Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Anyone Who Doesn’t Lock Up His Guns

For some reason, gun control advocates and their media mouthpieces like to focus on the source of guns used in crime. The ATF’s Gunwalker scandal is but the most evil manifestation of the misguided notion that stopping criminal access to firearms will stop (or at least limit) gun crime. Truth be told, that “access of evil” genie left the bottle a long time ago (sometime after America’s founding fathers enshrined the right to bear arms in the U.S. Constitution, before America’s gun population topped 200 million). Try telling that to the self-righteous scribes calling for a legislative solution to firearms fatalities. That’s a message they want to hear about as much as Charlie Sheen wants to hear that he’s been sentenced to a monastery. Here’s a typically misleading passage from Tammerlin Drummond at mercurynews.com . . .

Gangs traffic in firearms. Other criminal networks purchase guns in places such as Arizona and Nevada, which have lax gun control laws, then bring them into California and sell them here. Last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives busted a firearms-trafficking ring that was shipping firearms from Georgia to the Bay Area. They bought them from two gun shows and 12 federally licensed firearms dealers using straw purchasers.

Some guns used in crimes were stolen in home burglaries.

Many crime guns come from federally licensed dealers. The initial sale may have been legal. But there is nothing to stop that same weapon from later being illegally sold on the secondary market.

The legal/illegal market is not as black and white as gun advocates would like you to believe.

We’ll never be able to restrict the flow of guns until we can muster the political will to stand up to the National Rifle Association’s craziness and tighten gun and ammunition control laws.

See how that works? Anecdotes are presented as data points leading to a political call to action (against the usual suspect)—without any kind of statistical analysis or references.

Doing my best John Lott impression, I emailed Ms. Drummond info on crime gun sources, including the famous Survey of State Prison Inmates, 1991. The pie chart on page 19 indicates that black market sales and theft account for the lion’s share (37 percent) of guns used in crimes.

To her credit, Ms. Drummond does say that “Some guns used in crimes were stolen in home burglaries.” It’s the “some” (nine percent in the inmate study) that demands further investigation. Theft could well be the original source for the vast majority of all guns used in crime.

firearmsid.com reports that . . .

Studies of adult and juvenile offenders that the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services conducted in 1992 and 1993 found that 15% of the adult offenders and 19% of the juvenile offenders had stolen guns; 16% of the adults and 24% of the juveniles had kept a stolen gun; and 20% of the adults and 30% of the juveniles had sold or traded a stolen gun.

If we’re allowed to use anecdotal evidence (fair’s fair), then how about this from (of all places) Plattsburgh New York’s pressrepublican.com:

According to the Troop B State Police Gun Investigation Unit, 102 guns were reported missing in 2010 between Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence and Hamilton counties . . .

Police said a majority of the 102 missing guns were taken from private residences during the summer and falls months, while a small number of others were taken from vehicles during hunting season.

Note: this article fails to mention the fact that a significant percentage of gun owners never report their stolen gun or guns to the police. The number of stolen guns could easily be double.

OK, so, we know that theft is a large perhaps even the largest part of the “Iron River” of guns flowing to criminals. This is where irresponsible gun owners come in . . .

While police are pleased by the declining numbers, Keniston said, authorities remained concerned by a seemingly widespread lack of proper documentation regarding private guns.

“We’re still trying to encourage people to inventory their collection so they can provide us with that data if and when they’re reported stolen,” said Keniston, who heads the Troop B gun unit.

He hopes more gun owners will document and maintain accurate and reliable inventory of their firearms, particularly serial numbers, makes, models and calibers.

Fewer than 40 percent of the long guns reported stolen in 2010 included accurate descriptions, Keniston said, which can seriously hamper police efforts to track them down and return them once they’re recovered.

And then there’s the whole lock ‘em if you got ‘em side of the equation.

Keniston also strongly encouraged gun owners to always keep weapons locked in gun safes and refrain from letting others know the extent of their collection.

In one instance, Keniston recalled, a gun owner posted pictures of his handguns online and was soon targeted by burglars, who ransacked his home and gun collection.

“That’s one way people can really put themselves out there as a target and not even realize it.”

Just as a responsible journalist has an obligation to trade in facts rather than innuendo, a responsible gun owner has an obligation to maintain a careful record of his or her firearms, store them in a proper safe and maintain security awareness. Rather than make it easy for the weapons to slip into criminals’ hands.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

25 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Anyone Who Doesn’t Lock Up His Guns

  1. avatarTCBA_Joe says:

    “Yet whenever I see yet another young man killed in the streets during the commission of some violent act, I have to wonder: At what point are mothers going to stop making excuses for their children’s anti-social behavior?”

    Agreed. Someone’s finally said it.

    Although, one could also write this equally true phrase:
    “Yet whenever I see yet another young man killed in the streets during the commission of some violent act, I have to wonder: At what point are journalists going to stop blaming guns for children’s anti-social behavior?”

    • avatarTTACer says:

      “At what point are mothers going to stop making excuses for their children’s anti-social behavior?””

      Where are the fathers in this scenario?

  2. avatarJamie says:

    “We’ll never be able to restrict the flow of guns until we can muster the political will to stand up to the National Rifle Association’s craziness and tighten gun and ammunition control laws.”
    I always laugh when I hear anti-gunners say things like this, as if it’s just the NRA who doesn’t want more gun control. Most Americans don’t want more gun control, not just the NRA and it’s members. Bloomberg can take his phony poll of “NRA members” that want more gun control and shove it where the sun don’t shine…sideways!

  3. avatarsupton says:

    So, someone breaks into a home, and steals something–that’s the criminals fault. But if they steal a gun, then it’s the homeowner’s fault for the theft of the gun. And the criminal is no longer at fault? Am I following this correctly?

    Is there a recommended number of locks here? Lock on the door to the house, lock on the door to the gun room, locked gun safe of course, store pistol in a lock box in the safe–and let’s add a trigger lock too. Would that make everyone sleep better at night?

  4. avatarRobert Farago says:

    If you leave a gun unsecured and a criminal steals it (as criminals are wont to do), of course the bad guy assumes both the responsibility and the blame (unlike a certain President I could name).

    But that does not excuse gun owners from a responsibility to store their weapons securely.

    How that dictate translates into reality is a question worthy of a separate (but equal) post. I’m on it . . .

    • avatarWes says:

      If a bad guy steals your gun and shoots someone with it, he’s responsible, but if you loan your gun to a friend, who is a law-abiding citizen, who then shoots someone with it, even accidentally, it’s your fault?

    • BS. When someone breaks into my house to steal my gun he’s the criminal. If I want to leave it laying on the floor in the living room, that’s my business. If someone stole my car (left irresponsibly in the driveway where anyone could get to it!!!) and ran people over with it, would you blame me?

      • avatarBuuurr says:

        “BS. When someone breaks into my house to steal my gun he’s the criminal. If I want to leave it laying on the floor in the living room, that’s my business. If someone stole my car (left irresponsibly in the driveway where anyone could get to it!!!) and ran people over with it, would you blame me?”

        I would blame you for the car being stolen if the keys were in it. I would blame you for your gun not being secured for the same reason as the car having the keys in it. It is just an invitation to have something happen. I would also blame you if you left a blowtorch burning on your carpet that got knocked over when the UPS guy dropped a large package on your porch. I would blame you for flooding an entire apartment building because it’s your business whether to turn off your faucet or not.

        It all seems like common sense to me AND so easy to do. So why not just do it? What is the argument against good common sense?

        • Buuurr, I love it when I agree with you.

          The way I describe this thing is the thief is responsible for what he does and the gun owner is responsible for what he does. It’s simple. When someone is killed with a gun there’s plenty of blame to go around.

          It’s not dissimilar to that felony murder idea most of you gun owners like so much. The getaway driver goes down too when the bank robber shoots the teller.

  5. avatarJohn Fritz says:

    I’m feeling a little guilty now andI don’t think I should be. I have all of my individual firearm information (make, s/n, value, etc.) entered in an Access database. All of them are insured, all of my handguns (save the one in carry rotation) are secured in a lock-box. All of the long guns have triger locks installed and reside in soft cases in various location around my apartment.

    It’s not enough apparently but it’s the best I can do under my current circumstances. I exercise due diligence to the best of my ability but a gun safe? Not a realistic solution for me. What else can I do that I haven’t already done…

  6. avatarGreg, Orlando, FL says:

    I take great exception with your commentary Mr. Farago.

    What I do with my guns, how I store them, or whether I conduct an “inventory” of them, is NONE of the government’s concern. If someone burglarizes my home and takes my guns, that is on them. It is not my responsibility to mitigate the criminal acts of others.

    Furthermore, guns that are locked up are USELESS in the event of a home invasion. So to say that any gun owner who does not keep their collection locked up in their own home is irresponsible, Mr. Farago, is absolutely hypocritical and vapid in my opinion.

    • avatarRobert Farago says:

      I don’t think you’ve characterized my position fairly. I’m writing a new post to clarify. Give me a couple of hours and a Megagrandventi cup of coffee.

    • avatarDavid H. says:

      Greg – what you do when you’re home is one thing and varies by personal circumstance – I hope you at least think that securing them when you’re not is a good idea…

    • Greg, you sound like a pretty unreasonable guy, in a libertarian kinda way. Aside from what the government or other people decide “responsible” means, don’t you think it’s good to secure your guns at home as opposed to keeping them accessible at all times?

  7. avatarRalph says:

    If someone parks his car on the street and leaves his keys in it and a joyriding teenager steals it and runs somebody over, doesn’t the owner share some of the blame? Guns should be protected from unauthorized use when they’re not being carried or used by the owner. That seems kinda basic to me. How they’re protected is up to the owner unless the law prescribes the method.

    • Why? This is just blaming the person you can harm rather than the criminal you can’t. This is the same crap that causes the ATF to hassle FFLs, with regular hours and comprehensive record keeping, rather than drug gangs who have neither.

      • avatarBuuurr says:

        What Ralph says makes perfect sense to me. Why shouldn’t the gun owner be somewhat responsible for it’s use, whether consented or not? Yes, criminals steal guns all the time but making sure yours is harder to steal guards you from guilt and any laws that would incriminate yourself.

        This has nothing to do with guns but as an aside if you leave your keys in your car in Canada and it gets stolen and is used for a crime or has caused an accident (even if it is just the crooks who stole it that are injured) you are partially to blame. Logic being: when you are in your car you are insuring its use, when you are not YOU should have made all efforts to secure your vehicle from theft. If you had the crime would not have happened. The same holds true for guns. When you are home your guns being locked up is trivial because you are responsible for what happens in your home. On the other end when you are not home you should have your guns secured because you cannot say what is going to happen when you are not there. So why not just do it?

        • avatarsupton says:

          To blame the owner for what someone does with stolen goods is to remove blame from the perpetrator and to place it onto the owner. If I am struck by a pickpocketer, and they use the phone to solicit a hooker, am I guilty of something? Maybe I need a positive retention holster for my cell.

          If someone steals a $20 from my countertop, and buys pot with it, did I enable that person to buy pot? What about the beer in my fridge? They break in, get loaded on my beer, then take off and mow down some people. Maybe they stole one of my cars too–afterall, I wasn’t bright enough to lock up the fridge, so it shouldn’t be shocking that I’d leave the car keys on top of the fridge. Am I responsible for the carnage, if it was my beer and my car?

          I think the motivation for using decent gun safes and whatnot lies in “I’d hate for some miscreant to have used [i]my[/i] gun/car/baseball bat to commit his crime”, not “I sure hope my gun safe meets minimum federal standards” or “I hope no one defeats my multiple kilo-buck safe, as I’m liable for every bullet I didn’t shoot”.

        • avatarBuuurr says:

          “To blame the owner for what someone does with stolen goods is to remove blame from the perpetrator and to place it onto the owner. If I am struck by a pickpocketer, and they use the phone to solicit a hooker, am I guilty of something? Maybe I need a positive retention holster for my cell.”

          You would if you didn’t tell someone your cell was stolen. I mean the link goes back to you, right? It would eventually be disproven I am sure but calling in that it was stolen would be prudent. Save yourself the trouble and all that.

          “If someone steals a $20 from my countertop, and buys pot with it, did I enable that person to buy pot?”

          No, but let me tell you if they just walked in versus the door being unlocked anything stolen would not be covered by insurance. Why? Common sense that’s why.

          “What about the beer in my fridge? They break in, get loaded on my beer, then take off and mow down some people. Maybe they stole one of my cars too–afterall, I wasn’t bright enough to lock up the fridge, so it shouldn’t be shocking that I’d leave the car keys on top of the fridge. Am I responsible for the carnage, if it was my beer and my car?”

          You’re responsible for the respectful treatment of any possession that can do harm to anyone or cause any undo harm or stress. Whether it be the insurance company that has to pay out for your idiocy in leaving your keys in a parked car or your home unsecured (locked). Why would your gun, the focus of so much violence, be any different when you are not there to ensure its proper use?

          “I think the motivation for using decent gun safes and whatnot lies in “I’d hate for some miscreant to have used [i]my[/i] gun/car/baseball bat to commit his crime”

          I agree. Keep it safe

          “ not “I sure hope my gun safe meets minimum federal standards” or “I hope no one defeats my multiple kilo-buck safe, as I’m liable for every bullet I didn’t shoot”.”

          I’m not sure who thinks this. Was it me? I don’t think so. If it is locked and in a safe that is really all you can do. I am not arguing the federal standard issue, I am arguing that one cannot just leave such things to chance and then hope for some saving grace to say they did not have a part in the guns use/misuse.

  8. avatarsupton says:

    Well, that is the issue at hand, isn’t it? That is, what is a “reasonable” amount of due prevention, versus what might be legally required.

    Leaving a handgun on the coffee table, in front of the front window, might be “legal” as long as the front door is locked let’s say–but it sure would be stupid. Yet do we really want the gov to say just how good the lock ought to be on a gun safe–when, last I knew of, there wasn’t any standards as to how good the lock on the front door (or any window) ought to be? I’m pretty sure all of us ought to be more concerned about the living things in our house, much more than any inanimate object in there.

  9. avatarDavid H. says:

    A couple of points:
    1. Can you ship that safe and all it’s contents to my house, if I promise to keep it secured? (Of course, the transfer fees would probably bankrupt me…).
    2. I keep an off-site record of the particulars of the firearms in my possession. I also keep them locked in the safe when I’m not home.
    3. While I’m against a law mandating I do it, I’m a little gobsmacked at the number of people who apparently don’t report stolen firearms to the police. For one, I don’t want them on my conscience, and for the other, if it’s recovered, how the heck would they get one back to me?

  10. avatarFirehand says:

    I just love this: “If you don’t secure your firearms in what somebody else considers a proper manner, and they’re stolen and a crime committed with one of them, then you are partly responsible for the crime.”
    Absolute bullcrap. Just like “If you don’t lock your car/leave the keys in and somebody steals it and harms someone, you share responsibility” is bullcrap. An individual is not responsible for a crime committed by someone else just because he didn’t lock the car, or have a 600-lb. safe in his home to store firearms. Yes, you should be careful of how you store/transport your arms, but to hold you responsible for what a criminal does is garbage.

  11. avatarJames A. Ritchie says:

    Locking up any gun not intended for quick self-defense is a good idea. Why make it easier on thieves?

    But putting much faith in a gun safe is also misplaced. I haven’t yet seen one that couldn’t be busted open in a a few minutes with common tools. If a thief wants into a gun safe, he’ll get in. Odds are, every tool he needs, you already own, and he can use those.

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