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Somebody Stole My Gun!

May 30, 2023
Mike Sampson

One of a gun owner’s worst nightmares happened to a good friend and Gun Talk reader. His pistol went missing from his SUV.

My friend sent me an e-mail and said he was on a routine visit to the local gym and when he looked in the driver’s door storage area, his .380, in its holster, was not there.

“I’m not sure where or when it disappeared,” he said. “I leave the gun in the door and always lock the SUV. The only time I don’t lock things up is when the car is in my locked garage.”

Apparently there was no forced entry, but how or when someone grabbed the pistol is a mystery. My friend speculated the pistol could have fallen out when he opened the door, and didn’t notice, but he said that never happened in the two years he’d kept the pistol there.

My friend added that he does not carry as often as he should when shopping, despite living in a Constitutional-carry state. That means his firearm often stays in the SUV.

Gun Talk readers need to keep firearms security on the front burner at all times, and my friend does. So how could something like this happen and what should one do if your firearm goes missing?

When I got his e-mail, I called my friend and asked if he had notified the county sheriff’s office. He doesn’t have a local police department where he lives. My friend said he’d not thought about notifying law enforcement, but would do so immediately. I also advised him to notify his insurance agent.

Additionally, I asked my friend about any records of the purchase along with the pistol’s serial number to give to law enforcement. He said he had all of that information, so good record keeping on his part.

Two days after the gun disappeared, my friend went to the sheriff’s office and a deputy filed a report.

Several days later, a deputy called and said the office had found a pistol, but it was a 9mm. Good followup already.

Personal Defense World in a May 2022 article reported that:

It is important that you report the loss or theft immediately. The faster you report it, the faster it can be found. Once it is reported, your local law enforcement will enter it into a gun serial number database. As a result, it will be listed as stolen, and other law enforcement officers can be on the lookout.

And as my friend decided, always follow up with law enforcement to check on status. He plans a weekly call. As with everyone else, law-enforcement agencies are busy too, so they may forget to inform you if they find your gun. Not to mention, it is always possible that it was entered into the system incorrectly. It is always good to follow up periodically to check the status in either case.

A USACarry article said that 300,000 to 600,000 firearms are stolen every year (about one per minute at the high end), and thefts from vehicles are common. Smash the window, search and grab is a typical gun thief’s technique. Of course, an unlocked vehicle is theft waiting to happen.

The Trace, in an October 2021 article, wrote that federally licensed firearm dealers are required to report guns missing from their inventories to local authorities and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) within 48 hours. Federal firearm licensees reported 12,981 guns lost or stolen in U.S. states and territories in 2020, the most recent year such data was available, according to the ATF.

Theft from individual gun owners is not as easy to calculate. There is no federal requirement for gun owners to report their lost or stolen weapons, and only 11 states and the District of Columbia have implemented their own requirements. Therefore, the best estimates come from FBI data and gun owner surveys.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which compiles crime stats from 15,875 of 18,674 U.S. law enforcement agencies around the country, said gun owners in 2020 reported more than $135 million worth of firearms stolen, the most recent year data is available.

With a value of $450 (the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates the average price per stolen gun is between $400 and $500), that comes out to about 300,394 guns reported stolen from private owners in 2020.

To characterize firearms theft my friend experienced as just an expensive inconvenience truly is wrong. While some firearms do return to their owners, many wind up with bad guys or even overseas, adding to the theft nightmare. I’m hoping my friend gets positive news.

For an interesting review of firearms thefts across the USA and state rankings, take a look at States Where the Most Guns Are Stolen ( My friend lives in Arkansas, which ranks sixth with nearly 4,000 gun thefts per year.

As I have written before, patronizing a gun-free zone forces a tough decision on what to do with your carry piece. If one does have a choice to do business with a gun-friendly firm, do that. Many of us in some areas simply have no such choice. But carry where and when you can. The safest storage for a firearm is when it is with you.

As Gun Talk and CCW readers know all too well, firearms retention extends beyond the waistband, ankle, shoulder or purse if we want to Stay safe, be prepared. ~ Mike

Mike Sampson
Mike now calls Northwestern Arkansas home, but has lived and worked in several states and internationally. He has been an independent contractor and consultant since 2006 specializing in risk management, emergency management and training. In addition to work as a law-enforcement planner and technical writer with the Boise, Idaho, Police Department, he has experience in journalism, crop and animal agriculture, dryland farming for 20 years in western Kansas, plant and animal diseases, pandemic influenza, agroterrorism, bioterrorism, food safety and healthcare marketing.

He has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and has newspaper and agency writing and editing experience. At Washington State University in Pullman, he earned a master’s degree emphasizing adult education and communications.

While living in Lander, WY, Mike provided photographic coverage of the One-Shot Antelope Hunt for three years, and got to meet and accompany folks such as Chuck Yeager, Carroll Shelby, Buzz Aldrin, Dale Robertson and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf on their hunts. He also worked as an outfitter’s guide.

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