Gun Thefts Are Rising, Most Linked to Crimes

More than 237,000 guns were reported stolen last year in the U.S. The Trace and NBC TV stations found reports of 23,000 recovered by police between 2010 and 2016, most of them involved in crimes.

U.S. gun owners preoccupied with self-defense are inadvertently arming the criminals they fear, The Trace reports. Hundreds of thousands of firearms stolen from the homes and vehicles of legal owners flow each year into underground markets, and the numbers are rising. Many weapons end up in the hands of people prohibited from possessing guns, and are used to injure and kill. The Trace and a dozen NBC TV stations identified more than 23,000 stolen firearms recovered by police between 2010 and 2016, the vast majority connected with crimes. That tally, based on police records, includes more than 1,500 carjackings and kidnappings, armed robberies at stores and banks, sexual assaults and murders, and other violent acts. “The impact of gun theft is quite clear,” said Frank Occhipinti of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “It is devastating our communities.”

Thefts from gun stores command much media and legislative attention, with stories of  burglars ramming cars through storefronts and carting away bags full of rifles and handguns. The great majority of guns stolen each year are taken from everyday owners. Thieves steal guns from people’s closets and off their coffee tables. They crawl into unlocked cars and lift them off seats and out of center consoles. They snatch some right out of the hands of their owners. Last week, a new measure intended to shore up the federal background check system was introduced by eight U.S. senators. Yet many criminals are armed with perfectly lethal weapons funneled into an underground market where background checks would never apply. More than 237,000 guns were reported stolen in the U.S. last year, says the FBI’s National Crime Information Center.