Legally possessing a firearm is a significant responsibility that requires proper training, proficiency, and safe storage. But what happens if, despite your best efforts, someone steals your gun, or you lose it?
Virginia Law Requires Reporting of Lost or Stolen Firearms.
In 2020, Virginia enacted Code Section 18.2-287.5 to require anyone whose forearm is lost or stolen to report the loss or theft to a local law-enforcement agency or the Department of State Police within 48 hours after discovering the loss or theft. This report will then enable the law enforcement agency to report this information to the National Crime Information Center, which is maintained by the FBI. The purpose of this statute is to enable law enforcement to quickly track and attempt to recover stolen firearms before they end up in the wrong hands, as well as to be able to identify any firearms used in the commission of a crime.
Does this law apply to antique firearms?
If a firearm qualifies as an "antique firearm" as defined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-308.2:2, then Virginia law does not require its owner to comply with the 48-hour reporting requirement for lost or stolen firearms. Virginia law provides a very specific definition of "antique firearms", so it is important to double check whether your firearm qualifies legally as an antique. In any case, while the mandatory reporting requirement does not apply to antique guns, it may nonetheless be wise to report any lost or stolen antique firearms to local law enforcement or Virginia State Police. In any case, most insurance companies require proof of such a report before responding to any insurance claim for a stolen firearm.
What is the penalty for failing to report a stolen or lost gun in Virginia?
If a gun owner fails to report a stolen or lost gun to law enforcement within 48 hours, Virginia law imposes a civil penalty of $250. The attorney for the county, city, or town where the violation occurred has the authority by statute to enforce this penalty and collect the civil fine, which must be paid into the local treasury.
Do I face criminal or civil liability if my gun is stolen or lost and I comply with the reporting requirement?
Virginia Code Section 18.2-287.5 explicitly provides lawful gun owners with immunity against criminal or civil liability for "any damages from acts or omissions resulting from the loss or theft," so long as they comply with the reporting requirement in good faith.
However, this immunity does not apply to anyone who makes a false report to law enforcement regarding a firearm. For example, a gun owner who falsely reports his gun stolen when in fact he authorized a third party to use it may potentially be held both criminally and civilly liable for the actions of the third party in using the firearm. In addition, under Virginia Code Section 18.2-461, making a false report to police is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.