New survey confirms majority of guns used by criminals are taken from people's homes and cars

By Joe Vargas

Sadly, robberies, aggravated assaults, gang shootings, and a myriad of gun crimes are an every day occurrence in cities across the country. A day doesn’t go by when you can’t read, see, or hear about a gun-related crime on the news.

Of course it begs the question, how do these crooks get guns? Well, they don’t buy them at retail outlets, gun shows, or on the internet. That is one of the findings from the latest Bureau of Justice Statistics report, “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates 2016“.

Thousands of prison inmates were surveyed across the United States with specific questions on how they obtained firearms. The results showed less than 2 percent of the prisoners surveyed obtained a firearm from a retail source.

So where did they get the guns? The answer is simple. They got them from people who had legally purchased them but didn’t secure them.

Most of the firearms used by prisoners during the commission of their crimes were stolen, either by the crook themselves or bought from someone else who had stolen it.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the problem. Too many gun owners are not securing their firearms. How bad is the problem?

Well, the numbers aren’t exact but in the last decade over 2 million guns were reported stolen. Estimates range anywhere from 237,000 to 380,000 firearms are stolen every year from gun owners. Gun theft is also believed to be significantly underreported. Most states don’t require gun owners to report when their guns have been stolen.

Firearms aren’t just being stolen from homes but from vehicles as well. Whenever a thief finds a firearm, they’ve hit the jackpot. Guns are easy to sell on the underground market. If you hang around the right places and with the right people, it’s easy to get ahold of a gun.

After years of working the streets I can’t recall a single gang shooting where a gang member used a gun they legally purchased. It might happen, but I never saw it.

So, what’s the answer? Public education helps. Publicizing whenever a stolen gun is recovered and used in a crime would be good way to get people to understand how important it is to keep weapons secured.

If we want safer communities, we have to include responsible gun ownership in the conversation. Public education and possible penalties for not securing weapons would go a long way toward keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals. Public shaming of gun owners whose weapons are used in serious crimes is harsh but let’s face it, it would probably work.

One stolen gun can have tremendous implications. It happened just last week for a group of teens in Georgia.

On New Year’s Eve, an unsecured stolen gun was at the center of the death of two teens in Lawrenceville, GA. On December 30, 2018, a man dropped off his son at his mother’s home and when he returned to his vehicle his 9mm pistol was missing from the unlocked glove compartment.

The next day, 17-year-old Chad Carless and 15-year-old Devin Hodges were in a shed with a group of friends examining the weapon when it went off, killing Carless. In his despair, as others went for help, Hodges committed suicide using the same gun. Two lives were lost because a gun owner failed to secure their weapon.

If we are to get real about controlling gun violence in our communities and improving public safety, we have to make securing firearms a priority. Public education and providing consequences for irresponsibility in no way restricts gun ownership.