What happens if you walk outside to your car only to discover the window smashed and your handgun missing? It’s an unfortunate scenario, and one of the most common ways firearms are stolen.

Minor crimes are soaring during the COVID-19 pandemic and as states refuse to arrest low-level criminals, gun owners are left wondering what to do when their gun goes missing. We want you to be prepared, and today we are going to answer the question, “What do you do if your gun is stolen, here in South Carolina?”

What to do #1: Keep Records

The first step should happen before a loss or theft ever occurs. The best first step to reducing the fallout a stolen gun can cause is documenting your firearms.  There is no gun registry in South Carolina, so the government won’t keep track of your guns for you. That’s why you need to keep accurate records. You should document each firearm’s make, model, and serial number. We also recommend keeping a copy of the record of purchase, such as a sales receipt or bill of sale.

Additionally, if you want to go the extra mile, a photograph of each firearm can also be very helpful. You should store an electronic backup of these documents and photos, or store such documents in a safe or gun safe if you have one. If your gun is recovered by law enforcement, these documents will make retrieving it from the police as easy as possible.

What to do #2: Contact an attorney

If the situation is rapidly unfolding or if there is an emergency, you should call 911. However, as in our current example, if you discover the theft sometime after the fact, and the scene is safe, the next crucial step for protecting yourself after a gun is stolen should be discussing the incident with an attorney. Did you properly store your firearm? Did you possess the gun in a prohibited location? Were you negligent? Was the firearm a prohibited weapon or illegal for any reason? You must discuss these issues with an attorney before speaking to police. People can inadvertently incriminate themselves when trying to do the right thing and report a gun stolen. Only a licensed South Carolina attorney can give you legal advice on your particular circumstances and answer those key questions.

But what happens if your stolen gun turns up at a crime scene or in police custody? It’s possible that agents from Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or “ATF,” show up at your house, with more than a few questions about a gun you once owned but later turned up at a suspicious location.

What to do #3: Disclose to the police

This leads us to the last step: disclosing the theft to the police. If your firearm is stolen, you should report the theft to the police. In South Carolina, you’re not legally required to report a stolen firearm. However, if you don’t report it, and the gun is ever used in a crime, the police will likely have some serious questions. For all they know, the gun never left your possession. Also, if that weapon was used in a crime of violence, such as an armed robbery or a murder, you could be sued. Reporting the gun stolen breaks what is commonly referred to as “the chain of custody.” It clearly delineates when you had the gun, and when it left your possession. Proof of the intervening crime of having your firearm stolen would assist in your defense in any criminal or civil matter.

We hope you never find yourself in this situation, but want you to be prepared. To review, document your firearms. If your gun is stolen, it’s important to discuss the incident with an attorney. And finally, disclose the theft to the police. These foundational steps only take a few minutes, but can save you hours, days, and even weeks of headache down the line. 

U.S. LawShield has created a unique add-on that provides extra coverage for this very reason. With Gunowner Identity Theft Coverage an Independent Program Attorney will provide crucial assistance, so you won’t have to deal with the fallout of a stolen gun or identity (affecting your right to carry) on your own. Crooks want to use your gun—not theirs. Don’t wait until it’s too late: add Gunowner Identity Theft Coverage now.

If you have any questions about firearm documentation, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak with your Independent Program Attorney.