Analysis of FBI Data Spanning 271 Cities Across 38 States, Shows Average Of At Least One Gun Stolen From A Car Every 15 Minutes
A Decade Ago, Less Than a Quarter of Gun Thefts Were From Cars; In 2020, Over Half Were; More Stolen Guns Come From Cars Parked at Home than Any Other Source
Five Cities With the Most Guns Stolen From Cars Include: Memphis, TN, Chattanooga, TN, Columbia, SC, North Charleston, SC, and Warner Robins, GA
NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund today released first-of-its-kind analysis on gun thefts from cars over the last decade. Researchers analyzed the most recently available FBI crime data, spanning 271 small to large size cities in 38 states. The analysis revealed that at least one gun is stolen from a car every 15 minutes, on average, which is likely an undercount since only 15 states require gun owners to report lost and stolen guns. Research also revealed that the rate of gun thefts from cars increased 225 percent over the past decade. Gun thefts from cars divert them from the legal market, and pose risks of guns being trafficked and used in crimes.
“More guns stolen from cars means more guns entering the black market,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “This is the logical conclusion of the gun industry’s desire to arm people just about everywhere — and criminals have taken note and realized that cars are ripe for the picking.”
“The gun lobby’s dream of guns everywhere, for anyone, no questions asked, is a recipe for more guns being left in cars and thus more guns stolen from cars and into the hands of criminals,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “The best way to prevent guns from being lost or stolen is to not display them in car windows. Instead, store them securely, meaning they’re unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition.”
“The research is clear: guns stolen from cars are rising, dangerous, and are responsible for a tremendous amount of violence in our communities,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. “We need common-sense laws that ensure responsible gun owners aren’t inadvertently contributing to violent crime and my administration is committed to working with our legislators, community leaders, and local law-enforcement to keep our neighborhoods safe.”
“We have been extremely vocal here in Columbia, S.C. about the violent crime epidemic caused by criminals having easy access to firearms through auto break-ins,” said Chief W.H. Holbrook, police chief of Columbia, South Carolina. “73% of guns reported stolen this year came from auto break-ins, and more alarming, 68% came from unsecured vehicles. Our pleas for properly securing firearms often falls on deaf ears. We will continue to bring attention to this issue and ask our elected officials to take legislative action that holds criminals more accountable for gun thefts, illegal gun possession and subsequent gun crimes.”
“This first-of-its-kind analysis is sounding the alarm about the dangerous trend of guns stolen from cars,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, senior director of research for Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “Gun thefts from cars have become the largest source of stolen guns – one that continues to rise along with rising rates of gun sales and violence. This analysis reveals the importance of storing firearms securely at all times and in all locations.”
Additional key findings in cities that report crime data to the FBI:
- A decade ago, less than a quarter of gun thefts were from cars; in 2020, over half were.
- 2019–2020 saw recent history’s biggest spike in gun thefts from cars, in unison with spikes in gun sales, crime gun recoveries, and gun homicides.
- Gun thefts from cars divert guns away from the legal market, making them particularly dangerous and hard to track.
- Cars parked at residences (in driveways, outside homes, etc.) are the most common source of stolen guns, demonstrating the importance of securely storing guns at all times and locations.
Common-sense measures like laws requiring secure firearm storage and that gun owners report lost or stolen guns to police, public awareness campaigns—such as Be SMART—and devices that make it easier to securely store guns in cars, can contribute to responsible gun ownership, preventing thefts from cars and the acts of violence that can follow. Right now, 15 states require gun owners to report lost and stolen guns and 23 states require gun owners to securely store their firearms, but there is still more to be done. Many of the laws don’t require secure storage in cars. Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers have been working this session to pass legislation on secure storage and lost and stolen reporting of guns in Alaska, California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.
The new analysis comes as gun violence continues to devastate communities every day and some state legislatures across the country continue to weaken their state’s gun laws – over the objection of advocates and law enforcement – and push policies like permitless carry and bills to arm teachers, expand Shoot First laws, and nullify federal gun laws. Analysis by Everytown shows that states with weaker gun laws are associated with higher rates of gun deaths and that strong gun laws save lives.
Last month, Everytown for Support Fund released new data and analysis on road rage shootings in the United States which revealed that over 500 people were shot and injured or killed – 44 people per month– by road rage incidents in 2021. The latest analysis reflects an increase from the previous six years. In fact, in 2021, a person was shot and either wounded or killed in a road rage incident every 17 hours. So far in 2022, there have been at least 144 incidents of road rage with a gun.