Legalized Theft of Guns

By Dean Weingarten

Gun Seizures
Legalized Theft of Guns
Gun Watch
Gun Watch

Arizona – -( An anti-freedom policy has been spreading across United States police departments, the legalized theft of citizens guns.

Recently, it occurred in Georgia.  I am not talking about forfeiture laws.   They are related but have been covered elsewhere.

This is a problem in many urban areas, and it is spreading.  The policy is to impound guns, in extreme cases, all guns that officers come across, whether involved in any crime or not, then to refuse to return the guns until a judge issues an order to return  them.   As the attorney fees needed to obtain a court order can easily be 10 times what the gun is worth, most people do not bother.

It is a form of legalized theft. 
I first learned of this policy from students who were or who had lived in California.  I had numerous students who had dealings with the LAPD. I started hearing stories about how guns were seized, even if there were no crime involved. If an officer came across a gun, it was seized, and it would not be returned until the LAPD received a court order demanding that it be returned. As hiring a lawyer to obtain a court order could easily cost thousands of dollars, very few people even tried.  I also heard that some judges, who had a personal animus toward firearms ownership, simply refused to grant an order.

Here is a case related by a student:  The student was stopped for a routine traffic stop.  While stopped, the officer asked him if he had any guns in the vehicle.  The student replied that he had rifles locked in the tool box that was attached to the bed of the pick up truck.  The officer demanded that the student open the tool box, which he did.  The officer then confiscated the rifles.  The student was never charged with a crime, but the police refused to return the rifles unless they received a court order ordering them to do so.

This reverses the presumption of innocence and the presumption of ownership that goes with possession of an item.

In 2005, a California law was passed requiring people who had firearms impounded by police to fill out forms sent to the State government, and be certified as being eligible to legally own a firearm by letter, before the firearm can be returned.

Even with this state imposed certification, many departments are still requiring a court order before they will return lawfully owned property.   SAF and Calguns settled a lawsuit against Oakland and San Francisco for refusing to return firearms.

  • Cleveland recently settled a case where they refused to return a firearm to the lawful owner.
  • In Arizona, a reform was passed to require issuance of a receipt in firearm seizures.
  • In Wisconsin there have been a number of settlements where guns have been returned, often with a cash settlement to cover lawyers fees, although these were primarily for illegal arrests involving firearms carry.

I have been told that police are reluctant to return guns because they fear liability if the firearm is subsequently used in a crime.   While this is an extremely rare occurrence, it is easy to see how police might use this excuse to fail to take appropriate action.

One remedy is to educate the police as to their liability if  they *fail* to return property to its legal owner.   The lawsuits mentioned above are useful for that purpose.   Often, a letter from an attorney, threatening legal action, can spark a desired response.   Once, I was able to obtain the return of a firearm simply by showing up at the crime lab and asking about its disposition.   I was asked if I was a lawyer.  I noncommittally said that I had studied the law.  I was immediately told that the firearm would be returned (and it was).  Another solution is public awareness.  Policies can be changed more easily than legislation.  Public pressure and lawsuit settlements can result in a change of polices.

If your firearm is seized or impounded, insist on a receipt, then follow up with documented requests for the return of the firearm.   Inform activists groups of the situation.   This may lead to pro-bono legal action or necessary funding for the same.

I have encountered officers who think that impounding firearms and making their return difficult somehow “gets guns off the streets” and makes crime less likely.   The passage of laws that mandate the return of firearms to legal owners and the sale, rather than destruction, of “found” firearms helps to short circuit that assumption.  It reinforces the fact that firearms possession is a constitutionally protected right.

This is primarily a problem of police policy and attitudes.   Most court actions result in the firearm being returned.   The difficulty is that the owner should never have been forced to go through the legal process to have his property returned in the first place, or the firearm should never have been impounded to begin with.  The conversion of police thinking about firearms from “contraband” to “constitutionally protected property” is what is needed to stop this form of legalized theft.

©2013 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973.  He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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This article should be a lesson for all of you “Thank you for your service, officer” types. If the govt didn’t have LEOs, LEOs wouldn’t be confiscating your guns. Just as one can’t walk without feet the govt can’t steal & tyrannize without LEOs. Law enforcement has become the standing army many Founders warned about. It is past time to abolish policing as we know it. Another aspect of gun confiscation is the fact that many of you reading this have agreed to it. Yes, you agreed to it when you agreed to being taxed. It established a principle, namely… Read more »


In many states, if you come across this problem;File a complant with the States Attorny’s Office.Once this is done”They” are a directed under state law to start an investigation; “NO” desgresion! LEO”S command don’t like this!”NOT ISSUING LEGAL ADVICE: BUT SHOWING WHAT WORKS IN ALABAMA. P.S. State Rights Violation.


This stuff needs to stop!
When the police are bigger criminals than criminals, something is wrong.

How many people know that some police are contractors and are told to do what ever they want, just tell the people they can tekk their story to the judge


Start hiding your weapons. call in to the police that they have been stolen. Play dirty.


There is absolutely NO legal way for ANY American citizen to NOT violate some obscure and for the most part illegal regulation or law, and that is exactly what they have worked so hard for. Simple and everyday activities are now a felony crime.

phyllis duval

first off I would never say that I had a gun in my vehicle. I have a ccw permit and stll would never admit to possessing a weapon. They would have to have a warrant to search your vehicle and if it is a routine traffic stop, they will have no warrant. Best just keep your mouth shut and then be on your way


The idea that the police could be somehow liable because a gun returned to its owner was subsequently used in a crime, is ludicrous. Cops return impounded vehicles to their rightful owners all the time, even to drunk drivers. And drunk drivers have already proven that they can’t be trusted with a car! That theory as to why they are reluctant to return a weapon is completely bogus.


There are more civil rights suits against the Milwaukee, WI PD, by the same group (Wisconsin Carry) & same lawyer (John Monroe) who handled the Brookfield, WI case for me (the one linked in the article). Milwaukee PD has a custom or practice of seizing every firearm and requiring gun owners to go to court to get their property back. Then they make people wait another week or more after a judge orders the property return. If I were a judge & found out about that I’d have the Chief and any other officers involved in court toot sweet to… Read more »

john stowers

Unfortunately, if they keep this crap up a law suit will be the least of their problems,,,,,,,They’re going to get their ass shot off by someone who is unwilling to allow their rights to be violated. Unfortunately, a lot of this behavior seems to occur in big cities and liberal states where law enforcement has been brain washed or forgotten their oath of office….I don’t see that happening in states like Montana?


Police do that with more than just weapons. Courts and “probation” will also…if they have a mind to….especially if they are “against” something , such as weapons.They will do whatever it takes to make it harder for someone to get something back.

Mike Stollenwerk

The best way to attack a police seizure of guns or any other property is – like most military operations – the indirect approach, rather that the “up the middle” bang your head on a door approach like suing for return of the guns. The indirect approach is to sue the police and the state or locality for violation of due process of law under the US constitution and 42 USC 1983 (which under 42 USC 1988 allows for atty fee shifting). The idea is to sue the state actors for violating your constitutional right to due process, i.e., notice… Read more »

Matt Sutter

I had sort of the reverse happen. My “truck gun”, a SW9VE was stolen one night. IIRC in like 2008/2009. I filed a police report here in GA. Then a few years later it was recovered in CA by the LAPD (2011 I think it was). It was discovered in a car during a DUI arrest. When the LAPD court case was over they shipped me the gun back (at their cost) and I got it back with 1 high cap magazine. I guess it really depends on the judge and the LEO.


If you’re stopped for investigation by the police and asked if you’re armed, technically, they are asking you to waive your 5th Amendment protections against self incrimination. Just keep that in mind! You better be 100% in compliance with all laws!


What happened to unlawful Dutch and seizures being prohibited by the 4th amendment.


Move to AZ, avoid all these problems.


@HoosierSheepdog1954 Gordon, above or anybody, does a C&R have any weight under those circumstances? Appreciate any info. Thanks. D


The ATF will not do anything about this. I had a gun stolen years ago. I check on it every once and a while. It was recovered by the ATF, removed from the system and then destroyed. When I asked the ATF about it, all they said was “you had insurance didn’t you”, told me I could file and claim and then said it was no use because they would not pay me for it.


I had a gun seized out of my truck. No crime, nothing. It took most of the next day to get it back. Total B.S..


Minnesota Mom: lEAVE THE KEYS so it appears you accidentally locked them inside the car…the reason for locking it up is to keep the prick out. If you lock it and have the keys in your hands, the prick cop will have access, right?

Minnesota Mom

TSgt B, may I ask, why number three “leave the keys in the ignition”? I can see how the other steps would help, but I don’t see how that would help one’s situation…..

Gregory Romeu

It’s up to YOU to decide when YOU are going to step up to the plate and take an active role in maintaining your government! and

TSgt B

One strategy I have found to work really well regarding vehicular stops: 1.) Do NOT have any alcohol in your system. 2.) If/when asked to exit your vehicle, be certain all doors and windows are LOCKED. 3.) LEAVE THE KEYS IN THE IGNITION (I keep a spare door key in my wallet) 4.) VERY IMPORTANT: DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING IN THE WAY OF A POSSIBLE VIOLATION OF LAW IN SIGHT IN THE VEHICLE 5.) Upon exiting the vehicle, LOCK AND CLOSE THE DRIVER’S SIDE DOOR, thus securing the vehicle and the KEYS. Unless there is undeniable Probable Cause, the LEO(s)… Read more »

Brett Waters

@Billy D. Knutson, I wanted to let you, and others, know that “using the 5th amendment” is only applicable in a court of law. It does NOT apply on the street or contact, either hard or soft, with law enforcement personnel. Please note you still have the right to refuse to answer their questions, but please don’t say you are invoking your 5th amendment rights. This will make you, in the eyes of the officer, look like someone who thinks they know a lot about the law and really doesn’t. This comes into play when you are exercising your legal… Read more »


File a civil rights violation against the officer, police department, and the city. Its a civil natural, god given, and constitutionally protected right. One big payday will wake the whole of law grabbers to public expense.

william knutson

The feds love to “seize” property, it’s a big money maker for them.. any property that’s involved in a drug case can be legally “seized” (stolen) and it’s up to the owner to prove his innocence and have the property returned.. a 60 minutes special detailed a private airplane that was confiscated because the owner flew the “passenger” somewhere and he was wanted on drug charges… The private pilot went bankrupt. no plane, could not conduct his business.. this is a great injustice and needs to be rectified… I’m not a lawyer, but I wouldn’t answer any questions the police… Read more »


This happened to me once in San Pedro, CA with the LAPD. The police were called for a domestic dispute, made no arrests, filed no charges but confiscated all of my firearms. They only released my firearms with paperwork from me showing proof of ownership/purchase, all except for my AR15. I had to continuously go down to the police station to ask for my AR back. Only when I told the officer I was a member of the NRA and I would be calling them for legal help did they finally release it back to me.


The best way to stop this is to get educated. The San Luis Opispo Police stole my car back in 2009. I got educated by Bill of ( ) and cost the city and Collage Towing 10’s of $1,000 in court. And after 18 months they gave the car back, all it cost me was my time and some ink:)


A friend was charged with weapon charge, seized his pistol. Charges dropped, cost him 1200 to get the pistol back. It was the principal of the matter.


It happened to me here in jersey. My alcoholic brother in law had damaged my property and I threatened to sue for the damage. He’s a major tax parasite, so he called the ATF and claimed I was a drug dealer, right wing whacko and threatened him with my AK. I have a spotless record (not even a parking ticket for 20 years), have a concealed carry permit and a NJ foid card for over 30 years without incident. Without any investigation or even questioning me (where were you on this day, did you threaten anyone etc.) 25 cops raided… Read more »


If they can grab our guns what is stopping them from taking our car, boat, RV, etc etc.

This is a clear violation of our due process.


When asked ANY question by the police the proper response, if they have no reason for asking, is ALWAYS, “that line of questioning assumes facts not in evidence.” You are required to say nothing else and if this results in your arrest, just stay calm and wait for the check in the mail.


I’d rather just take pot-shots at them.


I would think it would give reason for open season on the County attorney.
Sic Semper Tyrannis !


First of all don’t be dumb and give them access to the vehicle, your person, or the weapon itself. Demand they get a warrant, as well as to know what their probable cause or reasonable suspicion are. And videotape them the entire time for the entire exchange.


What happened to the right to remain silent? Is the 4th amendment now null and void? Are there legal implications for not telling the truth for legally possessing a firearm? Where is the NRA on this?

Scott Berndt

wow this same thing happened to me. I was stopped and the officer asked if I had any guns or knives I had a pistol that had fallen on the floor of my car. and I told him that where as he proceeded to arrest me and took my pistol and knife that were both in the car as I am a rancher in Nebraska and need both for my JOB. I went to court and pleaded the case out where as the judge said I could have it returned. In Nebraska or the Us for that matter you can… Read more »

Bruce Gordon

Another NOTE here: If the owner is an FFL, No Local, or even State Cop, has legal Jurisdiction, to remove a weapon from the possession of an FFL, PERIOD. The only Person that can, is an ATF Agent WITH a Warrant or a US Marshal. Doing so is a Federal Felony, under the GCA of 1968. There is NO LEO Exemption, for either State of Local LEOs, in the statute, for any reason, PERIOD… When ever I carry, Concealed, or otherwise, I ALWAYS carry a FireArm that is Inventoried and Recorded in my BoundBook, for just that reason…. Just Say’en…..

Bruce Gordon

If this happens to you, First thing to do is call the local ATF Office and Demand that they Report the Weapon as Stolen. Second is if this is a Municipality Cop Shop, go to the County Sheriff and demand that they take a Report, that this weapon is Stolen. These actions do two things. First if ANYONE gets caught with the Weapon, they are toast, especially if it is a local Cop, as they are in possession of a STOLEN Weapon, a Felony, both under State and Federal Statutes. Second it gives the Owner a Paper Trail, that can… Read more »