What to Do When Your Guns and Ammo Are Stolen
You’ve poured time and money into buying and caring for your firearms, spent countless hours practicing shooting and gun safety, and ready to defend yourself if you need to—you think you’re totally prepared.
But what happens if that nightmare scenario strikes and your guns and ammo are stolen?
You know as well as anyone else how much responsibility a firearm demands, and how dangerous a gun in the wrong hands could be. If your gun is lost or stolen, it could be in the hands of a kid who accidentally shoots his friend, or it could be in the hands of a criminal using it to commit robbery or even murder. It’s a scary thought.
So if this happens, you need to act fast. But how? What are you required to do by law, and what should you do as a responsible gun owner?
Have Documentation Prepared
If you’re reading this to get a plan together for if you ever face this scenario, then we should start with some of the preemptive measures you should be taking so that, if that time ever comes, you’re prepared.
If you’re reading this after having your gun and ammo stolen to see what you should be doing, then it’s a bit late for preparation, but you should read through anyway to know what may be expected of you.
The first and most important piece of information you need documented about your gun is the serial number. If you don’t have the serial number, then not only do you make it easy for the thief and subsequent black market buyers to avoid being traced back to the original theft, but you also make it harder to claim the gun if it’s ever found. You also may need it to file an insurance claim.
Other information you want to have documented and ready includes:
- Year of manufacture
- Unique identifying accessories, marks, or modifications
- Where and when you purchased or transferred it
- Current valuation or purchase price
Neither the federal government nor most state governments require firearm registration, and even those states that do typically aren’t allowed to disclose that information to anyone, including you. So it’s your responsibility as a gun owner to have this information recorded yourself.
A simple way to have all the info documented in one place is to fill out a copy of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s Personal Firearms Record. This form is available online so you can print it out and record the details about your collection all in one convenient spot.
If you want to be even more diligent about documenting your firearms, an Enhanced Personal Firearms Record can help. This template can be downloaded as a Word document and includes space for photos and extra details.
Taking these precautions and having your collection well-documented will make reporting a theft much easier and will help law enforcement track down what was stolen and get it back to you if possible.
Reporting Stolen Guns and Ammo to Authorities
If someone has stolen guns and ammo from you though, you may be wondering if you’re “in trouble,” whether you’ll be held liable for the gun’s disappearance and the crimes that might be committed with it, and what the law might demand of you.
First of all, let’s make one thing clear: if your guns and ammo are stolen, no matter what, you definitely should immediately report it.
The ATF estimates that of the 500,000 guns that are stolen from households every year, only 173,000 get reported missing. These guns fuel the illicit gun trade and supply criminals nationwide with firearms to carry out their illegal activities. Immediately reporting a theft makes it easier for law enforcement not only to track down your lost gun, but also to trace criminal activity and learn how gun trafficking rings operate.
Even if you’re embarrassed to have lost your gun, or suspicious of telling the government about your guns and ammo, your duty first and foremost as someone who’s taken on responsibility for a firearm is to do everything in your power to ensure that your gun isn’t in the hands of someone who will use it to threaten people’s lives.
As for legal requirements, that depends on your state. While there is no federal requirement to report stolen firearms, nine states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books that require you to report your lost or stolen gun within a certain number of days. Additionally, Maryland has such a law but it only applies to handguns and assault rifles.
Then there’s New Jersey, where the law has an additional stipulation. In New Jersey, if you’re an owner of a registered assault weapon, and it gets stolen, and you don’t report it within 24 hours of the theft, you can be held accountable for crimes committed with that gun.
So in many cases you have a legal obligation to report your gun stolen. If you can show that you took reasonable precautions to keep your guns and ammo secure, you should be fine. And even if you can’t, neglecting to report the theft to avoid getting in trouble isn’t recommended, especially when you’re breaking another law in doing so.
Reporting requires two steps. The first is reporting to local law enforcement as you would with any crime. The second is reporting to the ATF, through a hotline and report form provided on their website. Doing so ensures that your firearm is entered into the stolen firearm database so that law enforcement across the country will have your information if the gun is recovered in a different state.
Filing an Insurance Claim
Then there’s the matter of what you can do to lessen the blow to your own collection and finances. Can you collect homeowner’s insurance on stolen guns like on other stolen property?
More often than not, you can’t. Many homeowner’s insurance policies have fine print that says guns and ammo aren’t covered. Others may cover guns but will cap your total payout and only provide a couple hundred dollars per gun, regardless of their value, so can still lose big.
That’s why you should check your homeowner’s insurance policy, make sure you have your guns and ammo inventoried and documented in case you need to file a claim, and consider firearms insurance.
Firearms insurance is offered through many insurers, but most notable is the fact that the NRA automatically insures all members for $2,500 worth of lost, stolen, or damaged firearms. Many members aren’t aware of this or the additional insurance they offer, so take this into account and take advantage if you need to.
Finally, there’s the last thing you’ll need to do after your guns and ammo are stolen: replace them.
If you’ve been hit with some bad luck and need to fill the hole that a stolen gun has left, stop in at Second Amendment Sports. We have one of the biggest selections of guns and ammo in McHenry, IL and the rest of the Chicago area, including used guns if your insurance payout has you on a budget. Whatever the case, our knowledgeable and experienced staff will help you find whatever you need.
So give us a call at (815) 385-5522 or come on by, and we’ll do our best to help replace what was lost.
Second Amendment Sports
3705 W Elm St
McHenry, IL 60050