Cars Are the Biggest Source of Stolen Guns, New Research Shows

Gun violence is on many Americans’ minds. In fact, many stolen guns are linked to cars in a direct way. This is because, while there are many ways for a bad guy to get a gun, one of the main ways they get guns is by breaking into cars. Right now, cars are the biggest source of stolen firearms, and those guns are used to commit some horrible deeds. 

These guns have been used in crimes from assaults to murders

Confiscated guns, potentially stolen guns, hanging on a wall.
Confiscated guns | Getty Images

According to NBC, one example of gun violence that occurred with a stolen firearm from a car happened in 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. Caroline Schollaert was a 26-year-old off-duty Coast Guard member who saw a man breaking into her car. She called the police and walked outside to confront the man at gunpoint. The man pulled out a gun of his own and killed her.

That gun was stolen from an unlocked car less than two weeks before it was used to kill Schollaert. This was just one example. According to Everytown Research, it’s not really out of the ordinary. That’s because most murders and gun-related assaults were done with an illegally obtained gun. Most guns were stolen from burglaries in the past, but that’s no longer the case. 

Cars are now the leading source of stolen guns

From 2011 to 2013, the source of gun thefts was relatively stable, as most criminals stole their guns from a burglary. In 2014, there was a considerable decline in gun burglaries, but that was the only good news that year. In that same year, guns stolen from cars saw a big increase. Almost every year from 2011 to 2020, there was an increase in firearms stolen from vehicles year over year.

In 2015, guns stolen from cars overtook the same crime from burglaries and became the leading source of stolen firearms. The number of guns stolen from vehicles has risen despite a drop in overall car thefts. From 2011 to 2020, there was a 15% drop in overall thefts from cars, while there was a 225% increase in guns stolen from cars. 

Now, about 52% of all stolen guns come from cars. Everytown Research estimates that a gun is stolen from a car every 15 minutes. However, these are all conservative estimates based on data from places requiring gun owners to report the guns stolen. Most states don’t have this requirement, so the accurate scale of this problem is likely much more extensive. 

Car security is part of the problem

There are many reasons why criminals are stealing guns from cars, and part of it has to do with lax gun laws. Another part of the equation is simply poor car security. Many criminals are stealing guns from cars without that much effort because the car was unlocked. Locking the car won’t stop every criminal, but it’ll make it a less accessible crime to get away with as it would probably require them to break open a window at the very least.

That said, it is the most common way gun owners leave their cars unlocked with guns inside their vehicles. For example, in the small Georgia town of Statesboro, 58 reported stolen guns in 2020. Fifty-three of those were stolen from unlocked cars. As a result, locking cars or simply not keeping a gun in there are easy ways to prevent this type of theft.

RELATED: 5 Practical Tips to Stop Car Break-Ins and Protect Your Valuables