The Code of Virginia is not preemptible by local statute
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We were out target shooting Sun. when three of the local police stopped by. They asked for our ID and then proceeded to go through and handle each of the firearms there and actually ran the serial numbers without our permission. This was on private property. Do they have the legal right to handle any of my weapons without my permission?
Here are the questions that you would need to know the answers to:
Could you be seen or heard from a public road (a place they have a right and duty to be)?
Did a neighbor file a complaint (could have said "I believe they have stolen firearms" just to be a pain in your buttocks, because you were disturbing his nap)?
Was there a reported theft of firearms similar to the ones you were shooting?
If it was yes to the second or third question and confirmed by the first question, they would have probable cause to believe you may be in possession of a stolen firearm. inspection of the firearm for the serial number would confirm whether or not it was a firearm that was reported stolen.
It is the same as if a black Mercedes with Florida tags is reported stolen and you happen to be driving a black Mercedes with Florida tags, you will be pulled over and asked for license and registration. If it is verified it is your car or you have the owners permisson to use it, you will be allowed to go on your way.
Of course it is in the last place you looked, your not going to keep looking for something after you've found it.
I think the only info that could be gleaned from running serial numbers is whether they were stolen, as we don't have any sort of gun registration here.
Particularly as good citizen gun owners, we want to make sure we are following the law. When police show up, it somehow puts us on the defensive.
I'm not questioning your actions, as it would have likely gone down the same way if I was in your shoes. But did you tell them "no"? Did you give them permission by allowing them to handle them?
I do think I would have asked what the issue/concern was, though. Did the police give any insight into this?
"Probable Cause", that's all a LEO needs to do most of what they do...
"Terry Searches", "Chimel Wingspan", and remember "Reamey's Rule" which goes, "...never put ANYTHING in your vehicle, you do NOT want the police to see!"
Legal? Technically, probably not. Practically, yes. They get away with lots of things that are technically illegal because they know it's not worth your time/money to sue them. Besides, nothing keeps them from fabricating "probable cause" after the fact.
Personally at that point I'd start recording them (legal in VA) and repeatedly saying I do not consent to their search, etc.
This kinda happened to me and some friends a couple months back. We where target shooting on the back of my neighbors property, and we think that the other neighbors called on us. But 3 officers showed up, and started talking to the guy in the back that wasn't shooting, hes older and just enjoys hanging out while we shoot. 2 of them decided to walk up to us and ask us to stop, so we did walked to the truck and layed our guns down. When they started to approach our guns, the old guy in the back actually said to them "Thats a good way to get yourself shot, being on private property, and trying to touch our guns." The officer looked back and stoped, and we all preceded to let them know that without permission or cause, they are not touching our guns. They didn't like it, but let us go back to what we where doing and even hung out for a while. We never let them handle our guns. I wouldn't of said what the old guy did but I went along with it. Also I use no names for other people because I dont like giving names out on the internet.
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If it was legal for you to be shooting on the property - which would depend on applicable local ordinances - and there were no articulable facts giving any reason to believe you were engaging in any criminal activity (probable cause), I don't see how they have the lawful authority to grab your guns and run the serial numbers. If they had a reason to believe you were not lawful gun owners, maybe - then it would be a criminal investigation. But with no probable cause, seems to me to be an unlawful search. I'm on private property, lawfully shooting my guns. What reason do you have to believe I'm doing anything illegal, and what probable cause do you have to search me or my possessions? Again, I'm presuming you were legal in discharging firearms where you were - if there was any reason to believe you were violating local ordinances by shooting where you were shooting, all bets are off.
"[The swords of the militia], and every terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American."
This made my day. Ever notice most of the time its unarmed people that seem to wind up shot by cops? Its because they will not mess with people that can shoot back!
Not just, "no", but "Hell, no!" Without a good, objectively based reason to believe you were engaged in criminal activity, the cops had no basis for even coming on to the property, and were in fact trespassers at that point. And that one post about "that's a good way to get yourself shot" is not an exaggeration - if the cop were to pick up the gun, that could be the basis for a reasonably held, good faith belief that he was imminently about to use it on you - hence a shooting would be self defense. (Of course if you do that, someone will find a way to murder you later, set fire to your house, or "find" cocaine in your car.)
Nothing I say as "user" should be taken as either advertising for attorney services or legal advice. Legal questions should be presented to a competent attorney licensed to practice in the relevant state.
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