Tracking down stolen guns
January 27, 2013 12:25 PM   Subscribe

About 30 years ago my dad had a large gun collection (about 100 total). They were stolen and only about 10 of them were ever recovered. He had a list of models and serial numbers that he sent to local law enforcement. I still have that list. is there any chance of recovering more of the guns? How would I go about that?
posted by DaddyNewt to Law & Government (4 answers total)
Best answer: is there any chance of recovering more of the guns?

Thirty-years later? Not really.

If they were discovered or recovered by police departments and held as recovered stolen property, they've long since been sold by the state as unclaimed property. You won't be able to get it back from the buyers without buying them yourself.

And if they've passed through the hands of a legitimate merchant since then, most states permit good-faith purchasers of goods from merchants to take title to the goods they purchase. Otherwise, we'd have people like you running around demanding that innocent consumers surrender property they bought with no knowledge of its nature from merchants they had no reason to suspect.

There will also be statute of limitations issues. You might be able to have a fight about whether the statute for replevin runs from the time the goods are stolen or the time they're discovered in the possession of another--state laws may vary on that point--but no court is going to be all that thrilled about permitting a suit about something that happened three decades ago.

Further, there isn't any database for tracking particular guns of which I'm aware. The creation of such a database is the gun control advocate's fondest dream and the gun rights advocate's worst nightmare. Given that the latter seem to have more political clout--and recent Second Amendment jurisprudence--on their side, it's little surprise that such a database does not exist.
posted by valkyryn at 12:43 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Unfortunately I think the closest you will come to recovering any of them is if they are used in a crime and your dad is still listed as the registered owner.
posted by elizardbits at 12:50 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Metafilter is not always the best place for pro-gun questions. I'll take this one over to an alternate source with a lot of smart gun folk and throw it out there and report back for you.

However, my instinctive response is:
Does your father have proof of ownership for those guns, other than knowing the serial numbers? Check into that and get it ready.

Keep pushing that list. Check in about the original stolen weapons report. Check it with law enforcement not just in your own city but in neighboring cities.

Also, what I would do is pound the pavement. Go to your local gunsmiths, tell them about the theft, give them the serial number list, and ask them to call you if they do work on any of those guns. There are a lot of people who can work on their guns themselves, and if well maintained, guns can last a long time without needing a visit to the smith, but IME, the people who lovingly maintain their weapons are not people who steal them from other people. Also, it'll be so long ago that it's likely nobody's looking over their shoulder anymore.

Were any of the guns distinctive? Throw it up on gun forums. Your local gun clubs, etc. If someone sees one go up for sale, they might remember any distinctive identifying features. Don't assume that none of them had any - modification combinations can also be unique.
posted by corb at 8:42 PM on January 28, 2013

(And yes, the pavement-pounding is what the cops should do, but they almost never do. I certainly wouldnt' count on it.)
posted by corb at 8:43 PM on January 28, 2013

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