Somethings I found out:
- Call your local police/sheriff and ask them to check it for you. They will need the serial number, manufacturer, model, and caliber. This is important, since the same number may have been used by different manufacturers. Some manufacturers may have used the same number ranges for different product lines.
If you are unsure what kind of gun it is, check with a gunsmith or a gun dealer. Do not rely on the police to figure that out; they are law enforcement professionals, not firearms experts.
If the gun has no serial number - due to being produced before this was required - but is unique in some way, police may still have it listed as stolen property, but it's a long shot.
- The NCIC (National Crime Information Center) database contains, among other things, information on stolen firearms but it is only accessible by law enforcement. This is likely what the local police will check, along with their own lists of stolen property and evidence.
Many stolen guns cannot be identified because the owner didn't know the serial number, didn't report the theft, or it is an older gun without a number.
- Be aware that most law enforcement agencies will not give you information over the phone. They would, at the very least, like to know your identity to make sure you are not a thief checking to see if the gun is "hot". In some cases it may be a violation of state law to give out information from criminal history databases.
- Another option is user submitted databases such as http://www.hotgunz.com and http://www.stolenweapon.com. These sites allow gun theft victims to voluntarily report their stolen firearm and search for stolen gun serial numbers. Such databases are not all encompassing as they are not linked with NCIC, but still worth a look.
- Should the gun be determined to be stolen, you will most likely have to surrender it to the police. Be prepared to answer lots of questions regarding how and where you bought it. Police have a great deal of interest in people selling stolen property.
- If the gun appears to have had a serial number at one time, but it is ground off, or otherwise defaced - get away from the person trying to sell it to you as fast as possible. It is almost guaranteed to be either stolen or used in a crime. Removing serial numbers from a firearm is a Federal crime in itself, and if police discover such a gun in your possession, you have a very real chance of being convicted.