Improperly entered firearms serial numbers (stolen reports)


January 29, 2013, 08:28 AM
Yesterday a thread was closed that involved a handgun where a model number was checked instead of the serial number and found to be listed as stolen.... This is a much more common problem than most would know about. I have a bit of info about that situation that might be helpful.

Some years ago I held my Department's property room (along with a sizable inventory of seized/impounded weapons of every sort). As a matter of routine every one of them was checked for outstanding stolen messages through NCIC (the means available at that time...) before being logged into inventory. Things got interesting when I checked the listed serial number on an old .22 cal rifle from Sears. The number listed by the officer generated three pages of stolen hits... In fact it was the model number (that particular model had no serial number since it was a pre- 1968 firearm). Officers in the field frequently make these kind of errors and subsequent investigation will usually sort out the error..

As noted by the moderator this is a serious issue for the individual involved and a lawyer's advice is appropriate. Knowing that this issue isn't that unusual should aid the lawyer in sorting out the issue before any criminal charges are filed (hopefully). In the instance that I've cited the "serial number" (actually the model number) was around 13 digits long - and there'd been stolen messages entiered into NCIC for almost forty years from different parts of the country. In each case there was an actual stolen firearm but the only number they had was entered. That sort of stuff is a cop's headache and I doubt that even one of those weapons was ever recovered at all...

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Frank Ettin
January 29, 2013, 11:52 AM
A helpful post and good information.

I forwarded by PM the information and a link to this thread to the person with the difficulty.

January 29, 2013, 02:15 PM
This is true. I hear guys at work run a gun to see if it is stolen and I can tell they are running a model number. The dispatcher always comes back with several stolen hits and I have to send a message to get it corrected.

This is not limited to guns. Happens a lot with model numbers from electronic devices as well.

February 2, 2013, 02:02 AM
The firearm in question was a Uberti Regulator .44 SAA. It took all week to get back, and they were absolutely unapologetic about the seizure. Even after showing them images online of other firearms with the same number, I ended up having to personally retrieve and bring my original box (thank God the rats had not shredded it worse) and an additional weapon with same number.

They told me they KNEW it wasn't the serial number, but could not release the gun. I feel violated in this matter as the burden of proof was laid on my shoulders to show ownership, when the PD should rightfully have had to show that it was, in fact, stolen.

In the end, I feel that most of the blame is on the ignorance of lower level officers and fear that they didn't understand enough to say for certain. It took going to the Lt. level and speaking with the city Chief. If I had to do it over again, I'd go straight to the police chief.


February 2, 2013, 04:06 AM
There's really no excuse for this but it happens more often than I really like to say. It is mostly due to lack of or poor training, I hate to think it would be intentional for unethical reasons. Good Luck.

General Geoff
February 2, 2013, 05:08 AM
They told me they KNEW it wasn't the serial number, but could not release the gun.
So in other words, they admitted to outright theft. Disgusting.

February 2, 2013, 06:31 AM
That's how I feel about it...

February 2, 2013, 08:04 AM
Here's my take on the actual seizure.... It would be nice if every officer around the country were knowledgable about firearms -the truth is they're no different from the general population in that regard. A few are very, very skilled with firearms, their history, etc. The vast majority learn what's needed to do the job, barely. Guys and gals that do have an interest in firearms and shooting gravitate toward units like Swat or become instructors, or represent their agency in competitions. The rest.... you get the results you experienced when your weapon gets seized based on the model number...

As far as seizures themselves go all the burden is on the owner to prove things are legit - that's why you should always retain your bill of sale, etc. No, it shouldn't be that way but guns are a real hazard to any police agency that releases one and has a bad outcome... As a result they lean towards not releasing them most times. Down here in Florida there's actually a statute that requires a gun owner get a court order to get any weapon released that was seized on the scene of any distubance. Yes, you'll be able to get that order but your lawyer's fee may be more than the firearm is worth...

Once you know that a particular weapon has been entered as "stolen" by the model number I'd make a point of keeping copies of all your paperwork (including whatever paperwork the seizing agency generated....) so that you don't have the same problem again with another department. What the seizing agency should do now is notify every outfit with a false stolen entry to remove it from the system. Sometimes everyone does what they're supposed to do and the record will be removed -but I wouldn't hold my breath since only the originating agency can do that.... in each case.

Glad it worked out for you.

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