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Rate of U.S. Gun Theft from Vehicles Tripled in the Past Decade, Report Finds

One gun is stolen from a car every nine minutes in the United States, on average, according to FBI crime data. In 2022, nearly 112,000 guns were reported stolen in the 337 small to large-sized cities that reported data to the FBI, and 51 percent of those guns were reported stolen from cars.

This is likely a conservative estimate because only a third of U.S. states legally require reporting lost and stolen guns to law enforcement, warned Everytown for Gun Safety, which analyzed the FBI data about gun theft.

The rate of gun theft has spiked in recent years, tripling from where it was a decade ago. In 2012, the majority of gun thefts were from a home or other structure, and only a quarter were from cars. Annual increases in gun thefts from cars since then have been consistent, except for a 51 percent spike during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In fact, the past decade’s overall increase in gun thefts is driven primarily by the rise in gun thefts from cars,” Everytown noted.

“This trend doesn’t seem to be associated with an increase in thefts from vehicles overall. In fact, the rate of thefts from vehicles overall has decreased 11 percent over the past decade in cities that report data to the FBI while the rate of thefts of guns from vehicles soared over 200 percent,” the report continued. “Second, the rise in gun thefts from cars is not likely associated with cars now being parked in different or more dangerous types of locations either. Over the past 10 years, 36 percent of car gun thefts in these 159 cities have occurred at people’s residences, whether in the driveway or near the home of the gun owner or others.”

The report found that guns stolen from cars bucked other theft trends, the Associated Press reported

States with weaker gun safety laws see more gun thefts from cars—nearly 18 times higher rates than those in states with the strongest laws. Guns are more likely to be kept in cars in states with higher rates of gun ownership and laws that make it easier to carry guns in public. In Tennessee, Everytown explained, a 2014 law allowed all legal gun owners to store their firearms in parked vehicles. Afterward, incidents of gun theft from vehicles in the state tripled—since 2013 (when a more limited version of the 2014 law passed), more than 29,000 firearms have been stolen from vehicles in Tennessee.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) said that theft is a significant source of firearms that end up in criminals’ possession and used in other violent crimes. Between 2017 and 2021, more than 1 million guns were reported stolen in the United States, mostly from individuals, the ATF tallied.

Everytown recommended that gun owners purchase and use gun safes designed for their make and model of vehicle so firearms are securely stored and hidden in owners’ cars. The gun safety advocacy group also recommended that local officials and law enforcement support public awareness campaigns on how to prevent thefts from cars. The group encouraged legislators to pass laws to prevent thefts, including requiring that guns be securely stored and not visible when left unattended in cars and instituting mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns.