Why Police Have Problems Returning Stolen Guns

Guns get stolen, unfortunately. While most of us try to secure our weapons as best we can; unless you have an actual safe, that doesn’t necessarily keep your guns safe from a determined thief. And as a result, the guns law-abiding citizens bought and paid for end up on the streets in the hands of criminals.


And while police often arrest people with those guns, they appear to be having problems returning them to the rightful owners, according to a spokesperson with the police in Saint Louis.

Every year, Louisville police officers take hundreds of guns off the streets. Some of them were purchased legally, but were being used illegally. Some were confiscated during arrests or drug searches. Some were owned by felons.

And some were stolen — though only a small percentage of those were likely reported as stolen.

Louisville Metro Police Department Officer Tyler Blissett said it’s likely more weapons are stolen than what’s reported.

Blissett has helped LMPD to recover more than 100 firearms so far this year, and said many guns are stolen from people who don’t remember their weapons’ serial numbers.

When gun-owners can’t report those serial numbers, it’s nearly impossible to return a stolen gun to its owner.

“There’s a chance that half of these guns that we’ve recovered are potentially stolen, but people just don’t have the serial numbers so we don’t know if they are stolen or not,” Blissett said. “A lot of these reports that have been going for stolen handguns — [gun owners] don’t have serial numbers. So potentially, that gun never gets recovered.”

It’s a real problem, and I get it. So many people purchase their guns and then never look at the serial number. It’s not something they think about, in part because they’ll never need it unless it gets stolen. Since the vast majority of guns are never taken by a criminal, a lot of people never bother to think about it again.


However, if something does happen and your guns are stolen, it’s too late to gather serial numbers for the police.

Luckily, there are things you can do.

The most obvious option is to just write them down on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere you’ll be able to find it. A good place would be anywhere you keep your important documents such as in a fireproof safe or in a safety deposit box.

However, if you’re like a lot of people these days, you don’t do paper so much anymore, and that’s fine too. Keeping a digital file of serial numbers can work just fine too, but you have to be smart about it. Unless a thief is only targeting your guns, there’s a good chance your computer will get jacked as well. Leaving those serial numbers there and there alone may end up being just as bad as not recording them at all.

Instead, consider uploading the file to a cloud service like Google Drive. Then you can access that information from any computer and forward the information to police so they can list the serial numbers in their report. If you’re uncomfortable storing data on a cloud service, there are options.

One is to keep a USB drive with the relevant information handy. As the drives are cheap, they’re not likely to attract a thieves attention. However, they’re also small, so if you’re not an organized sort, this might not be the best idea.

Another option is to use a web-based email service like Gmail or Yahoo and upload your file to an email draft, then never send it. The system will store it indefinitely as a draft, but it will be somewhere that no one would generally even think of looking for such information.


Now, some might want to keep the data on their phone, and that has an allure, but I recommend against it. Phones can be stolen themselves and the last thing you want is thieves to know what kind of guns you have. A smart criminal may be able to use the information on the phone to find out where you live. I can think of a couple of ways, though I’ll opt not to list them lest I give someone ideas.

Folks, keep your serial numbers handy. If God forbid, your guns get stolen, I’d much rather the police have the opportunity to return them to you rather than destroy them because they don’t know whose they are.


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