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”).
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.