Sheriff cites benefits of gun registry

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Many gun owners spend a lot of time polishing their weapons,stocking ammunition – whether for hunting or home protection – andlogging target practice hours.

But if their guns were lost or stolen, many of those peoplewould have a hard time getting them back for one minor reason: Theyhave no record of the weapons’ serial numbers.

Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing said registering a weaponwith the county can be a good way to log the gun’s identificationfor future reference.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“It’s a great way to keep up with the serial number,” Rushingsaid. “When people get them stolen or lost and don’t have them, wecan enter them on (the National Crime Information Center) andeverywhere else as stolen. It’s a good proactive way to keep upwith your guns.”

Rushing said the process, which is free, is more of a publicservice his office provides than an information system. He saidwhile the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms does have otherways of tracking down a particular gun, the sheriff’s officedatabase is almost exclusively for the public.

“Technically you don’t have to register them, the only thing wedo is keep the serial number on file if something ever happens tothem,” he said. “If someone ran the serial number in our system, itwouldn’t show who owns the gun.”

In order to register a weapon, Rushing said, a gun owner simplyneeds to come to the sheriff’s department in person and bringseveral things.

“They have to bring the gun and we have to have where theypurchased it from, whether it was from a dealer or an individual,and they need to bring an ID,” he said.

Rushing said a large percentage of the guns that are brought into his office to be registered were purchased from a dealer. But ifsomeone has a doubt about the weapon they’ve been sold, abackground check can be done on it, Rushing said.

“If they bought it from a dealer, the background has alreadybeen run,” he said. “But if they want us to run it we’re more thanhappy to run it to make sure it’s not stolen.”

Rushing said there have been occasions where someone registeredtheir weapon with the sheriff’s department and later when it wasstolen, the gun could be entered on NCIC as stolen. But without theserial number, such a thing is impossible, he said.

Meanwhile, the current political climate of the country has somegun owners a little nervous about records of their firearms. Somepeople worry that a government database of their weapons would leadto a situation where there might be a tax put on them, or worse,they might be taken away.

Rushing said even in the very worst-case scenario, the LincolnCounty database would not be a threat to a gun owner’sidentity.

“This doesn’t incorporate all the guns in the county, just theones registered for the numbers’ safekeeping,” he said. “It’s justa record-keeping thing. Our database isn’t here to keep a count,it’s strictly here as a service to help citizens keep up with theirserial numbers.”

But Rushing offered a bit of comfort for those who seem a littleconcerned about what the political future holds for gun owners. Hesaid he doesn’t believe there would be a reason that the governmentcould, for any reason, seize guns from law-abiding citizens.

“No, I don’t see that ever happening. That’s our SecondAmendment right, and I don’t see them being able to take thataway,” he said.