Face-to-face transfers are perfectly legal here in Georgia. Despite that, I tend to prefer not to purchase a gun that way. The reason is that I’ve known folks who did so, only to find out after the fact that the gun was stolen. They lost the gun, obviously, but were also out the money they spent on it.
I’d rather skip that.
So, I decided to stick to licensed gun dealers.
However, as one Tennessee man found out, that’s not a guarantee of anything.
“40 Cal Springfield is coming back stolen,” the dispatcher radioed Sgt. Joe Key with the Obion County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Office.
“Stolen, that’s what they said?” 25-year-old Umon Moore asked in disbelief.
Moore told the deputy the gun was his, and he had bought the used firearm legally at Scheels – a big box sporting goods store – back home in Minnesota.
He didn’t have the paperwork and couldn’t immediately prove how he came into possession of the stolen handgun.
So, Sgt. Key took out his handcuffs and detained the young Black man.
Now, everything turned out OK. Key actually believed the young man when he said he lawfully purchased the gun and did some digging. He then had the young man call the store in question, which sent the paperwork proving it was a lawful gun sale.
But here’s the thing. Scheels hadn’t just sold a stolen gun. They sold it twice.
The gun in question was bought and sold back to the store a month later, then resold to Moore.
Moore sued Scheels, arguing that their failures lead to him being humiliated. The judge, however, tossed the lawsuit. After all, it seems Scheels had absolutely no way to run the serial numbers to make sure the gun wasn’t stolen.
And that sort of boggles my mind.
Locally, pawn shops run their new acquisitions past the police department, which looks for stolen goods. Obviously, a lot gets by, but it means that if you buy a gun from a pawn shop here, you’re not getting a stolen gun.
But for big box stores that buy and sell a lot of firearms, there should also be a way for them to check. Especially since, technically, receiving stolen goods is a crime. If nothing else, having some method for running those numbers would keep them from losing money by buying stolen guns from thieves.
It seems my plan of just buying from licensed dealers to avoid inadvertently buying a stolen gun just went up in a puff of smoke.
Thankfully, this didn’t go as badly as it could have for Moore, who clearly did nothing wrong in this matter. I mean, an individual with a stolen gun? Key could have just slammed him on the hood of the car and taken him in and have theoretically been justified in doing so. Instead, Key trusted his gut and found out that Moore was a victim here, really.
I’m not a big one for laws or anything, and I don’t think we need one to preclude people from doing anything in particular, but maybe we should at least provide an avenue for people like big stores to check and make sure the firearm they’re buying from someone isn’t stolen.
Just a thought.