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 Florida?”
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. In Florida, 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. 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 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.
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 reasons? You should discuss these issues with an attorney before speaking to 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 answer those key questions.
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 talk to people all the time who have had the ATF 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. In Florida, it is not a requirement 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. Reporting the gun stolen breaks what people commonly refer 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 want you to be prepared. To review, document your firearms. If someone steals your gun, 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.
If you have any questions about firearm documentation, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.