Securing Your Guns, Part 2
In Part 1, we examined Houston’s Stolen Gun Database and minimizing the possibility of having a gun stolen from our homes. The focus of Part 2 will be to examine the second most likely place to have a gun stolen, and that’s from a vehicle. Since there’s a roughly 90% chance a firearm will be either stolen from a vehicle or home, I’m not going to waste time discussing the remaining places because they simply don’t affect that many gun owners. Suffice it to say, it’s never a good idea to leave a gun at work. Even if your employer doesn’t prohibit carrying a gun on the job (which many do not), and you don’t work where guns are legally prohibited (i.e. courthouses, racetracks, etc.), there’s simply no reason to leave a gun where it can be stolen. In addition, a number of non- vehicular / non- home gun thefts ended up missing from places like police stations, Pawn shops, gun stores, gun shows, flea markets, etc.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s a sinking feeling arriving back at your vehicle and then discovering someone broke in and took your gun. Even worse is the realization that you’re now unarmed and run the very real risk of getting robbed and killed with your own gun — that is, if the perpetrator is still hanging around waiting for you. It’s not anger or righteous indignation that kick in at times like this, but apprehension because the situation is far from over. Guns certainly aren’t cheap, but the money you’re now out will be the least of your concerns. Rather than jumping in and driving off (assuming the bad guy didn’t disable your vehicle), you still have to wait for the police to file a stolen gun report. Then just pray you weren’t complacent enough to leave anything inside the vehicle indicating where you live, or you will also have to worry about the criminal making a house call with an encore performance.
Perhaps the best way to prevent a gun from being stolen is avoid leaving it in the vehicle in the first place. With a Texas concealed handgun license (CHL), there are a limited amount of places that prohibit legal carry, so avoiding them is not that difficult. The vast majority of the population will not frequent places like racetracks, school buildings, court houses, Federal buildings, correctional facilities, amusement parks, certain sporting events (high school, collegiate or professional), secured areas of airports, and of course, polling places are only encountered on the day of an election.
Hospitals require effective notice, but most readily post. Churches and Synagogues also require effective notice, where most pastors and Rabbi’s are likely packing themselves (the Shepard protecting the congregation) and as a rule of thumb, do not post. Because a license holder is legally required to maintain normal use of mental or physical faculties, most wisely choose to avoid alcohol or bars while being armed due to the serious penalties involved. Personally, I refuse to do business with any merchant that displays a 30.06 sign, which forbids me from protecting myself or my family. With a few exceptions, I can honestly say it’s been several years since I’ve de-armed and left a gun in my truck.
Sometimes, places posted or prohibited are simply unavoidable. And what about gun owners who don’t have a CHL, or if you live in a town like myself where the largest employer in the area — by a long shot — is Texas A&M University, which expressly forbids carry into buildings? As a recap, under the Texas Castle Doctrine, citizens are allowed to carry a concealed handgun — without a CHL — at home, at work (assuming no policy against it) or in the vehicle. To be eligible, you cannot be a prohibited person (i.e. felon, domestic violence, etc.), member of a street gang, cannot be engaged in a criminal activity and must keep the gun concealed at all times. The law also permits legal transport to and from Castle Doctrine places, provided you only carried it from your home to work and then back again.
Without a doubt, when forced to leave a gun in the vehicle, the best way to prevent it from being stolen is to lock it up. Prices range anywhere from $16.34 for a compact SentrySafe on Wal-Mart’s website, to just over $2K for a deluxe product like the TruckVault “All Weather Extreme” two drawer system. Needless to say, Champion Firearms does not sell any of the vehicle anti- theft products, but a simple Google search will yield an almost endless array of options.
After making the recommendation to keep a gun locked up when leaving it in the vehicle, many customers initially don’t like the idea. Their main concern is over quick access to the weapon in case of an emergency. While I’ve never seen a study to support my theory, I suspect you are hundreds of times more likely to have an unsecured gun stolen from the vehicle than need instant access in an emergency. I’m strictly basing my assertion on previous experience. In 21+ years as a gun dealer, we’re contacted on a regular basis by customers or law enforcement officer’s (LEO’s) about firearms purchased from out store that had been stolen. The vast majority, however, were either customers asking us to keep an out for the stolen gun, or LEO’s / customers requesting serial numbers to file a stolen gun report. Not once has anyone every told me they ran back to a vehicle, where the act of quickly retrieving firearm saved someone’s life. I’m not stating it’s impossible, just pointing out it’s far more likely to be stolen when not locked up. The numerous accounts I’ve heard about over the years (myself included) where a gun saved someone’s life was when an individual was carrying a gun, or when someone was inside the vehicle when an incident occurred.
Which brings us to our next point — in case you need to file a police report, I highly recommended recording your gun’s serial numbers and keeping them on file in a safe place. In a pinch, if you didn’t record your serial number and had not purchased the gun from an FFL dealer, one tip that regularly pays off is to check the original manufacturer’s box — which often has the make, model and serial number on a printed label. If purchased from a dealer, they will have the serial number on record and should have a copy of the receipt for insurance purposes.
Always try to park in front of security cameras, security guards, well lit or well trafficked areas. Don’t plaster gun bumper stickers on your vehicle as they are advertising billboards directing criminals to vandalize your car first. Thugs love events where gun owners congregate. If such festivities require you to leave a gun locked in the vehicle, call the promoter and find out what security precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of all attendees. If none, insist they hire an off duty officer to monitor the parking lot. It’s not uncommon to hear about events like banquets, VFW hall gatherings or even gun shows having dozens of guns stolen from the parking lot. Finally, if you have no other choice but to leave an unlocked gun inside your vehicle, at least unload the gun and take the ammo with you. The criminal may get your gun, but will not be able to use it against you. With practice, it only takes a second to reload a gun when entering the vehicle.