Study Finds Car Security a Leading Contributor to Gun Theft

Outside of the general gun control debate, there is a second, more subtle issue where cars and guns overlap. Stolen guns are among the most dangerous aspects of the gun violence problem in America. In a recent report from Statesboro, GA, one of the leading causes of guns landing in the hands of criminals is theft from unlocked cars and trucks. 

A carjacker attempts to steal a car, when police recover it, the victim will need to pay to get it back.
A carjacker breaks into a vehicle | Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Statesboro is begging its residents to lock their cars

“Stolen firearms from vehicles, this is the bane of our existence here,” Chief of Police Mike Broadhead said to the Statesboro’s Mayor and City Council during his presentation on the dangers of stolen firearms. 

The police study showed that at least 103 guns were stolen from unlocked vehicles in just the last two years. According to the Statesboro Herald, in 2019, Statesboro police investigated 30 firearm thefts from vehicles. Out of 30, only four of those were “forced entry” thefts, meaning stolen from locked vehicles. The other 26 were “non-forced entry” thefts, meaning the vehicles were left unlocked, or perhaps a gun was left in the open bed of a truck or in an unlocked toolbox. 

If you carry that percentage over to the 103 gun thefts over the last two years, the data would suggest that roughly 86 percent of those, now illegal guns, wouldn’t be on the streets and untraceable if folks practiced basic gun safety and kept their weapons secure by locking their vehicles. 

Car theft is on the rise. What does that mean for gun theft? 

2020 saw a rise in gun thefts in the small Georgia town. Statesboro Police say 58 gun thefts were reported. The same trend continues. Only five of the 58 were forced entry; the other 53 guns were swiped from open cars and trucks. Although 2021 saw a slight decrease in gun thefts, at 53 reports, with only two guns stolen from locked vehicles

Despite the negligible drop in gun thefts, in 2021, crime rates, car theft, in particular, rose during this time. Take the city of Milwaukee, for example. According to Motorious, Milwaukee, where car theft was up 152 percent at the beginning of 2021, grew worse still with a 259 percent increase by the end of the year. 

All of these statistics beg the question; If we understand that car and gun theft is on the rise, and merely locking your vehicle can decrease this theft by roughly 80-something percent (averaged out), then why aren’t more people in general, but gun owners specifically, not locking their car doors? 

“I’m not sure if people are aware of this or not, but when your car comes from the factory, it has locks built right into it,” Broadhead quipped. “So, it’s a good idea to use those.”

How does gun theft correlate to violent crimes involving guns? 

Although the rate of stolen guns is increasing in Statesboro, the number of violent gun crimes is down, at least in Statesboro. The reality is most stolen guns, much like vehicles, travel out of the area pretty quickly to be sold or used elsewhere. Don’t let Statesboro’s violent crime statistics fool you; according to The Trace, gun crime was smashing records in 2021. The stats showed the worst gun violence since the organizations founding in 2014. 

So, there seems to be at least some correlation between stolen guns and increased gun crime. This is an easy one to work out. But if this small sample from Statesboro is any indication of the country as a whole, then our mission is clear. If you own a weapon and choose to carry it in your vehicle, please keep it secured, hidden, and locked up tight. If not only for your own sake, do it for whoever might be hurt by your stolen firearm. Lock your cars. 

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