The Truth About Gun Store Car Tagging

One of my Facebook friends linked to a photo [above] posted by one of his friends (you know – the old “friend of a friend of a friend” thing). The caption read:  “Info from a friend, passing it on.” The text read:

Gun lovers public service announcement: While I was in a Texas gun store today, my car was tagged on the wheel in the parking lot. The gangs do this on wheels or bumpers at gun stores, shooting ranges, gun shows etc. Later when you are parked at a restaurant, hotel, or other location that’s less well guarded or under video surveillance, other gang members spot the marker and break into the car for a quick gun grab. This is so RAMPANT in San Antonio where we were for a National shoot this summer, the Sheriff of Bexar County came out to brief the 400 participants of our competition. Too bad three teams had already been victimized the first day . . .

This is the first I’ve heard of this in Texas. Please pass this info along to your 2nd amendment list. Daily check your car, truck or motor home for unusual painted dots, marks, check marks or other strange looking symbols that are not normal to your type vehicle. It could prevent you from being a victim of robbery, or even save your life if you catch the thief in the act.

On the surface this sounded serious. Being the skeptical SOB that I am, I decided to check with the urban myth folks at Snopes to see what they had to say about it.

And of course, it’s just another of the urban myths that started out on email and then moved on to Facebook and other social media.

There are minor variations in location (Texas and Denver seem to be favorites)  but they all contain the same basic things: cars at gun shops or shows with marked tires/bumpers/license plates, gangs tracking down the cars to break in them, heartbreak for the owner who has at least to deal with a vandalized vehicle if not a purloined pistol.

They also exhibit features common to many urban myths:  vague references to people (“the Sheriff of Bexar county”), dates (“this summer”)  and locations (“in a Texas gun store”) ; no traceable references to news or police reports; references to something unusual you’ll probably find if you look hard enough (“painted dots, marks, check marks”);  and a general threat to one’s well-being if you don’t pay attention to it (“being a victim of robbery, or even save your life”).

Snopes states:

No news stories from either Texas or Denver support the claim of marks having been discovered on vehicles left parked in such locations or of gun thefts from vehicles subsequently discovered to bear such identifiers. That, plus the knowledge that it would be very difficult to subsequently recognize a small mark or decal on a car’s bumper or tire leads to the conclusion that the tale is naught but invention. Thieves — even organized gangs of thieves — look to gain the most for the least effort. If guns are their target and they’ve concluded folks who park in front of gun shops are the ones most likely to carry such weapons in their vehicles, a far more certain method of subsequently locating those cars is to follow them as they leave the store.

The National Skeet Shooting Association/National Sporting Clays Association has also debunked this myth, as an incident was purported to have happened at one of their shoots.

This time an unnamed “Gun Site instructor” passes along that “crews working the parking lot” at an unspecified meet marked vehicles “with a small adhesive dot on the rear license plate or rear bumper” which resulting in “27 high end shotguns” stolen.   Because of this, the NSCA investigated claims of tire marking at one of their meets in June 2011.

They found that “all the questionable marks reported to us were left there by manufacturers, tire services, or rental car companies. In fact, most marks were so worn or well covered that they could not have occurred in the parking lot.”

The NRA has also weighed in on this and in a rare moment of level-headedness wrote “the truth of this story should also remind us that there’s no need to panic—and that it’s always worth taking a few moments to check out tales like this before passing them on.”

Good advice to keep you from looking like an idiot in front of your more knowledgeable friends, Facebook or otherwise.

comments

  1. avatar pair-o-dee says:

    “The NRA has also weighed in on this and in a rare moment of level-headedness…”

    +1

  2. avatar Matt in FL says:

    I love me some Snopes. I’ve even taught my mom to check there before she forwards emails to family and friends.

    1. avatar TexanHawk says:

      I have two long time friends (out of three total) who continually send me “amazing” emails. For a long time I fact checked them and emailed them back with the link to Snopes when they were crap. But then kept sending them. I figured it was better and easier to delete the emails than to read them and it wasn’t worth losing a long time buddy. Long time bro #1 called me one day and asked me why I hadn’t responded to his email. I had to go back and check…. Oops. Deleted it with the spam. Finally had to tell him that there were two hundred deleted crap forwarded emails from him for every single one that he actually wrote me. He stopped forwarding me crap right there.

  3. avatar Mike OFWG says:

    I take Snopes with a grain of salt. Their fact checking of political true and false has a decided leftward bent.

    1. avatar Whiskey Tango says:

      I pretty sure Snopes is ran by one of George Soro’s companies. That would explain the left leaning political BS.

      1. avatar BC; MT says:

        My experience: Ask a Lefty (even a committed one) who Soros is: they either don’t know him or ignore him. Ask someone on the right: he is something akin to an Illuminati World Controller.

    2. avatar jkp says:

      You’ll get that with anyone who poses as a “fact checker”. The advantage of Snopes is that it appears to be updated fairly regularly, and they do tend to provide citations so that you can check on the sources and decide for yourself when they offer up what appears to be a half-baked political opinion.

      Which, in this case, is more than what Whiskey Tango did in his response with the Soros funding claim!

      😉

    3. avatar Jwhite says:

      Are you sure thats the case, or is the majority of the content your checking leaning HARD right? Not taking sides, but I’ve laughed a dozen times or so when I get emails (still…) about Hilary Clinton and the UN working to take our guns all because of some Small Arms Treaty with provisions that would, and never could pass a congressional litmus test.

      1. avatar Mike OFWG says:

        Never say never.

    4. I’ve been using Snopes for over a decade now. I’ve double-checked them with other sites, and even tracked down other Web resources on a few of the items.

      So far, I have NEVER found them to be in error.

      Can you cite any instances in which they have posted something which is false? Is it possible that what you perceive as a “decided leftward bent” is instead the natural result of reaction to more right-wing false memes than left-wing false memes?

      Plese understand that I’m not attacking either right- or left-wing people here. I myself am a Libertarian, and view both left- and right-wing claims with more than one grain of salt. However, there is such a thing as truth, and “truth” is not an ideological construct.

      Again, please post some examples of Snopes articles which you perceive to show a “decided leftward bent”.

  4. avatar Ralph says:

    Gangs putting an identifying mark on my car = preposterous. ATF putting an identifying GPS on my car without a warrant = a Supreme Court case.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203806504577178811800873358.html

  5. avatar Darren says:

    Doesn’t make a lot of sense. While you know the car is more likely to have something valuable in it, you also know the driver knows there is something valuable in it and can infer the driver is armed.

    Tagging cars in jewelry store parking lots makes a lot more sense.

    1. avatar Sam Wright says:

      Darren,
      I agree it does not make sense. I do not leave my weapons in a car unattended. Someone breaking into my car is likely to find themselves looking at a .45 cal barrel from the business end. I do not see it in a thief’s best interest to try to break into my car.
      Trying to steal guns from someone who is armed is not a good career choice.

    2. avatar DaveL says:

      Why bother? Why not just target high-end newer cars that are already worth a bundle, steal the whole damned thing, and take whatever valuables might be hidden within as an extra bonus? I think it would be easier and more profitable to target new Escalades than search around for a 1999 cavalier with a tiny sticker on the tire.

      1. avatar Ropingdown says:

        Criminal mind, dude. Laugh.

    3. avatar Gabba says:

      it also doesn’t make any sense logistically. why would a person tag the tire like that which could only be made and observed by approaching the vehicle instead of just writing down the license plate number?

  6. avatar theaton says:

    Where I work, the parking police put these “tags” on tires in limited times spaces so they can actually tell how long the vehicle has been parked in the space. Not saying this isn’t gang activity but since the dots aren’t gps devices, the gangs would need to follow the car and they don’t need to tag it to do that. I doubt the gangs are wasting time driving all over the city trying to find tagged cars.

  7. avatar GS650G says:

    You do realize manufacturers of tires place a red or yellow mark on the tire where it is lightest to assist in mounting away from the valve stem hole, right? The mark on the tire is actually normal. When I mount tires I place the yellow or red mark near the lightest part of the rim , means less weight is required.

    But it must be fun watching everyone try to remove the weight paint from their tires.

    1. avatar Tom says:

      My thoughts on this blog as well.

  8. avatar Todd94590 says:

    I did have something happen @ my outdoor range last month: walking back to car after shooting, noticed someone had placed a red circle-sticker (the kind that you place on targets to cover up previous shots) on my license plate registration sticker.

    fortunately it did come off fairly easily.

    but I still thought, why in the hell… and, glad I noticed it, ’cause that could be reason for po po to pull me over (yearly registration stickers are always a different color– not being able to properly identify whether registration is valid). also, whether worth of mention or not, I have disabled license plates.

    don’t know what went through the mind of “my fellow shooter at the range” to feel it necessary to place a red sticker specifically over my registration sticker/license plate, but nothing to get my panties in a bind over, either.

  9. avatar Dave J says:

    If you snope snopes you get a black mark on your white wall.

  10. avatar Jwhite says:

    I’m sure the NRA sticket didn’t give it away either.

  11. avatar "Dr."Dave says:

    This is exactally the reason why I do not display any firearm related bumper stickers or such things on my home or vehicle. And I encourage everyone else to restrain, too.

    Security>Sharing your oppinions with strangers.

  12. avatar Mark says:

    A lot of car dealers also put marks on cars at wholesale auctions. A little grease pen mark in a discrete location (Like the headlight or the corner of a windshield) is sometimes a signal from a person inspecting cars to the bidder that the car is worth bidding on.

  13. avatar Greg says:

    It makes more sense that gang members cruise the streets and donut stores of a city looking for 10 vehicles out of 1,000,000 though.

    And if I remember correctly, criminals go looking for victims who are armed!

  14. avatar Alany H says:

    Look again at whether your valve stem is in the same area. Gun owners are not targeted as far as I know.

  15. avatar Jennifer W says:

    Not in Texas. but I am in Florida – in washing my car today noticed these marks on both of my front tires. It is spreading. I work at Bass Pro and we sell guns – I am 95% sure it occurred while I was at work. But this is NOT a joke.

  16. avatar tire man says:

    Hate to be the “know it all” here but the painted dots are on almost all tires. They indicate the heavy spot on the tire and they are use to mount the tire. Most times they put them opposite the valve stem. Go ahead check… I’ll wait. By the way my wife’s new set of tires had them and her car has never been to the gun store.

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