Police officers follow specific procedures to determine if a weapon they encounter is legally owned. Understanding the key factors that help police identify illegal weapons can help you protect yourself and your family from potential complications.
There are a few ways that law enforcement can verify the status of a weapon.
Sales and registration database
Federal firearm laws require sellers to keep records of firearm sales and transmit them to the state police or other regulatory authorities for long-term recordkeeping. Some states keep long-term records of long-gun sales as well as handguns. While these databases are not intended as records of ownership, they do identify the individual who purchased the firearm.
Additionally, many states require firearm registration with local authorities. Law enforcement can search the firearm sales and registration records to identify any weapons purchased by or registered to an individual.
Any firearm manufactured legally has a serial number imprinted on the body. This serial number is a unique identifier that police can use to track the ownership or purchase history of a specific weapon.
When a firearm is missing the serial number, it raises concerns about the weapon’s legality. Altering or eliminating serial numbers on a firearm can lead to significant legal charges and strict penalties.
Sometimes individuals cannot legally own a firearm. Certain situations can lead to firearm ownership prohibitions, including:
- Felony convictions
- Domestic violence
- Restraining orders
- Severe mental health issues
Police can verify legal ownership eligibility to ensure that a firearm’s ownership is valid and legal.
Pew Research reports that more than 40% of adults in America have a firearm in their household. If you or anyone in your home owns a firearm, keep any records that verify the weapon’s legal status.