Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Stolen Guns Threaten Public Safety, and a CAP Analysis Shows the Problem Is Rampant
Press Release

RELEASE: Stolen Guns Threaten Public Safety, and a CAP Analysis Shows the Problem Is Rampant

Washington, D.C. — In a nation with somewhere between 265 and 393 million guns in civilian hands, it is a fundamental responsibility of gun owners and gun dealers to take measures to help ensure that they are not vulnerable to theft. Unfortunately, new data suggest that, in states across the country, this is not happening.

According to a new analysis of data released today by the Center for American Progress, from 2012 and 2017, an estimated 1.8 million guns were reported stolen from individuals nationwide, and another 53,900 guns were stolen from the inventory of gun dealers. Since gun owners in most states are not legally required to report gun thefts to law enforcement, these estimates are likely an undercount of the true number of stolen guns.

“Stolen guns present a significant risk to community safety across the country,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Gun Violence Prevention at the Center. “Guns are both dangerous weapons and durable goods that don’t just disappear once they are stolen. These guns far too often end up illegally trafficked or used in the commission of violent crimes. Gun owners and dealers therefore have a tremendous responsibility to take measures to help secure these weapons to prevent against their theft.”

The new column is an update to a report published in 2017 looking at the scope and scale of stolen guns in the United States. It provides state-by-state breakdowns of the number of guns stolen from individual gun owners from 2012 to 2017, as well as the number of thefts from licensed gun dealers from 2012 to 2019.

The column also outlines several commonsense policy proposals at both the federal and state level to reduce or prevent gun thefts, including requiring gun dealers to implement stronger security measures; enabling the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to conduct more robust oversight of gun dealers; improving data collection on gun theft; and requiring or incentivizing gun owners to store their firearms more securely.

“The available data only show a small piece of a national problem,” said Eugenio Weigend Vargas, associate director for Gun Violence Prevention at the Center. “Policymakers and gun owners need much more information about the kinds of guns that are being stolen, the primary ways that they are being stolen, and where they are ending up in order to most effectively address this growing problem.”

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For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Adam Peck at [email protected] or 202-741-6363.