Topic:
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS; WEAPONS; SAFETY (GENERAL); FINES; GUN CONTROL; FIREARMS; LEGISLATION;
Location:
WEAPONS - FIREARMS;

OLR Research Report


May 10, 2007

 

2007-R-0211

(Revised)

LOST OR STOLEN FIREARMS

By: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney

Carrie Rose, Librarian

You asked whether other states have laws requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the police, and whether other states are considering this type of legislation.

SUMMARY

We found laws in Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island that require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to the police.

● Massachusetts law requires a firearm owner to immediately report its theft or loss to the criminal history systems board and the licensing authority in the city or town where the owner resides. Violators are subject to the loss of their license to carry, and a fine of between $200 and $1,000 for a first offense and a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 for a second offense.

● Michigan law requires that any firearm owner report its theft or loss to the police within five days after he knows it has been lost or stolen. A violation is punishable by a civil fine of up to $500.

● New York law requires gun owners to report the loss or theft within 24 hours after the owner becomes aware of it including the facts and circumstances surrounding it. A violation is punishable by fine of up to $100.

● Ohio law makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly fail to immediately report to law enforcement authorities the loss or theft of any firearm or dangerous ordnance in that person's possession or control. A violation is a misdemeanor of the second degree, which is punishable by up to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $750.

● Rhode Island law requires anyone who owns a firearm to report its loss or theft to the local law enforcement agency within 24 hours of discovering it. A knowing violation is punished by a fine of $50 to $100.

California recently enacted a law that would have required gun owners to report the loss or theft of their guns but the governor vetoed it.

California, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are currently considering legislation requiring gun owners to report a loss or theft to the police.

Connecticut is currently considering a mandatory reporting bill. The Judiciary Committee favorably reported it and the bill is currently before the Senate. It considered legislation in 2006 and in 2004. In each instance, the Judiciary Committee favorably reported the bill but the House did not take it up for consideration. However, in 2006 the Senate voted to add a mandatory reporting requirement amendment to another bill and sent the amended bill to the House, which rejected the amendment in a fairly close vote.

MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts requires that a firearm owner file a report “forthwith” of a lost or stolen firearm, rifle, shotgun, or machine gun with both the executive director of the criminal history systems board and the licensing authority in the city or town where the owner resides. Failure to do so is cause for suspension or permanent revocation of the violator's firearm identification card or license to carry firearms, and subjects the violator to a fine of between $200 and $1,000 for a first offense and a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 for a second offense (Chapter 140 129 C).

MICHIGAN

Michigan requires anyone who owns a firearm, within five days after he knows his firearm is stolen, to report the theft to a police agency having jurisdiction over that theft (Mich. Stats. 28.430). A person who fails to report the theft of a firearm commits a civil violation and may be fined up to $500.

NEW YORK

New York law requires that any owner or other person lawfully in possession of a firearm, rifle, or shotgun who looses one or has one stolen must within 24 hours of discovering the loss or theft report the facts and circumstances to a police department or sheriff's office (N. Y. Penal Law 400.10(a)).

Whenever a person reports the theft or loss to any police department or sheriff's office, the officer or department receiving such report must notify the state police. The notice must include the caliber, make, model, manufacturer's name and serial number, if any, and any other distinguishing number or identification mark ( N. Y. Penal Law 400.10 (b)).

The law requires the division of state police to receive, collect, and file this information. The division must cooperate, and furnish, or make available to law enforcement agencies this information to coordinate law enforcement efforts to locate such weapons.

A violation is punishable by a fine of up to $100.

OHIO

Ohio law makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly fail to report immediately to law enforcement authorities the loss or theft of any firearm or dangerous ordnance in the person's possession or under the person's control (Ohio Code Ann. 2923.20). A violation is a misdemeanor of the second degree, which is punishable by up to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $750 (Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 2929.24 and 2929.28).

RHODE ISLAND

   Any one who owns a firearm must report its loss or theft to the local law enforcement agency within 24 hours after discovering the loss or theft. Whoever knowingly violates this requirement is punishable by a fine of between $50 and $100 (RSA 11-47-48.1).

VETOED LEGISLATION — CALIFORNIA

Under section 2 of Senate Bill 59, which the California legislature passed in August of 2006, any person who acquires ownership of a handgun, which is subsequently stolen or irretrievably lost, must, within five working days after he discovers it, or within five working days after the date he should reasonably have known of the theft or loss, report it to a local law enforcement agency.

Any person who violates this requirement is guilty of an infraction. For a first violation, the penalty is a fine of up to $100; for a second or subsequent violation the penalty is a fine of up to $250.

The bill also provides that any person who complies with this requirement is immune from any civil liability for the illicit use or possession of the firearm occurring after the theft or loss. This immunity does not apply if the person had prior knowledge of the misconduct or was negligent with respect to the theft or loss of the firearm.

The bill specifies that no charge may be imposed for submitting a report.

Beginning July 1, 2007, the bill requires any licensee, at the time of delivering a handgun to a person acquiring ownership, provide written notice of the bill's requirements. The licensee must sign and date an affidavit in duplicate stating that the person receiving the handgun has been given the notice. The licensee must additionally obtain the signature of the person receiving the handgun on the same affidavit. The licensee must retain the original affidavit and provide the duplicate to the person receiving the handgun.

The bill specifies that it may not be construed to preempt an existing ordinance or to prevent a local government from enacting an ordinance that imposes reporting requirements that are stricter than those specified in the bill. Compliance with the bill does not require that a person reporting a lost or stolen handgun report the make, model, and serial number of the handgun.

The governor vetoed the bill because it (1) was written in an “ambiguous manner” that would “make compliance with the law confusing for legitimate gun-owners and could result in cases where law-abiding citizens face criminal penalties simply because they were victims of a crime” and (2) “allows local governments to pass ordinances that differ from state law, thereby leaving law-abiding citizens with the task of navigating through a maze of different or conflicting local laws and erode the state's ability to effectively regulate handguns statewide.”

PENDING LEGISLATION IN OTHER STATES

California, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are considering mandatory reporting legislation.

California bill A.B. 334 makes it an infraction for any person whose handgun is stolen or irretrievably lost to, within 5 working days after he discovered or should reasonably have discovered it, fail to report the theft or loss to a local law enforcement agency of the jurisdiction in which the theft or loss occurred or in which the person resides.

The bill requires specified notices be provided to persons acquiring handguns after July 1, 2008. The bill specifies that local governments are not prohibited from enacting ordinances imposing reporting requirements that are stricter than the bill's.

The bill requires the attorney general, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies and firearms-related organizations, to develop a protocol for implementing it by April 1, 2008.

Minnesota bill S.B. 902 requires anyone who posses a firearm to report the theft or loss within 72 hours to the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction. The agency must forward a copy to the commissioner of public safety.

A person who knows or had reason to know of the firearm's theft or loss and who does not report it as required is guilty of a misdemeanor. If the person has previously been convicted of violating this requirement, he is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. A person who intentionally fails to comply is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. Apparently, if the person has previously been convicted of an intentional violation, he is guilty of a felony and may be subject to imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

New Jersey bill A.B. 541 requires the legal owner of a firearm to report the theft of a firearm within 72 hours to the chief law enforcement officer of the municipality in which the theft occurred or, if the municipality does not have a local police force, the superintendent of the State Police.

A firearm owner who fails to report the theft of a firearm would be required under the bill to pay a civil penalty of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense.

Pennsylvania House Bill 54 requires the owner of a firearm that is lost or stolen to report the loss or theft to an appropriate local law enforcement official. The failure to do so is punishable by a fine of up to $500. A person who intentionally fails to report a loss or theft commits a misdemeanor of the first degree for a first offense, which is punishable by a prison term of up to five years, and a felony of the third degree for any subsequent offense, which is punishable by a prison term of up to seven years (Pa. Stat. Ann., Crime Code 106).

This bill requires the state police to maintain a registry of firearms reported lost or stolen in Pennsylvania. The registry must contain, if available, the manufacturer, model, caliber, serial number, and any other identifying information as well as the owner's name. Local law enforcement agencies must collect the required information and send it to the state police within 24 hours.

RECENT CONNECTICUT LEGISLATION

The Connecticut legislature is currently considering a mandatory reporting bill and it considered bills to require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms during the 2006 and the 2004 legislative sessions.

2007 Legislation

This session the Judiciary Committee reported out a mandatory reporting bill, sSB 903, File 613, An Act Concerning Lost or Stolen Firearms and Illegal Firearms Trafficking. It is on the Senate calendar.

This bill requires those who lawfully possess a firearm to store or keep it in a way that ensures that there is not a substantial and unjustifiable risk that it will be stolen or otherwise come into the possession of another person without authorization. The penalties for a violation range from an infraction for a first offense to a class D or C felony for a subsequent offense.

The bill requires that any one who lawfully possesses a firearm that is lost or stolen, or an assault weapon that is lost, to file a police report within 72 hours. A first violation is an infraction; a subsequent offense is a class D or C felony.

The bill establishes the crime of firearms trafficking with penalties ranging from a class C felony to a class A felony, depending on the circumstances.

The bill increases the criminal penalties for those who illegally sell, deliver, or transfer handguns from a class D felony to a class C, B, or A felony depending on the circumstances.

Current law makes it a class D felony for anyone to purchase or receive any handgun unless he or she either (1) holds a valid permit to carry it or sell it at retail or a valid eligibility certificate or (2)is a federal marshal, parole officer, or peace officer. The bill appears to eliminate the criminal penalty for this conduct by limiting the penalty to those who sell, deliver, or otherwise transfer a firearm.

The bill requires the public safety commissioner, whenever he issues a state permit to carry a handgun to make available to the permit holder a copy of the laws regarding the permit holder's responsibility to store a firearm and report its loss or theft and the penalties for noncompliance such laws.

2006 Legislation

In 2006, the Judiciary Committee favorably reported a lost and stolen firearm reporting bill, sHB 5818, An Act Concerning Lost or Stolen Firearms, File 506, but this bill was never taken up by the House.

The bill requires anyone who possesses a firearm that is lost or stolen to file a report with his local police department or resident state trooper within 72 hours of when he discovered, or should have discovered, the occurrence. The local department or barracks must forward a copy of the report to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) commissioner.

Failing to make a timely police report is punishable by a fine of up to $500. Intentionally failing to do so is a class A misdemeanor for the first offense and a class D felony for subsequent offenses. A class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $2,000 or both, and a class D felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

The bill establishes a rebuttable presumption that a person lawfully in possession of the weapon unlawfully sold it when the police seize or recover it outside his possession. It also establishes an affirmative defense (legal excuse) if the defendant can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he had reported the loss or theft any time before the police took possession of it.

An amendment requiring gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm to the police was introduced to a different bill, (sSB 105, File 732, An Act Prohibiting the Sale of Electronic Defense Weapons) and was adopted by the Senate as Senate “A” on April 21. The amendment contained the same provisions as sHB 5818 regarding lost or stolen guns. The Senate passed the bill as amended on that same day and sent it to the House. The House rejected the amendment on April 28 by a vote of 66 to 79.

2004 Legislation

In 2004, the Public Safety Committee referred a somewhat similar bill (sHB 5067 An Act Requiring the Reporting of the Theft or Loss of a Firearm and Requiring a Local Permit for the Retail Sale of Firearms) to the Judiciary Committee, which reported it to the House (File 479).The House did not vote on the bill.

This bill requires anyone whose firearm is lost or stolen to report this to the police within 72 hours after he knows or should have known about it.

It makes intentional failure to report lost or stolen guns by the prescribed deadline a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class D felony for any subsequent offense. Unintentional failure to report is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

The bill requires the reports to be made to the police department in the town where the theft or loss occurred or to the town's State Police troop if the town has no organized police department. It requires the department or troop to forward a copy of the report to the public safety commissioner.

GC:ts