The following is a video transcript.
Let’s talk about lost and stolen firearms. Is there a distinction in Georgia between a gun that has been stolen versus one that’s considered lost? What should a gun owner do in the event of either of these unfortunate occurrences to potentially recover a firearm or to prevent damage to their ability to carry a license and their identity as a gun owner?
NO DUTY TO REPORT
Georgia law does not distinguish between a lost or a stolen firearm, because Georgia law does not specifically address either. You have no duty in Georgia to report a lost or a stolen firearm or to let anyone know that your firearm is missing. We also know there is no law or requirement in Georgia that you register a firearm unless, of course, it’s an item covered under the National Firearms Act. Remember, Official Code of Georgia Annotated 38-3-37 specifically prohibits not only the seizing of firearms or ammunition by any state authorities in a time of emergency; it also prohibits any requirements in the state for registration of firearms.
REPORT SERIAL NUMBER TO THE POLICE
If there is no duty to report a lost or stolen firearm and firearms aren’t registered, it’s entirely possible no one will ever know your firearm is lost or stolen unless you say something. If your firearm has been lost or stolen, report it to your local law enforcement agency. Give them the make, model, caliber, and identifying characteristics of the gun; the most important of which is the serial number. Keep a list of the serial numbers for all your firearms. Be sure you keep track of that number if you find your firearm lost or stolen. You will want to report that to police.
Now what about federal law? Federal law requires Federal Firearms Licensees to report lost or stolen firearms from their inventory within 48 hours. Federal agencies like the ATF cannot or will not assist private citizens in investigating firearm theft. Remember, there is no national firearms registry and Georgia law forbids a statewide registry of firearms. That means unless you’ve kept a record of the make, model, caliber, and the distinguishing characteristics of your firearm, including that serial number, law enforcement most likely will not be able to help you.
“I FORGOT THE SERIAL NUMBER…”
It’s very important you keep up-to-date records of the firearms in your inventory, just as you would any other important personal belongings. Should you have a firearm stolen, or lose one, and you do not have the serial number, the ATF recommends you contact the firearms dealer you purchased the weapon from to assist in obtaining the serial number (if you purchased from a Federal Firearms Licensee). If the dealer is no longer in business, local law enforcement may be able to submit a request to the National Tracing Center. This is called a “records search request” and can usually only be made in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation surrounding that lost or stolen firearm.
Civil and Criminal Liability
Now can either scenario impact a gun owner legally? Yes. Particularly in the case of a lost firearm, if you are accused of recklessness or negligence in losing that firearm or not maintaining proper control over it. Just as with other reckless acts we’ve discussed (like firing warning shots), any act considered reckless, meaning the conscious disregard for the safety of others, could result in a charge of reckless conduct.
Consider you enter a public restroom and remove your firearm from your waistband carry, placing it on the tissue dispenser or on the seat. In the rush to leave, you simply forget your firearm. If that firearm is recovered by a child or through some set of unfortunate circumstances, results in an injury, it is possible that you could be charged with a crime.
Not only that, if someone is injured by your loss of a firearm, you could be sued in a civil case under various theories of what is known as negligence. Your level of criminal liability could be different with a stolen firearm, however. Through no fault of your own, if your firearm is stolen, the acts of the thief could cut your liability if that firearm is then subsequently used in a crime or someone is injured with it.
The Best Response is to Contact the Police
In either case, the best response to discovering your firearm has been lost or stolen is to contact police and make a report. Make sure you’re able to give law enforcement all those identifying characteristics including the serial number. Letting police know can give you peace of mind and help you in the successful recovery of your firearm.
For any questions regarding what to do if this happens, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
Vital Identity Theft Coverage
A gun is stolen from a responsibly armed American like you every 52 seconds. Stay one step ahead of the legal nightmare you’ll face if someone commits a crime with your stolen firearm. Call or log in to your member portal today to add Gunowner Identity Theft Coverage to your U.S. LawShield membership.