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What would you do if you bought a handgun that turned out to be stolen?


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Let's say you hypothetically (ahem!) bought an antique revolver from a reputable and well known gun shop while you were visiting another state. That gun shop shipped it to your regular FFL. Then, when you went to pick it up, while you were waiting for the routine background check, he informs you that: 1. The gun actually has two serial numbers on it and they don't match, 2. Each of the numbers was reported as stolen in a different state in different years, 24 years apart, and 3. He has called the police and they are on their way. The police then, hypothetically, proceed to confiscate your new to you revolver as "evidence" and you're left standing in the middle of the gun shop trying to process what just happened.

If something like that happened to you, what would you do? 

 

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"Ask (in writing)" the gun shop where it was bought to refund you the purchase price and tax.  Better get a police report on why the gun was confiscated at the receiving FFL dealer's site, too.  This one sounds like it could get deep quick.  The originating gun shop was at least delinquent on it's checking of serial numbers, if all is as you described, and may have violated firearms laws.

 

Hypothetically.   GJ

 

 

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An antique...??

 

What make/model?

 

What are the serial numbers?

 

Don't believe it...first, the gun if it's pre-98 doesn't need an FFL (most likely in TN). Mis-matched serial numbers are common on older Single Action revolvers...I could go on and on...oh, and I'm unaware of a National Database for stolen firearms...perhaps someone can chime in on that?

 

So please give specifics.

 

Phantom

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2 minutes ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

The originating gun shop was at least delinquent on it's checking of serial numbers

Really?

 

So you are aware of a National Datebase of stolen gun by Serial Number that is available to FFL's?

 

Please educate on that if you don't mind.

 

Phantom

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17 minutes ago, Phantom, SASS #54973 said:

An antique...??

 

What make/model?

 

What are the serial numbers?

 

Don't believe it...first, the gun if it's pre-98 doesn't need an FFL (most likely in TN). Mis-matched serial numbers are common on older Single Action revolvers...I could go on and on...oh, and I'm unaware of a National Database for stolen firearms...perhaps someone can chime in on that?

 

So please give specifics.

 

Phantom

 

The hypothetical gun in question is a Smith and Wesson model 37 J Frame Airweight known as the Chief's Special.

217575 reported stolen in Michigan in 1967

47639 reported stolen in North Carolina in 1991

I don't know the answer to your question about the database, but both the gun shop and the police were able to give me the above information.

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3 minutes ago, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

 

The hypothetical gun in question is a Smith and Wesson model 37 J Frame Airweight known as the Chief's Special.

217575 reported stolen in Michigan in 1967

47639 reported stolen in North Carolina in 1991

I don't know the answer to your question about the database, but both the gun shop and the police were able to give me the above information.

Wow, Stitcher.

You hit a trifecta there!:(

Hopes up that you can, at minimum, recoup your money!

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Now, another scenario that could be happening in your hypothetical.  Did you actually see the receiving end folks point out more than  one serial number?  And did you write down those non-matching numbers?   Modern firearms are usually only serial numbered in one location - on the frame.  Antique guns could easily have parts replaced where the (usually) partial serial numbers on some parts are no longer are the same as the main serial number.   Old revolvers and military rifles come to mind.   So, perhaps nothing is out of line with the "mixed numbers".  Which then starts to make a rather suspicious situation - could the RECEIVING (local) gunshop and a policeman be in conspiracy to try to relieve you of the firearm?  Or perhaps they were just misinformed about the possibility of mixed numbers on guns?

 

But if this is one of the common, modern firearms which only have serial numbers on the BATF required location for the model, no other "number" on the firearm really should matter.  

 

Lots more info is needed to get to the bottom of the pile.

 

good luck, GJ 

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1 minute ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

Now, another scenario that could be happening in your hypothetical.  Did you actually see the receiving end folks point out more than  one serial number?  And did you write down those non-matching numbers?   Modern firearms are usually only serial numbered in one location - on the frame.  Antique guns could easily have parts replaced where the (usually) partial serial numbers on some parts are no longer are the same as the main serial number.   Old revolvers and military rifles come to mind.   So, perhaps nothing is out of line with the "mixed numbers".  Which then starts to make a rather suspicious situation - could the RECEIVING (local) gunshop and a policeman be in conspiracy to try to relieve you of the firearm?  Or perhaps they were just misinformed about the possibility of mixed numbers on guns?

 

But if this is one of the common, modern firearms which only have serial numbers on the BATF required location for the model, no other "number" on the firearm really should matter.  

 

Lots more info is needed to get to the bottom of the pile.

 

good luck, GJ 

You know...I hate to think the 'conspiracy' theory of Officer/gun shop scam came to my mind too! Sounds iffy....

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14 minutes ago, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

 

The hypothetical gun in question is a Smith and Wesson model 37 J Frame Airweight known as the Chief's Special.

217575 reported stolen in Michigan in 1967

47639 reported stolen in North Carolina in 1991

I don't know the answer to your question about the database, but both the gun shop and the police were able to give me the above information.

That's not an antique.

 

So there should be only two items that has the Serial Number. That's the Frame and Barrel Flat under ejector rod. The number on the Yoke is not a Serial Number.

 

So if there are two Serial Numbers, then someone when to the trouble of changing out the barrel...?? Wow...

 

Love to know the Database that this shop used to find this information.

 

Phantom

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17 minutes ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

Lots more info is needed to get to the bottom of the pile.

Could you get me a reference to that Database on Stolen Firearms?

 

Phantom

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Yes. I saw both serial numbers myself. One on the backstrap and one on the frame when you open the cylinder just above the pivot.

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1 minute ago, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

Yes. I saw both serial numbers myself. One on the backstrap and one on the frame when you open the cylinder just above the pivot.

Uhhh...that's one part...the Frame...and the backstrap is never marked with a Serial Number.

 

Do you mean the Butt?

 

Phantom

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Yes. Under the butt.

 

I didn't start this thread to have a lively debate about databases and serial numbers. I was just looking for some advice about what options I may have and suggestions of what I should do next. 

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Just now, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

Yes. Under the butt.

 

I didn't start this thread to have a lively debate about databases and serial numbers. I was just looking for some advice about what options I may have and suggestions of what I should do next. 

It's not a "debate" about databases and serial numbers. It's a discussion on how in the hell a gunshop can do what it did...

 

Two serial numbers on the same part?  Oooookay. 

 

Datebase of stolen guns going back to 1967? Oooookay...

 

But what the hell...I'm out!!

 

Good luck!

 

Phantom

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My father-in-law had a target pistol stolen in a burglary.  Insurance settled and he moved on.  Many years later and many states away, he is called by a local police department.  They had his pistol.  He was called in the 90s and the gun was stolen in the 70s or 80s.  No idea how they traced it back to him but real databases for things like this were in their infancy.

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1 hour ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

"Ask (in writing)" the gun shop where it was bought to refund you the purchase price and tax.  Better get a police report on why the gun was confiscated at the receiving FFL dealer's site, too.  This one sounds like it could get deep quick.  The originating gun shop was at least delinquent on it's checking of serial numbers, if all is as you described, and may have violated firearms laws.

 

Hypothetically.   GJ

 

 

 

Thanks for your advice.

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NCIC is the stolen firearm data base used in law enforcement

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NCIC dates to January, 1967. I had an Interarms Virginian Dragoon stolen in 1982, and it was recovered in a pawn shop in Denver about six weeks later. Outside of law enforcement, I don't know who has access to it, but pawn shops/02 holders submit serial numbers of guns in their possession to local law enforcement who then check the s/n against the NCIC database.

 

Bob Ward's Sports & Outdoors requires a 4473 on EVERY firearm - antique, muzzleloaders, etc.

Edited by Three Foot Johnson
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NCIC is the correct database for checking for a stolen firearm.  However, the serial number has to be entered into the database as stolen in order for there to be a hit.

 

Electronic sales records for handguns date back to post 1991 IIRC.  Prior to that date, all records are paper that must be searched by hand.

 

In California, there is an Automated Firearms System for any modern firearms sold post 2014 for California residents that law enforcement uses readily.

 

Big brother is watching.

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I've had access (via LEO contacts) to NCIC for checking firearms of "questionable acquisition" in the past.

Also recovered stolen firearms years later after disappearance due to their being listed in the NCIC via police theft & burglary reports.

 

 

Edited by PaleWolf Brunelle, #2495L
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It's all about possession.  You didn't have possession.  As per Joe, contact the "reputable" seller and ask for your money back.  If you desperately want the 37, stay in the game and get the police report.  Is this the documented J-frame that went up San Juan Hill in Teddy Roosevelt's pocket? No? Well, then the cost and grief is not likely worth it.  

 

If you were in possession, you'd be right to push back on a demand to "immediately turn it in" if you can prove you purchased it legally.  A stolen gun can be recovered. A recovered gun can later be sold legally by original owner, the insurance company that paid out on the theft, or the police department auctioning off the confiscation and evidence room.  You should expect due diligence on the part of police to ensure that the claimant can prove it stolen. TV has lots of highly available magical "stolen gun lists", as per Phantom's point.  I do know of shops that used to diligently search "Stolen guns" classified ads, make lists, check incoming against decades of such lists.  (Didn't the Chronicle used to post "stolen guns!" advertisements?)

 

I support law enforcement, and I hate the idea of supporting a thief by purchasing their loot.  I would not hide a gun that I thought was stolen.  I'd want my guns returned if mine were stolen.  However, I am not going to let someone game the system at my expense, either. 

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I find by quick search, there are several states which maintain stolen firearms databases.   Reporting the guns to one of those seems to be real "optional" and not very complete.

 

Access to these databases seems to be, like NCIC database, for "law enforcement only", but it seems many gun shops/pawn shops  can call in one that is suspicious for a "safety check" before buying one.

 

Here's some interesting background info:

https://www.uslawshield.com/stolen-gun-searching-for-database/

 

BTW - you aren't reading some new Real Crime story, are you?  Or even writing one?   :o

 

good luck, GJ

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I never had possession of the revolver and I purchased it from a well known, supposedly reputable, gun shop.

 

And yes, I have been properly chastised and now understand that just because it was manufactured in the early 1950s and would be an antique by any other standards, it is NOT an antique firearm. So y'all can stop sending me PMs telling me that. 

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2 minutes ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

BTW - you aren't reading some new Real Crime story, are you?  Or even writing one?   :o

 

I really wish that was the case.

 

Instead, I've had a really terrible horrible no good very bad day..... and even cried a little.

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Okay....gentlemen.

All have given her good advice, and options to resolve.

And now...send virtual hugs to Stitcher, and good juju...as she was excited to recieve something she has saved for and searched for...and THIS!!!

 

(Yes Phantom...I am calling in a KumbaYa circle!!)

 

I am grateful that you, as a new shooter and a new member, that you came here to ask for suggestions.

 

And, on the lighter side....myself being 58 yrs old, used and scarred... might be thought of as 'ANTIQUE':blush:

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5 minutes ago, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

well known, supposedly reputable, gun shop

That kind of a gun shop, if presented with the facts, should be willing to make things right by you.  If they are a big volume shop, doubt it would be the first stolen/poorly researched gun they moved through the shop, even if it was unknowingly. 

 

However, with that shop being out of state, if you tried to put any real leverage on them to act, it might take hiring a local lawyer and making trips out there.   Again, probably not worth the effort on most firearms.

 

You have my (hypothetical) profound sympathy.   The individual laying out the money in firearms transactions often has to take a lot of risk before the gun becomes theirs, truly and finally.

 

good luck, GJ

 

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My gut feeling is that this will work itself out in the next 48 hours and you will get the gun or your money back, hypothetically speaking. A month from now you will be laughing about it at the next SASS match. A year from now folks will be coming to you for sage advice on such matters.

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2 hours ago, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

Yes. Under the butt.

 

I didn't start this thread to have a lively debate about databases and serial numbers. I was just looking for some advice about what options I may have and suggestions of what I should do next. 

Are both stolen guns the same make, model and caliber as the one the police confiscated? 
I would certainly hope the selling dealer would refund your money. But I’m guessing there are many ways this can turn out 

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3 hours ago, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

 

The hypothetical gun in question is a Smith and Wesson model 37 J Frame Airweight known as the Chief's Special.

217575 reported stolen in Michigan in 1967

47639 reported stolen in North Carolina in 1991

I don't know the answer to your question about the database, but both the gun shop and the police were able to give me the above information.

I live in Mi and we’ve had pistol registration since before I was born , they used to call it a safety check . So if it was registered in Mi , which I’m guessing it was if they bothered to report it stolen the state of Mi should have all the particulars on it . 

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So sorry you got dragged into something like this. Just a bit of info here, on S&W revolvers, the SN is on the butt of the gun. The number under the crane is a factory assembly number and once the pieces are assembled and fitted at the factory, it doesn't mean anything. Also, an esy way to know if a S&W revolver is C&R eligible is that if there is no Model number under the crane, it was made prior to 1958.

Hope you get your gun back or your money back. Hang in there.

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1 hour ago, PaleWolf Brunelle, #2495L said:

I've had access (via LEO contacts) to NCIC for checking firearms of "questionable acquisition" in the past.

Also recovered stolen firearms years later after disappearance due to their being listed in the NCIC via police theft & burglary reports.

 

 

I work in the LEO field... we have many times over the years taken a call from a LGS saying, Hey can you run a gun serial number in NCIC for us, for numerous reasons. The numbers only come back 2 ways. No hit meaning not reported stolen. Or a positive hit as stolen with the entering PD report and contact information. I guess I never realized that FFL’s didn’t have access to the database. 

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10 hours ago, Fox Creek Stitcher said:

 

I really wish that was the case.

 

Instead, I've had a really terrible horrible no good very bad day..... and even cried a little.

Did you get your money back at least? Just wondering.

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2 hours ago, Rye Miles #13621 said:

Did you get your money back at least? Just wondering.

 

I have not. I requested a refund in writing like Garrison Joe suggested above and I received a response from the gun shop owner a few minutes ago. He has assured me that I will not be out anything on this and will end up with either the gun or a refund. He has requested some more information and some time to work with ATF and law enforcement. This seems reasonable to me. I'm not thrilled about waiting, but it's the right thing to do at this point. I'll let y'all know how this works out in the end. Thanks for all of your support and advice.

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