There has been a lot of talk about gun control recently. This includes President Obama’s recent proposals dealing with background checks, screening of gun purchasers and hiring additional ATF agents.
However, these efforts don’t address the reality of how common criminals come into possession of firearms.
The majority of firearms possessed by criminals are stolen from homes, businesses and vehicles.
Irresponsible private citizens supply a significant percentage of firearms used by criminals in homicides, robberies, car-jackings and other crimes.
According to a Bureau of Justice report, an average of 232, 400 firearms were stolen every year between 2005 and 2010. Fewer than 80 percent of these firearms were reported as recovered. So in the five years covered by this report, there are more than 1 million stolen firearms floating around out there somewhere.
The number of firearms stolen doesn’t seem to have dramatically gone down over the years, so it’s safe to assume there are millions of stolen firearms in the hands of criminals.
Closer to home, the Anaheim Police Department reported 667 firearms stolen between 2005 and 2015. Of these, only 45 have been reported as recovered.
Where are all these guns? What are they being used for? Who has them?
I had a recent conversation with a gang investigator and together we could not recall a gang-related homicide or gang shooting in which the suspects used a firearm registered to them.
Police officers frequently encounter stolen firearms. Stolen firearms are found during gang sweeps, probation searches and car stops every day.
Another serious concern is how often young people are shot with unsecured firearms. Having guns locked and secured would go a long way at keeping them out of the hands of children and teens. A Harvard study found that 82 percent of the teens who used a firearm to commit suicide obtained the gun from their parents. In most cases, the firearms were unsecured or accessible.
Keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and children should be a priority for every responsible gun owner.
A good first step would be to obtain a reliable gun safe. There are a number of good ones for sale and the investment is worth the price.
I might also add that keeping a handgun in a locked car is not a safe option. Hundreds of handguns are stolen from vehicles every year.
In addition, any gun safe or lock box should be bolted down or large enough that someone can’t just walk off with it. All but the most determined thief wouldn’t want to deal with trying to get it open.
Law enforcement agencies need to make educating the public about the dangers of unsecured handguns a priority. One simple way would be to provide constant reminders through social media.
Every time a stolen firearm is used in a crime, why not post the news to social media? This would serve as a constant reminder to gun owners everywhere. Before long, the public would have a real understanding of how serious the problem is.
Agencies also could post information about crimes in which firearms are stolen. This can be done without revealing personal information about the victims.
Locking up your firearms is sensible and necessary. It doesn’t impede anyone’s rights, and would go a long way to making our communities safer. It’s time we all do what we can to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.