The following is a video transcript.
Nothing is quite as unsettling as having a firearm lost or stolen. It’s useful first to understand the practical differences between a firearm that is lost and one that is stolen.
LOST VS. STOLEN
A lost firearm is simply that: lost. You may have left it behind at the range or it fell out of your boat when you were out fishing, or you simply can’t find it in the attic where you know for sure that you left it. A stolen firearm means that the gun owner has been a victim of theft. Someone broke into your house or into your car and stole your firearm. From a legal liability perspective, there is no difference between a firearm that is lost versus stolen. In Pennsylvania, there is no law requiring a gun owner to report either a lost or stolen firearm. While it may be prudent to do so, it is not required under the law.
This begs the question: what happens to me if my lost or stolen gun is used in a crime? Am I liable? In Pennsylvania, no criminal liability attaches simply because a gun that belonged to you was used in a crime. You’re not responsible simply because you did not report the gun stolen.
In order for criminal liability to attach to you, you must have some culpability in the crime committed. Simply being the owner of a gun that was used is not enough. It may be enough, however, for the police to question you about the whereabouts of your gun at the time the crime was committed, so it’s important to call U.S. LawShield if that happens to protect yourself.
What about civil liability? Well, just like criminal liability, there’s no civil liability imposed against the gun owner for criminal use of a firearm following a theft, regardless of whether or not it is reported.
Like with all civil matters, liability may not attach, but it won’t stop someone from suing you and requiring you to litigate the issue. If the firearm was lost and later used in a crime and proof of negligence or recklessness in the loss of the firearm can be established, there may be civil liability.
While it’s not the law to report lost or stolen firearms, as a practical matter, it may be in your best interest to do so. If you’ve made the report, it saves you from having to deal with police inquiry if your firearm is stolen and used later in a crime. You should keep in mind that this only applies to firearms that are legitimately lost or stolen.
If you’re engaging in criminal behaviors, such as straw purchases (meaning that you buy a firearm for a person who is not legally allowed to purchase, possess, own, or transfer a firearm), then later reporting the gun as stolen will not protect you from criminal liability for engaging in criminal behavior.
For any questions regarding what to do when your gun is lost or stolen, 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.