Gun In Possession of Someone Else

I’m looking for guidance on a situation regarding a handgun.

I purchased a handgun and obviously it’s registered in my name. It is currently in possession of a family member in a different state who does not want to give it up now. The relationship is not the type where we can obviously resolve this easily with the person giving up the firearm.

Few questions:

  1. If the firearm is used in an illegal manner by the family manner, will I be held liable as the firearm is in my name?
  2. If I request again for the firearm to be returned, and they don’t do it, are there any legal options I can follow to recover the firearm?
  3. Not related to this situation, but related, if I sell a firearm to a private party, and they use it illegally, will I be held liable?

Thank you,


Our resident lawyer @MikeBKY may be able to answer some of your questions, for now, I would advise reading your state statutes on firearms transfers. Better do it before he takes the oath!
Did you keep a record of the transfer, or was this too close a family member?
Good luck.


IDK Piotr. Hang in there, keep searching for answers. Empathetic. I suspect it’d be traced back to you as the buyer. Could happen to any of us. Maybe send an email to USCCA, and call them, they might lead you to some helpful information. In my area, I’m required to report a lost or stolen firearm to the proper authorities. I need to research what penalties if any I’d face by reporting it, but could face worse if I did not.

Know I’m reaching here, but I wonder if the authorities might possibly help you get it back. If this post gains some activity, in time you might hear some helpful ideas, as it may have happened to others. Time might be of the essence, because he/she who has it now, can lose or sell it black market – forever lost (not unlike a credit card); Regrettably, posing risk of crime.

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You might have some fallout over the “transfer” of the firearm. The family member might have some over the unlawful possession. I honestly don’t know. These are just thoughts.

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The fact that it is in a different state may introduce some difficult challenges. I believe transferring a gun into a state other than your own requires to services of an FFL to begin with. Did he acquire the gun in your state of residence?


I am planning to have the gun picked up, brought to a authorized firearms shipper and ship to my state to a firearms dealer where I will pick it up. The issue is that the family member is not willing to relinquish the gun.

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I’m thinking if you’ve asked and they refuse to give it back that without getting into a legal entanglement, your firearm is lost. Logically if it is used in the commission of a crime and you have evidence (signed certified mail) demanding it back it would be a more dependable argument.

Is the family member a bad guy, apt to commit a crime, or just old Uncle Joe who’s a putz and doesn’t want to give it back?


If you loaned a family member a car and they didn’t give it back to you at the designated time and refused to give it back to you, what would you do?

You have a number of options, but I would highly suggest taking with an attorney who specializes in firearms/self-defense in your area and the area where your family member is.

As the gun is yours and you loaned it to them, you may be held liable. You could sue for the firearm or the amount of money to purchase the firearm. You could report it stolen by the family member - they may tell you this is a civil case instead of a criminal case as you did loan it to them.

As far as selling to a private party, do you know the history of the private party you’re selling to? If not, you may want to sell it through an FFL so that they have to get a background check to purchase the firearm. Also, some states require any sale to go through an FFL.

Check your local laws about firearm sales (our reciprocity map may be a good place to start: USCCA Concealed Carry Reciprocity Map & U.S. Gun Laws | USCCA).

I would suggest doing something about this situation sooner rather than later in case the firearm is used in the commission of a crime…

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Hehe, the family member is not likely going to commit a crime. I’m concerned about them selling to someone who is not an upstanding citizen if they don’t know the person well.

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That is a good thing. What if it’s stolen from their house and they don’t tell you? You may be liable if the gun is used in the commission of a crime.

And if they use it to “defend themself” but the court finds them guilty of murder/manslaughter not self-defense (maybe they exacerbated a situation? maybe they don’t know the legal justification for lethal force?) you may be liable in that case as well.


Ummmm…they already did. They are knowingly in possession of a stolen hand gun and refuse to return it to the rightful owner. That is theft of a firearm and possession of a stolen firearm. If they transported said stolen property across state lines, there were more crimes committed. Those are felonies in most states. But you believe what you want to.


I was replying with the intention of the question being that they will use the gun to commit a crime. I understand your point that they are committing a crime by not handing over the gun. Thank you for the thoughts.

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That is a dilema @PiotrL, especially involving family.

If the firearm is used in an illegal manner by the family member, will I be held liable as the firearm is in my name?

I think the best way to look at this is to compare it to a car. If you loan your car to someone, you are generally not liable for the illegal or negligent acts of another person with some exceptions. For instance, if you knew they had a history of bad behavior and you still let them use it. In Kentucky, criminally this could equate to complicity and civilly it is negligent entrustment.
The same should apply to a firearm.

But, if you are in a state that requires reporting that a firearm was stolen, this could possible bite you in the butt.

If I request again for the firearm to be returned, and they don’t do it, are there any legal options I can follow to recover the firearm?

Yes there are legal options, both civil and criminal. If the gun was loaned in your home state, everything would happen in your home state. If in the relatives state, then action is taken in their state.
Criminally, failure to return something that belongs to someone else is, in Kentucky terms, Theft by unlawful taking or disposition, specifically in your case it would be disposition. Again using the car analogy, if you rent a car and never return it it is a theft by unlawful disposition.
In a civil suit you would usually seek damages for the actual cash value of the firearm and any modifications. However, if it is a special weapon, collectors piece or family heirloom, then you may be able to get equitable relief to get that gun back.

Not related to this situation, but related, if I sell a firearm to a private party, and they use it illegally, will I be held liable?

You need to follow the law of your state when you sell a firearm. Some states require all sales or transfers to go through an FFL while many do not. Kentucky does not. That being said, you cannot KNOWINGLY transfer a firearm to someone who is prohibited under federal or state law in Kentucky. This includes handing it to a person at a range to try it out. Knowingly is generally looked upon as she knew or should have known that this person was a felon. , although it does not require an extensive inquiry. As others have said, there is value in running a sale through a FFL so that you are relatively certain the sale is not an issue. This also puts that person in the system with that specific firearm.

I do not know what your state’s “registration” requirements are. In Kentucky, there are none, although if the sale goes through an FFL, it will show up in NICS.

I sold a firearm in 1997 in KY that I purchased in 1984 in PA. About 10 years later (2007ish), I got a notice from federal court in Louisville advising that they had a weapon that I once owned and that I could get it back after it was confiscated from a thief. I let the AUSA know that I had sold the firearm and nothing else happened.

Hope this helps.


Thank you very much all, I really appreciate it.

This seems like something you’d want to include the local law enforcement on. I certainly don’t know what help they could offer but I think they could lead you in a better direction. I’d reach out to the LEOs in the area the other person lives in. If that doesn’t work, request help from your local LEOs and see if they can reach out as well to help garner assistance. Also, talk to a lawyer in your state as local laws differ from state to state.

LE doesn’t like family stuff… And I doubt will want to get involved.


You said something that is key… You’re not going to like this, but offer to buy your own gun back.

If he needs money and will sell it to a stranger he’ll maybe sell it to you for top dollar.

Told you that you wouldn’t like the answer.

Hehe, great point. I think in this case it’s more of the person refusing, not the financial gain. Can’t pick your family (blood related at least) can we?

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You also might be able to look up your state’s laws online; One state’s example:

Best to you kolega.