NOTE: USCCA Customer Engagement team members get a lot of questions, and they pass a good number of them along to Concealed Carry Magazine Senior Editor Ed Combs. If you have a question, you can either ask it below or email it to [email protected]. We, of course, cannot guarantee answers to all questions — Ed’s a pretty busy guy — but we’d love to help you out with whatever’s stumping you.
Concealed Carry Magazine
What Should I Do If My Legally Possessed Firearm Gets Confiscated?
There are a lot of moving parts in a situation like this. I will open by reminding everyone that I do not offer legal advice, here or elsewhere.
The bedrock of your strategy is twofold. First, you need to be certain you know which specific agency confiscated the firearm and ideally, which specific officer initiated the chain of custody.
Second, you need to already have your firearm documented. And by that, I mean images that will prove it’s yours. A few quick pics with the serial number visible next to your driver’s license or carry permit work. If you’re too concerned about privacy to do that, you need to have serial numbers and descriptions of all of your firearms recorded to make your case to the confiscating agency (or to any agency in the event of theft or loss.)
But you will likely not be getting the firearm back if the firearm in question is confiscated during an arrest after you committed what turns out to be a crime. If, however, it turns out the firearm was confiscated unjustly or should otherwise be returned to you, contact someone at the confiscating agency who was not the officer who took possession of the gun. And you will very — VERY — politely ask how to go about getting it back. And if that doesn’t work, your next step will be retaining the services of an attorney.
Keep Calm and Carry On
I know you don’t want to have to do that. And I know that, dammit, as an innocent person you shouldn’t have to do that. But unfortunately, as with everything else self-defense-related, what you and I wish were true isn’t what’s important here. What’s important is that if you’re trying to reclaim what is rightfully yours, it might look suspiciously similar to you trying to force agents of the confiscating agency to admit they were wrong. That never goes over well, especially if the complainant presents anything that could even be misinterpreted as “an attitude.”
It is imperative that you remain polite and stress that you understand no one was acting in anything but good faith. You’re more than happy to work through the process of retrieving property that was confiscated out of an abundance of caution by well-meaning civil servants. You will be nothing but sunshine and good vibes, and this is where that attorney I mentioned comes in.
To paraphrase the Swayze character from that 80s cornball classic Road House here: you’re going to want to be nice until it’s time to not be nice … and then, no one but your attorney is allowed to be not-nice. You, as the private citizen from whom property was seized, must — I repeat, MUST — remain at least outwardly understanding and patient. Getting worked up not only doesn’t do any good, it will invariably tip the odds against you ever seeing your firearm again.
How and When Should You Give Verbal Warnings?
Whenever feasible, though that’s not what it sounds like. It works out to more along the lines of “almost never but sometimes.”
If you get the feeling you’re about to have to shoot someone to stop an imminent, unavoidable threat of death or great bodily harm, you should be concentrating a lot harder on making sure you do not end up on the receiving end of deadly force than worrying about the wellbeing of whoever is trying to murder or rape you. This means you’re only drawing your firearm to defend yourself against something that is about to kill or maim you. And rarely do those kinds of situations offer up a lot in the way of spare time. If, however, you draw your firearm and your about-to-be attacker immediately stops presenting a threat, it can be very helpful to shout “LEAVE ME ALONE!” or “GET AWAY FROM ME!” to encourage him or her to hasten the retreat.
Where a lot of people get into trouble is when they consider drawing a firearm to be part of telling someone to leave them alone. That can very easily become brandishing. This is often the same kind of individual who carries with an empty chamber, not because he or she believes the “Israeli Method” is somehow safer, but because he or she absolutely intends to draw, issue an order to someone and then run that slide “to show they really mean business.” Firearms are deadly force regardless of circumstance. Situations in which they get drawn are rarely like the movies.
If you need to draw, then you need to be focused on controlling your breathing, controlling your hands and being ready to send bullets exactly where you want them to go. If there’s time, you can also issue a verbal warning. But all told, they’re pretty low priority during many deadly force situations.
Should I Have a Clearing Barrel or Trap in My Residence?
My opinion on this one is absolutely not.
While I understand how good it feels to socially signal you’re just the safest dang gun owner on God’s groovy green earth, your very own clearing barrel would be comically unnecessary. A clearing barrel — in its most minimal form, a 55-gallon drum filled with sand into which you point the muzzle of your unloaded firearm and then press the trigger to confirm it is “cold” — is for institutional use, not a private residence. Ask anyone who’s spent much time working within any number of institutions that had clearing barrels just how often some conehead sent bullets into them. The answer will be “all too often.”
So why doesn’t that BOLSTER the case for a residential clearing barrel?
There are about a thousand additional factors that go into law enforcement and military circumstances that do not apply to your personal situation. Training is expensive and takes cops off the street, which puts it pretty far down on the list of stuff the city council or county board likes to pay for. But the very fact that you’re reading this means there’s a decent chance you put a good amount of time into training on safe gun use. And if you’re actually a USCCA Member, that’s almost a guarantee.
Clearing barrels are designed for “cold” areas in war zones, the exits of firearm training areas on bases and for when officers have to enter jails or other areas in which they cannot carry their sidearms. None of these conditions apply to you (at least during peacetime and off-duty.)
Ensuring Safe Firearm Use
How about rather than pointing a firearm at something and pulling the trigger to confirm it is unloaded, we all instead resolve to
- hold the firearm pointed in as safe a direction as we can manage with our fingers not anywhere near the trigger;
- remove the ammunition supply by either releasing a revolver’s cylinder or removing the magazine from a semi-auto;
- open the action and lock it open if possible; and then
- manually and physically confirm the firearm in question is not loaded.
This method is 100 percent fail-safe when diligently practiced. It’s also a heck of a lot less trouble than buying or building a clearing barrel. And it broadcasts that you understand safe gun handling and trust yourself with firearms.
Which, let’s be honest, a clearing barrel in your bedroom does not.