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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This came up over on OCDO, and I thought it was interesting.

One of the things that police often do during a stop of an open carrier (whether the stop is legitimate or not) is to check the serial number of the weapon. If your weapon was purchased from a private party and therefore there exists no record linking you to it, this check could establish that link. If somehow your weapon had been implicated in a crime, you could suddenly find yourself a suspect. Besides that, unless they suspect you of something more severe than a moving violation, etc., they really have no reason to need to do this check, and therefore they shouldn't.

However, since the serial number is plainly visible on your weapon, if they've taken it for a lawful reason (Terry Stop) they're within their rights to check on it.

So, a very simple solution is proposed: Cover the serial number with electrician's tape. As far as I can find, Utah law does not regulate serial numbers at all, and federal law (Title 18 US Code Chapter 44 § 922 (9) (k)) says:

It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to transport, ship, or receive, in interstate or foreign commerce, any firearm which has had the importer's or manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, or altered, or to possess or receive any firearm which has had the importer's or manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, or altered and has, at any time, been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
Since covering the serial number with removable tape isn't removal, obliteration or alteration, it seems to be perfectly legal. However, when interacting with a police officer I don't think there's any question that for the officer to remove the tape in order to see the serial number would be a search, and therefore restricted under the 4th amendment unless the officer had probable cause to believe that the firearm was used in a crime.

From an OC'ers perspective, I think covering the serial number may provide another avenue of legal recourse in the event of an unlawful detention, because if the officer removes the tape to run the number, there will be an illegal search added to the unlawful detention.

On the other hand, an officer who doesn't understand the federal law on firearms serial numbers may arrest the carrier for obscuring the number. This would be an invalid charge, just like the invalid disorderly conduct charges that sometimes get made, but it very well might cause an arrest where there wouldn't have been one otherwise.

Comments?
 

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Interesting? I can see at least one possible fault to this. Many a police officer would simply look at the tape and declare that it is an attempt to hide or conceal for illegitimate reasons, therefore they may detain, arrest or otherwise cause further delay in your lawful travel. Which lawful travel being obstructed is in and of itself a violation of guaranteed constitutional rights as has been proven in several cases in the past few years.
Though it would be wrong for the officer to check your serial #, I am sure they would find some reason to have done so and covering the # may make them suspicious of you. For this I would probably say it isn't a good idea, especially considering the mental state of many officers out there concerning issues like this and open or concealed carry and their ignorance, whether through poor training or deaf ears while in class, or basic bigotry concerning citizens and guns.
 

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I agree that putting tape over the SN does not violate the federal law but you could get an officer who doesn't know better. However Local LEO's can not enforce Federal laws, although many of our state laws overlap federal laws. They must call in the FBI and you hope they don't try to charge you. I do think that a jury would not convict someone if charged but there is still the bill to the Attorneys. I do think it is a smart move and even if there were no tape, the officer would have to have articulable PC to run the check or at least reasonable suspicion. Legal OC of a firearm is not either of those situations. It would be like saying that just because you are driving doesn't mean you did a hit and run. IANAL
 

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Mazellan said:
I the officer would have to have articulable PC to run the check or at least reasonable suspicion. Legal OC of a firearm is not either of those situations.
No, but tape obscuring a serial number may be.

As Swillden somewhat brought up - a police officer has a "right", as part of a Terry Frisk, to disarm you during the period of his encounter with you. If he stops you for whatever reason and obtains your firearm, on seeing that the serial number is obscured, he may then feel he has articulable PC or reasonable suspicion to run a check on the weapon. The suspicion being: if the gun had not been used to commit a crime, why would the number be obscured.

I'm not sure I'm clear on why one should be opposed to the police checking the serial number, other than the general 4th Amendment considerations. Seems like trying to obscure it is more likely to cause more issues than it resolves. :dunno:
 

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Depending on your firearm, SN may be in multiple locations. Glock and Sig are a couple of examples that come to mind. I have a piece of grip tape covering the serial number on the slide of my G23. The Surefire light takes care of the SN on the frame.

If the officer wants to violate my rights and "find" a reason to detain me, I'm sure my attorney would have no problem getting the charges kicked in court. :wink:

We will then sue for damages and donate a nice portion to the UCCDC "legal action fund", which would be subsequently re-named after the foolish officer that put the gears in motion. :D

gf
 

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glock fan said:
We will then sue for damages and donate a nice portion to the UCCDC "legal action fund", which would be subsequently re-named after the foolish officer that put the gears in motion. :D
gf
:ROFL: :lolbang: Thanks! Imagine the justice of that--and the embarrassment of the officer that caused it.
 

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What is bad about a LEO checking a weapons serial number is if you have a older weapon. I have two one is around 45 years old and the other one is over 20. Bummer I do not believe big brother as these serial numbers any more :D Since I got my pt1911 and 462 this year they do have the numbers. I do not like the idea of them checking, but I do not think covering is a good idea. Most LEO's do not have a sense of humor about these things. Mainly the young ones. May just back fire.
 

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If you are that worried about a serial number I would suggest NEVER buying from an FFL. Buy all your guns privately. I for one don't worry about it. My guns are clean (as am I) and I really don't care what they look at.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
PW said:
If you are that worried about a serial number I would suggest NEVER buying from an FFL. Buy all your guns privately. I for one don't worry about it. My guns are clean (as am I) and I really don't care what they look at.
But if they look at, and record, your serial number, then you've lost the benefit of not buying from an FFL.
 

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swillden said:
PW said:
If you are that worried about a serial number I would suggest NEVER buying from an FFL. Buy all your guns privately. I for one don't worry about it. My guns are clean (as am I) and I really don't care what they look at.
But if they look at, and record, your serial number, then you've lost the benefit of not buying from an FFL.
Then just buy your carry gun from an FFL and keep the others elsewhere. I agree with your previous statements, I don't think they have any reason to run your serial unless you are being arrested for a gun-related crime.
 

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IMO, why does it matter if they run the Serial Number? It could help solve a crime. We have nothing to hide as concealed firearm carriers.

I am just not sure why this is such a big deal. :dunno:
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
scuba_steve said:
IMO, why does it matter if they run the Serial Number? It could help solve a crime. We have nothing to hide as concealed firearm carriers.
If they find your firearm was involved in a crime, they're going to start by looking at YOU for the crime. Hopefully you can prove to their satisfaction that you didn't possess the gun then.

That's pretty unlikely, though, and it's not that big a deal to me to get the serial number recorded as being associated with me.

Mostly it's just the principle of the thing. For the same reason that I don't want to provide my DL or my CFP in circumstances where I don't legally have to, I also don't want them running the serial number without a legal justification. Finally, in the event of an unlawful stop of an OC'er, if they decide to remove the tape in order to run the serial number they've committed an additional unlawful search, so it's a small way to enhance your ability to slap down abusive cops.
 

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swillden said:
scuba_steve said:
Mostly it's just the principle of the thing. For the same reason that I don't want to provide my DL or my CFP in circumstances where I don't legally have to, I also don't want them running the serial number without a legal justification. Finally, in the event of an unlawful stop of an OC'er, if they decide to remove the tape in order to run the serial number they've committed an additional unlawful search, so it's a small way to enhance your ability to slap down abusive cops.
I agree with this. I actually had some electrical tape over the SN on my AR15 for a long time. It came off at the range one day....probably need to put it on again. Just not sure how exactly I would cover the 3 SN locations on my XD....
 

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I agree with Swillden.... I watched a video where this Sheriff stood in front of a class full of law students and went on for 30 minutes about how the Officer's job is to get you to confess. Most of the time, the suspect is guilty, and they're used to that. So they get in a habit of always assuming their suspect is guilty, even if they really aren't. (I don't blame them). Anyway, this cop was talking about how he assumes the suspect is guilty, and tricks him to confess. In this same video, an attorney (the one that was the professor of the class) was telling about all the reasons why you shouldn't ever talk to the cops if you are a suspect, because even if you are completely innocent, and if you tell only the truth (the truth being that you are innocent), you can still get in big trouble. I know, hard to believe, but by the end of this video, I totally agreed with him. (ie, agreed with the attorney that if you are ever a suspect, never talk to the cops. (EVEN IF YOU'RE INNOCENT))

So basically I'm saying that the possibility exists that they run your serial number, and then begin to suspect you, and you end up in jail or something, even though you are innocent. A slim possibility, but a possibility nonetheless. Would you rather possibly spend time in jail or instead take a simple preventative measure? Something to think about.

Wish I had a link to the video, it was a really great vid.
 

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PW said:
If you are that worried about a serial number I would suggest NEVER buying from an FFL. Buy all your guns privately. I for one don't worry about it. My guns are clean (as am I) and I really don't care what they look at.
Here Here! :D

Rick
 

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On second thought, if you did have tape over a serial number of a gun that HAD been used in a crime, and the cops run the number BECAUSE you had tape over it...... that might make you look guilty, even if you aren't.....

I think your best bet is to do what the other poster did: cover the serial number with grip tape and such, so that covering it looks innocent.
 

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Mazellan said:
...I agree that putting tape over the SN does not violate the federal law but you could get an officer who doesn't know better.....
Probably headed for some unwanted attention there. Good idea though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The other thread about the "Grey Poupon" jerk brought this video to mind. Someone posted links to the various affidavits, and I noticed that the arrest warrant justified the arrest on the grounds that the guy with the gun admitted to the police officer that he had done what the pranksters said.

While I have no problem with the guy being arrested, and I hope he's convicted, it occurred to me that by admitting that he'd pulled the gun and racked his slide, he sunk himself. If he'd refused to talk it would just have been the word of the pranksters, but he confessed.

As the professor said (paraphrasing) "If you're guilty, confession is probably good for the soul, but... what's the rush?" You can always confess later.
 
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swillden said:
This came up over on OCDO, and I thought it was interesting.

One of the things that police often do during a stop of an open carrier (whether the stop is legitimate or not) is to check the serial number of the weapon. If your weapon was purchased from a private party and therefore there exists no record linking you to it, this check could establish that link. If somehow your weapon had been implicated in a crime, you could suddenly find yourself a suspect. Besides that, unless they suspect you of something more severe than a moving violation, etc., they really have no reason to need to do this check, and therefore they shouldn't.

However, since the serial number is plainly visible on your weapon, if they've taken it for a lawful reason (Terry Stop) they're within their rights to check on it.

So, a very simple solution is proposed: Cover the serial number with electrician's tape. As far as I can find, Utah law does not regulate serial numbers at all, and federal law (Title 18 US Code Chapter 44 § 922 (9) (k)) says:

It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to transport, ship, or receive, in interstate or foreign commerce, any firearm which has had the importer's or manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, or altered, or to possess or receive any firearm which has had the importer's or manufacturer's serial number removed, obliterated, or altered and has, at any time, been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.
Since covering the serial number with removable tape isn't removal, obliteration or alteration, it seems to be perfectly legal. However, when interacting with a police officer I don't think there's any question that for the officer to remove the tape in order to see the serial number would be a search, and therefore restricted under the 4th amendment unless the officer had probable cause to believe that the firearm was used in a crime.

From an OC'ers perspective, I think covering the serial number may provide another avenue of legal recourse in the event of an unlawful detention, because if the officer removes the tape to run the number, there will be an illegal search added to the unlawful detention.

On the other hand, an officer who doesn't understand the federal law on firearms serial numbers may arrest the carrier for obscuring the number. This would be an invalid charge, just like the invalid disorderly conduct charges that sometimes get made, but it very well might cause an arrest where there wouldn't have been one otherwise.

Comments?
I would think this is a bad move.
Similar to scratching over a VIN# on a vehicle or defacing areas on your drivers license. This would simply fuel suspicion and curiosity IMO.
I don't think I am an expert on the subject but I think think discovery of the attempt to hide the numbers would broaden the scope of the investigation.
And now I am wondering about serial numbers on guns. Gonna have to look into that...
 
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