Lock your car, take your keys, hide your handguns.
A new report from the gun violence prevention nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety says that gun thefts from vehicles are on the rise. The report analyzed FBI crime data from 271 different U.S. cities and found that an estimated 77,000 guns were reported stolen in 2020, the most recent year of data available. More than half of those came from cars; a decade ago, less than a quarter of stolen guns came from cars.
Sarah Burd-Sharps, senior director of research at Everytown for Gun Safety, said two factors – a spike in gun sales during the pandemic, and states passing laws making it easier to carry guns – have led to more unlocked guns in cars. And law enforcement data shows that many people are not locking their cars at all, or even keeping guns in plain sight, she said.
“That is certainly a recipe for having their gun stolen,” Burd-Sharps said. “And it’s really important to say that stolen guns are an important source of guns used in crimes. So this issue is particularly urgent because every gun stolen from a car increases the chance it will be used in a violent crime. And that’s why we’re so concerned about this issue.”
Burd-Sharps said that two policies in particular could help prevent gun thefts from vehicles: Secure storage laws, which hold gun owners accountable for making sure that they store their guns unloaded, locked and separate from their ammunition; and lost and stolen gun reporting requirements.
“Both of these policies together are shown by research in the states that have them to save lives,” she said. “A lot of the secure storage laws mandate that you keep your your gun, when it’s in your car, out of sight and locked – and that you keep your car locked as well. And the combination of those three things can really help to reverse this terrible trend that we’re seeing in the data.”