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 we see firearms 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’re going to answer the question, “What do you do if your gun is stolen, here in Colorado?”
What to do #1: Keep Records
The first step should happen before the loss or theft ever occurs. The best first step is reducing the fallout of the stolen gun by documenting your firearms. In Colorado, there is no gun registry, 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 a 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. In the case law enforcement recovers your gun, these documents will make retrieving it from the police as easy as possible.
What to do #2: Contact Your Attorney
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. Was the way you stored the firearm a crime? 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 with the police. We have seen people repeatedly and inadvertently incriminate themselves when trying to do the right thing and report a gun stolen. Only a licensed attorney can give you legal advice on your particular circumstances, and answering those questions is key before you contact the police.
What to do #3: Disclose to the police
But what happens if your stolen gun turns up at a crime scene or in police custody? We have talked to folks, all the time, who’ve had the police show up at their house with more than a few questions about a gun they once owned, but later turned up at a suspicious location. 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, but you’re not legally required to report a stolen firearm. However, a bill is currently being considered by the Colorado legislature which would require any gun owner who has reasonable cause to believe that a firearm has been lost or stolen to report such fact to law enforcement within 48 hours of discovering that the gun has been lost or stolen. Failing to do so would be a class two petty offense for the first offense, and a class three misdemeanor for subsequent offenses.
While that bill has not yet been passed and signed into law, the best practice is to report a lost or stolen firearm after speaking with an attorney. 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. Reporting the gun stolen breaks what commonly is referred to as “the chain of custody.” It clearly delineates when you had the gun, and when it left your possession.
We hope you never find yourself in this situation, but we do want you to be prepared. To review, document your firearms. If your gun is ever stolen, it is important to discuss the incident with an attorney. And finally, disclose the theft to the police after speaking with your counsel. These foundational steps only take a few minutes, but can save you hours, days, and even weeks of headaches 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, feel free to call U.S. LawShield. I’m always happy to speak to U.S. Law Shield members.