laws are not consistent throughout all states.
Specific State Storage and Reporting Laws
Michigan requires gun owners to notify law enforcement if their firearm is stolen, but not if the firearm is simply lost. In New York, your report must include “the facts and circumstances of the loss or theft,” including if any ammunition was also stolen. However, state reporting deadlines vary, ranging anywhere from 24 to 72 hours or even up to 7 days.
New Jersey, for instance, requires gun owners to report the loss or theft of any firearm within 36 hours of discovery. However, if the firearms legally defined as an “assault weapon,” the gun owner has only 24 hours to report it before being held civilly liable for any damages that may result from the use of the stolen or lost assault weapon.
Washington has a provision in its “safe storage” law, stating a gun owner is responsible for community endangerment if the owner does not safely store the firearm from a prohibited person and the prohibited person obtains the firearm and carries it intimidatingly, discharges it, or causes injury with it, unless the unlawful entry or theft of the firearm is reported within 5 days.
Needless to say, state laws regarding the reporting and safe storage of your firearms can be complex and confusing.
U.S. LawShield President, Kirk Evans: Hi, I’m Kirk Evans, President of U.S. LawShield. With Gunowner Identity Theft Coverage, U.S. LawShield members can have peace of mind knowing that help is only a phone call away. Unsure about reporting or storage obligations you have in your state, county or city? Contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney today.