How to get your guns back if police seize them - The Loose Cannon
This article is a companion article to my last one, which dealt with seizure of your firearms by Police.
Often Police seize firearms for 28 days if there is a suggestion of domestic violence.
When Police seize firearms, it can be quite difficult for people to get them back.
One of the major reasons for this is quite simply the way Police work, they are shift workers. As a rule, they work twelve hour shifts, and spend most of their lives (if doing their job properly) on the street.
This can make it hard to contact them without being confronted by the inevitable excuse of ‘not rostered on’, ‘out on a job’, ‘on leave’ or ‘they are at the Academy doing a training course’.
What I suggest you do is leave a note for the officer to call you and keep a diary note of the time and date you rang and the excuse received.
If you do not get a response within a reasonable period of time, and after a few such experiences, write to the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Police station detailing the problems getting hold of the Officer and he or she shall usually respond in a timely fashion.
If I am told that the Officer concerned is on leave, I ask to speak to his superior and have them deal with the matter.
This approach shall either lead to your firearms returned, or a reason given as to why they are retaining your firearms, or an admission of loss, which you can then discuss with me.
WHAT HAVE POLICE SEIZED AND WHY?
In some matters, where there is Court activity pending, firearms that are ‘evidence’ may need to be retained until after the matter has been to Court.
In other situations, this is not the case. This is one reason why, if they are present with a warrant that you read it carefully, because it will clearly set out what they can seize. If they have seized for items that are not listed in a warrant, ask for them back.
POLICE HAVE LOST A FIREARM
This is a surprisingly common problem. If a dealer has a loss, they are in trouble. So too with Police.
Firearms DO go missing in Police hands, often as a result of poor storage practice, for example, mixing firearms seized for one purpose, with those held for another, for example, those earmarked for destruction during the amnesty.
Often the ‘loss’ is the result of a paper error. For example, I recently dealt with a matter involving a dealer in NSW who was relieved, after an examination into whether a firearm was in his hands (Local Police contention) or local Police hands (our contention) to find that the firearm had been in the hands of the legitimate owner all along, and that the matter was a paper work error.
Unfortunately, occasionally they go missing for other, less legitimate reasons. Here, most of us are aware that one of the firearms used at Port Arthur had been surrendered in Victoria during an amnesty there.
If seeking an investigation into a missing firearm, always direct your enquiry to the Regional Superintendent and ask that they appoint an investigating officer outside of the station that the firearm went missing from.
Appointment of an external investigator shall help ensure that the investigation is fair and impartial.
If you believe a Firearm has gone missing or feel uneasy at unreasonable delay and procrastination at getting back to you with your enquiry, I suggest you write to the Superintendent of the Region concerned, advise him or her of it, and request its investigation by an Officer outside of the station that seized the Firearm.
If a Firearm has been lost or damaged in Police custody you shall need to have the firearm valued. If the firearm has been recently valued for insurance purposes you are lucky, as you can use that valuation, if not, it shall be necessary to get a valuation by a person with experience in the gun trade that advises of the following:
- Their name and address
- Licence number, nature of business operated and experience
- How they have inspected the firearm- i.e. they have had the opportunity to inspect photographs of the firearm, rate the external condition of the firearm.
- I normally suggest that in assessing the firearm they discuss with you the amount of use that the firearm has fired as well as assumptions made on the basis of its physical condition.
- I suggest they report the new value of the firearm (if available) together with its estimated replacement value. Perform the same task with any accessories, adding to this, if the rifle has for example a scope rail and rings, the cost of their supply and installation.
- If a case or bag has gone missing, do not ignore its value.
- If a part like for example the bolt has gone missing. If the firearm is still in production, a gunsmith may be able to supply a replacement, if not, it may result in the entire firearm needing to be trashed.
- If a replacement bolt is available, you shall need to not only obtain a replacement bolt, and have it fitted. have a gunsmith address the cost of supplying and fitting a replacement bolt, and also have him report on any reduction in value that will follow upon the installation of a mismatched bolt. This alone can often be 50% of the value of the firearm.
If other items are not returned, prepare a list that indicates the number of an item, the type of an item and the value.
I.e. 5x 20 round 30 cal MTM boxes@ $... each $...
500 rounds unfired Winchester brand .308 cases @ $... per 100 $
Redding T7 reloading press $
.222 Hornady New Dimension dies $
Avoid the temptation to pad out claims. I would hate to see a fraud charge result.
Disclose a source for each appraised value.
It is important that Police are held to account for the loss or damage to firearms. Police need to understand that, while there is no RTBA in Australia, this does not mean that shooters do not have other rights, including a right to fair and just compensation when the state misappropriates or damages their personal property.
It is only if Police are held to account that they shall recognise the importance of protecting the property of shooters, and adjust their training and practices accordingly.
I was pleased to see that in a recent article “NSW Police Firearms Registry’’, in the Sporting Shooters Association of NSW insert in the Australian Shooters Journal, Bruce Lyons, the Director of the NSW Registry, expressed the view that the introduction of a penalty notice regime should ‘provide an alternative to Police seizing firearms and prosecuting individuals in the Courts’. I wait in hope.
Join the fight.
National Firearms Lawyer
P: (02) 6299 9690
M: 0427 280 962
Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.
He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.
This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice.
He can assist you with:
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• All firearms, weapons and game charges
• Avoiding & setting aside Apprehended Violence Orders
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• Unsafe transportation & storage matters
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