Ohio Attorney General Yost's office develops searchable stolen gun database
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office has developed an online tool designed to help potential buyers of used guns detect if the gun is stolen.
From the Columbus Dispatch:
The Ohio Stolen Guns Database contains the serial numbers of stolen guns "as reported to the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) by law enforcement agencies throughout the state and authorized for release to the public."
It's the brainchild of Ohio Attorney General David Yost and a group of firearms dealers who wanted an easier way to determine whether a gun was stolen.
“Once you log on and put the serial number in and once the database exists you’ll be able to just get an answer back – hot or not," Yost told NBC 4 in January.
The database is something that is expected to be of particular help to Federal Firearms Licensed-dealers who often purchase used firearms, and who, before the database, were expected to call around and talk to local law enforcement and ask if a gun they were purchasing for their inventory was stolen. Few had the time to do that while working, and even when they did, the proper law enforcement was often not available.
Indeed, Eric Delbert, a co-owner of LEPD Firearms and Range in Columbus, is quoted as saying he's wanted this database since he started his business eight years ago.
"It is only one step to help impact violence in our community," Delbert said. "But it is certainly a small victory in help take away avenues for thieves and criminals to advance their illegal activities of selling stolen firearms to unsuspecting good citizens."
FFLs stand to lose the most if they unknowingly purchased a stolen gun. Law enforcement has it within their powers to come in to check for stolen guns. When they do, and if they discover a gun the FFL purchased was stolen, they will seize the gun, return it to the true owner and the FFL is out the money that they paid for the gun.
FFLs can also lose out even after a gun they purchased has been sold, if it is discovered to have been stolen. Law enforcement will often comes in and ask if the FFL has purchased any guns that are not on-premises because they were sold. In the likelihood of that being the case, they will ask to see the applicable 4473s, run the serial numbers, or match the 4473s to police reports. If they discover a gun to have been stolen, they will seize the gun from the purchaser, and the FFL will be forced to provide a refund the purchaser and again be out the money.
Whether you are an FFL or a private individual, checking the Ohio Stolen Guns Database before purchasing a used firearm is strictly voluntary.
And according to reporting by writer Jeffrey Frischkorn, there is no personally-identifying information associated with the database.
Importantly, also says Yost’s chief of communications, Steve Irwin, there is no electronic “finger-printing” of the portal inquirer. Nor is there any maintaining of a data base of who possesses what firearm; legitimately or possibly stolen.
Simply, Irwin said that when a user inputs a serial number, the portal searches that number against the serial numbers of firearms that have been reported as stolen.
Since a serial number may exist on different firearms made my different manufacturers, that data is provided.
“If there is a match, the portal provides the user the serial number, make and model of the firearm, the name of the law enforcement agency that entered the gun as stolen and the agency’s contact information,” Irwin says. “No notification is made by the portal to the law enforcement agency that there has been a match.”
In all, Irwin also said the Stolen Gun Portal is to-date linked to 99,484 records of stolen firearms entered into the LEADS (Law Enforcement Automated Data System) by Ohio’s various law enforcement agencies.
Irwin told Frischkorn the database is updated daily between 11:00pm and midnight.
Chad D. Baus served as Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary from 2013-2019. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website, and is also an NRA-certified firearms instructor.