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GunsBetween 300,000 and 600,000 guns are stolen in U.S. every year – an average of 1,600 every day

Published 21 September 2016

Between 300,000 and 600,000 are stolen in the United States every year – for an average of more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, or more than one every minute. The number of gun deaths in the United States averages 33,000 a year, and the number of gun injuries averages 120,000 a year. The researchers note that the 1,600 guns stolen on average every day provide a weapon for each and every instance of gun violence – death or injury — in the United States each year, several times over.

As states and municipalities relax restrictions on where gun may be carried and stored, the frequency of privately owned firearms being stolen has increased dramatically. According to a new survey of gun ownership by researchers at Harvard University and Northeastern University, between 300,000 and 600,000 are stolen in the United States every year – for an average of more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, or more than one every minute.

The number of gun deaths in the United States averages 33,000 a year, and the number of gun injuries averages 120,000 a year. The researchers note that the 1,600 guns stolen on average every day provide a weapon for each and every instance of gun violence – death or injury — in the United States each year, several times over.

The Guardian reports that The Trace examined data from police departments in twenty-five large American cities and found that thousands of firearms were reported stolen from cars last year, and that in most cities the police reports that the numbers are on the rise.

Police officials told The Trace that thieves no longer break into vehicles to steal electronic gear, but rather for the specific purpose of finding firearms.

In 2015, the twenty-five police departments surveyed received reports of about 4,800 guns stolen from vehicles. In fourteen of the fifteen cities which also provided 2014 data, the number of stolen guns increased year over year by an average of 40 percent.

The Guardian notes that in many of the cities the rise in gun thefts followed the removal of restrictions which made it illegal to carry guns in vehicles, or leaving the guns there. Experts say that the number of guns reported stolen from vehicles is probably much lower than the number of guns stolen because, as research suggests, many owners never report losses and thefts to police – and in most states, gun owners are not required to do so. Even in states that require owners to tell police if their gun is stolen, the enforcement is of the requirement is lax at best.

There is also no publicly accessible repository of information about firearms stolen from cars.

Researchers say that the stolen firearms, mostly handguns, are moving directly from legal possessors to illegal hands. There is an irony here: owners who keep firearms for self-protection, but who are careless in the way they carry or store their firearms, are arming the very people they fear.

— Read more in Lois Beckett, “Gun inequality: US study charts rise of hardcore super owners,” Guardian (19 September 2016); Brian Feskos, “Up to 600,000 guns are stolen every year in the US – that’s one every minute,” Guardian (20 September 2016); Kate Masters, “Fear of Other People Is Now the Primary Motivation for American Gun Ownership, a Landmark Survey Finds,” The Trace (19 September 2016); and Alex Yablon, “This Is What the Modern Gun Owner Looks Like,” The Trace (20 September 2016)