Stolen guns can bring bigger crimes

By Ariana Garza

April 19, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – As the debate over gun control continues, many criminals can already get free guns from people who don’t properly secure their legal firearms.

Guns are often stolen from vehicles — some of which are even left unlocked — or from homes during burglaries.

Birmingham Police Lt. Pete Williston said stolen guns can later be used to commit violent crimes, such as robberies or homicides.

Pawn shops work with police to prevent the sale of stolen guns.

“We hold things — if we purchase something — for 18 business days,” Mitch Smith, owner of Golden Pawn and Jewelry, said. “If we pawn something we hold it for two months before it goes out and it gives police ample time to check and see if the gun is not stolen or anything of that nature.”

Pawn shops also use the online database LeadsOnline to run a check of each gun that comes through their doors through a national database that stores information on stolen guns.
If a gun is flagged as stolen, police will step in to investigate.

Smith said someone tries to sell a stolen gun to his shop about once every six months.

That is why he double and triple checks each prospective seller’s information and runs background checks.

In order for police and the national database to be successful, gun owners should keep a record of the make, model, serial number and any other description of each gun.

Having that information handy in the event a gun is stolen will give investigators the best chance of finding it and returning it to you once the investigation is complete.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives — or ATF — provides a free personal firearms record sheet online.

To lower the risk of theft in the first place, Birmingham police recommend always locking your vehicle doors and installing a gun safe in your vehicle.

Police also recommend keeping your gun locked and unloaded at home and secured in a safe.

If you do not have a safe, Lt. Williston recommended a practice called “stealth” which essentially means hiding the gun in a non-obvious place, rather than leaving it on or in your nightstand.