Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What To Do If You Find A Handgun

A couple of days ago, the Detroit Free Press ran a story on an Oak Park woman who mistakenly left behind and consequently lost a pistol in a clothing store's dressing room. Apparently, the handgun was "found" by another person and was not turned in to the local enforcement agency.

Presumably, the thief in this story knew how to safely handle a firearm without accidentally discharging it. However, many other people who are unfamiliar with handguns may be unsure as to what they should do if they unexpectedly find a pistol. This post will discuss this situation and offer suggestions.

How Many Handguns Are Being Carried In Michigan?
According to info on the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners (MCRGO) web site, there are approximately 247,000 Michigan residents who have state-issued Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs). Add in an unspecified number of visitors to our state from 35 other states which have concealed firearm reciprocity with Michigan and a growing number of criminals who illegally carry firearms, you'll reach the inescapable conclusion that there is a considerable amount of handguns being carried across the state.

How Exactly Does A Person Fail To Retrieve A Handgun?
While most firearm owners are responsible with their handguns, there is always a chance that a person, whether he is a civilian or a law enforcement officer, will mistakenly fail to retrieve their unholstered handgun.

In almost all of these cases, the gun carrier knowingly disarmed himself so that he could accomplish a task that is tough to do while being armed: use the services of a restroom, undress to go to bed for the night, or to change clothes in a dressing room. The problem rears its ugly head when the gun owner fails to remember to reclaim possession of his firearm before leaving the area.

Dealing With A Found Firearm
An unattended firearm, not dangerous or incapable of harming anything all by itself, can quickly become problematic if it is possessed by an unauthorized or inappropriate user. Obviously, if a small child finds a handgun it is almost assured that a tragedy will ensure if not detected and resolved quickly. In the same vein, a firearm controlled by anyone, regardless of age, who has not been trained in the fundamentals of firearm safety is also a dangerous scenario.

A person who has taken a firearm safety class will know and adhere to the rules:

- Always treat a firearm as if it is loaded.
- Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire

It would only take a moment for a trained person to safely handle and unload the handgun. If all safety rules are followed, there is no way that a bad consequence - an accidental discharge resulting in property damage or injury - can occur. The unloaded handgun, in this case, should then be placed back at its original resting place, until it can be turned over to the police.

If an untrained person finds a handgun, he should not attempt to handle the firearm under any circumstances. The handgun should be left in its current location while the owner or manager of the facility can be alerted. The "finder" should take appropriate measures to ensure that it is safeguarded in the meantime. It would then be expected that the local law enforcement agency would be contacted to take possession of the pistol.

The police will take possession of the handgun and will conduct an investigation to determine its lawful owner. Presumably, the handgun will be returned to the owner with a lecture.

Bottom Line:
Given the growing number of firearms being carried across the state of Michigan, there may be a time or two when a knucklehead accidentally leaves a handgun unattended. In such scenarios, the "finder" if trained in firearm safety should safely unload it and return it to its original location. If untrained, the "finder" should not attempt to handle the firearm but safeguard it from others until the police can be called to take possession of it. Firearms are completely safe when handled by trained citizens but can create a serious hazard if used by anyone else.

You are strongly encouraged to not only conduct your own independent research but to also consult with a competent and qualified attorney before acting upon any information in this article. Laws covering self-defense, lethal force, firearms, and the Michigan Concealed Pistol License and their enforcement are always subject to change due to laws being amended, politics conducted in the Prosecutor's Office, and election results at all levels of government. Ignorance of the law, legally speaking, is not a valid excuse for running afoul of it. The penalties and fines imposed upon violators of firearms related offenses are stiff and severe.

About The Author
Rick Ector is a National Rifle Association credentialed Firearms Trainer, who provides Michigan CCW Class training in Detroit for students at his firearms school - Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit.

Ector is a recognized expert in firearm safety and has been featured extensively in the national and local media: Associated Press, UPI, NRAnews, Guns Digest, Tactical-Life, The Truth About Guns, The Politics Daily, Fox News Detroit, The Detroit News, The Detroit Examiner, WJLB, WGPR, and the UrbanShooterPodcast.

For more info about free shooting lessons for women and Michigan CCW Classes, please contact:

Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit
Phone: 313.733.7404


peg dash fab said...

would you advise turning it over to private security (e.g., mall rent-a-cop)? or wait for Actual Police?

detroitccw said...

I do not believe that our state has uniform standards for private security. Thus, to cover all bases, it would be wise in my opinion to give possession of the firearm only to the local police agency.