The following is a video transcript.
You just returned home from your holiday break, only to discover that your house was broken into while you were gone. Thankfully, your family is safe, but panic sets in as you go through your belongings. The burglars got away with one of your guns… What happens next?
Part of being a responsible gun owner is keeping good records and documentation of your firearms. In previous segments, we have discussed the recommended documentation and some steps you can take to protect your property. Today, we will talk about how that documentation will help you if your firearms are lost or stolen and what the law requires for reporting these incidents.
In Texas, there is no such thing as a gun registry, so the state will not keep track of your guns for you. That is why it is vital for you to keep records of your firearms. Having a list or spreadsheet of your firearm information is a good idea.
The 5 Most Important Things To Record:
- The make and model of the firearm;
- The serial number;
- The date of purchase;
- The location of purchase; and
- The name or company name of the seller.
Recording these details should ensure you have everything you need in case of an emergency.
Purchasing From the Federal Firearms Licensed Dealer
If you buy a firearm from a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer (also known as an FFL), it may be easier to keep track than if you were to purchase one through a private sale. When you purchase a gun from an FFL dealer, there is a record of the transfer on a Form 4473.
If you happen to lose the serial number of your firearm, you might be able to request the information from the FFL. But keep in mind, FFLs are only required to keep these records for a certain period of time before they destroy them.
Bill of Sale
On the other hand, if you purchase a gun through a private sale, there is no official government record of the transfer. This is why we recommend a Bill of Sale.
A Bill of Sale should contain the identifying information of the firearm as well as the names and contact information of both the buyer and the seller. If you want to go the extra mile, you may request a copy of the purchaser’s driver’s license to ensure they are a Texas resident, and obtain a signed statement that the purchaser is not disqualified to purchase and possess a firearm.
In either scenario, if your firearm is lost or stolen you should report this to the police. Reporting is an easy way to save you trouble down the road.
Avoid Unwanted Visitors
In Texas, you are not legally required to report a lost or stolen firearm. However, if you don’t report it and that gun is ever used in a crime, the police and the ATF will likely show up at your home with some questions.
Reporting the gun lost or stolen is a good way to avoid the hassles of having to explain to the police, months or even years later, why you no longer have the gun. It is a good idea to keep your firearm documentation separate from the firearm itself in case your home is ever burglarized. A fireproof lockbox for paper copies is a great way to keep firearm records and other personal information safe from both theft and fire. For digital copies, we recommended an encrypted USB drive or cloud-based storage. If your gun is stolen and you can’t provide identifying information to law enforcement, the chances of you recovering your firearm are slim-to-none.
To review, the best way to ensure you recover a stolen firearm and are not associated with any crimes committed with a lost or stolen gun is to have the proper documentation. This foundational step only takes a few minutes but can save you hours, days, and even weeks of headache down the line.
If you have any questions about firearms documentation, call Texas LawShield and asked to speak with your Independent Program Attorney today.
If my firearm is stolen and I don’t report it then it is later used in a crime how then can the police show up at my door asking about the firearm if they have no way of knowing I owned the gun unless they are keeping records? A bit of a contradiction I might say.
In Texas, the weapon can not be traced back to the owner unless it was reported stolen, but in places like NY the citizen has to obtain a permit from the city to buy a gun and when the gun is purchased, the serial is filed with the city under the permit holder name.
They have a record of the original purchase so they start there and follow it from person to person.
If there’s a break in the chain of possession somewhere they might not be able to trace it further but it depends… evidently on luck. So it’s not a sure thing but you don’t really know.
what do you do if you sell a gun private sale and lose the bill of sale??