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Main Source of Stolen Guns Is Cars, FBI Analysis Shows

'Those guns are going straight to the street,' ATF chief says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2024 1:15 PM CDT
Main Source of Stolen Guns Is Cars, FBI Analysis Shows
Dozens of recovered stolen handguns are displayed during a press conference in November in Benton Township, Mich.   (Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium via AP, File)

The rate of guns stolen from cars in the US has tripled over the past decade, making them the largest source of stolen guns in the country, an analysis of FBI data by the gun safety group Everytown found. The rate of stolen guns from cars climbed nearly every year and spiked during the coronavirus pandemic along with a surge in weapons purchases in the US, according to the report, which analyzes FBI data from 337 cities in 44 states and was provided to the AP. The stolen weapons have turned up at crime scenes. In July 2021, a gun taken from an unlocked car in Riverside, Florida, was used to kill a 27-year-old Coast Guard member trying to stop a car burglary.

The trend underscores the need for Americans to safely secure their firearms to prevent them from getting into the hands of dangerous people, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Steve Dettelbach, whose agency has separately found links between stolen guns and violent crimes. "People don't go to a mall and steal a firearm from a locked car to go hunting. Those guns are going straight to the street," said Dettelbach, whose agency was not involved in the report. "They're going to violent people who can't pass a background check. They're going to gangs. They're going to drug dealers, and they're going to hurt and kill the people who live in the next town, the next county or the next state."

Nearly 112,000 guns were reported stolen in 2022, and just over half of those were from cars—most often when they were parked at homes, the report found. That's up from about one-quarter of all thefts in 2013, when homes were the leading spot for firearm thefts, per the AP. At least one firearm was stolen from a car every nine minutes on average in 2022, the most data available. That's almost certainly an undercount, since there's no federal law requiring people to report stolen guns, and only one-third of states require a report. It's unclear what's driving the trend. The report found higher theft rates in states with looser gun laws, which also tend to have higher rates of gun ownership.

(More guns stories.)

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