Securing Your Guns
The Houston Chronicle recently reported that there has been at least 32,000 guns stolen in the city of Houston over an 8- year period. With only seven percent ever recovered, this is reason for concern for every gun owner. Here is a link to the original article, which includes the Stolen Gun Database:
Absent from the Chronicle’s article is any metadata breaking down reported incidences into usable categories, so I extrapolated based on the first one thousand entries. Hopefully, such sampling will present a fairly accurate overview of the overall data and help support my general thesis, which is gun owners need to take more proactive steps to secure their guns. Suffice it to say, the overwhelming majority of these firearms were either taken from a victim’s home or vehicle.
To help determine the most accurate interpretation of information provided in the Stolen Gun Database, I automatically excluded entries which simply shouldn’t have been there. Approximately 10% of the Database doesn’t even appear to be firearms, yet are still included. Items incorrectly recorded as stolen guns include ammunition (i.e. “LIVE ROUNDS“), clips, magazines, tasers, optics, gun cases, etc. and have subsequently been eliminated from my final analysis. On the other hand, items that were likely mislabeled (i.e. “Type“= Ammunition, “Make“= HK, “Caliber“= 45) are still included in the final analysis.
Similarly, I decided not to exclude a number of thefts where obvious clerical errors were made. For example, many non- existent firearms, such as a “fully automatic” Taurus .38, Glock .40, Ruger, etc. or even the curious listing of a Beretta 25 caliber “jet propelled pistol”. To my knowledge, the Italian gun maker never produced a Gyro-Jet type rocket propelled pistol (a rare 1960’s era handgun and commercial flop, immortalized in the Bond film You Only Live Twice), and this was likely just a mislabeled Beretta Model “950 Jetfire”. The others were simply mislabeled as “fully” vs. the correct “semi” auto designation. In either case, I have no doubt that a firearm had been stolen. In addition, upwards of 15% of the stolen guns were classified as “Unknown”. I also chose to count them as stolen guns, despite the fact the owner had no clue what type of gun they owned. In my mind, it’s still reasonable to assume that a gun had indeed been swiped.
Even if you don’t live in Houston, there is much to be learned from the Stolen Gun Database. The most important lesson here is the thieves are out in full force; they are bold, brazen and will go to great lengths to steal your guns. However, 32,ooo+ stolen guns is a staggering number, more than enough to outfit a small army. It’s scary when you stop and think about it. A handful of missing guns is cause for concern, but tens-of-thousands of guns hitting the streets is an absolutely horrifying proposition.
The big question is, where did all of those guns go? The obvious answer is the majority of them ended up on the black market and are now in the hands of even more criminals, where some of them will sadly be used against innocent victims. Don’t get me wrong, the real culprits here are the thieves, and the blame should rest squarely with them. However, as law abiding armed citizens, we also have a responsibility to ensure that our weapons not end up in the wrong hands. Most importantly, we need to make sure the guns remain in our hands to protect us in the future from scumbags like these.
Based on the numbers analyzed, it is fair to assume we are far more likely to have a gun stolen from our homes than anywhere else. In fact, the first priority for many criminals breaking into a home is to steal guns due to their higher street values, and the fact that they’re easier to move than jewelry or electronics. For most of us, the idea that some slimeball broke into the place where we raise our families strikes a primal nerve, making us feel violated and vulnerable. However, the good news is there are many things we can do to minimize the chance of being a victim.
The ultimate solution, especially if you only own one handgun, and then also have a concealed handgun license (CHL) is to always have the gun with you. Or, as much as possible. With a CHL, there are very few places in Texas that prohibit licensed carry, so having it with you at all times significantly minimizes the chance it will get stolen. It will also increase the likelihood of having a gun with you when you need it. Most gun owners in Texas, however, have an entire collection and are forced to consider other options.
If you can afford it, the combination of a monitored home alarm, surveillance cameras and a gun safe are the most effective deterrents against would-be thieves or intruders. In instances where a perpetrator is eventually apprehended, a fair number of them were found to be known associates of someone who previously performed work on the victim’s home. Therefore, it’s important to carefully select contractors and most specifically, screen their employees or sub- contractors as well. Landscape your yard with thorny rosebushes in front of every accessible window. Visibly double brace all sliding doors because burglars are apprehensive about drawing attention to things like the sound of large panes of glass shattering. Unlike alarms or cameras, indoor dogs are unpredictable and criminals just don’t like see or hear a 100lb. Rottweiler flying around the corner.
Make sure you always lock doors and windows. Regularly back up your hard drive (especially pictures) and store them in a safe place– preferably in your fire lined gun vault. Keep valuables away from windows, or where they can be seen from the street. Don’t forget to lock up any gun that is left in the house, and then double check the vault door to make sure it was locked properly before you leave. Install motion sensors on all your outdoor lights. If you regularly travel, install a timer to rotate inside lights. Have someone you trust keep an eye on your house while you’re not there. Remind them it’s important to not only check inside the house, but first visually scan the surrounding neighborhood to determine if anyone is casing your home. Preferably, hide your gun safe using false walls, in a couch, or at least in a remote closet, and then bolt it down.
If you can’t afford a gun safe, find a clever place to hide your guns– besides under a bed or in a dresser drawer– and don’t tell anyone that you own guns. Finally, if you’re a gun owner that has children in the home (defined in Texas as under 17- years of age), your guns must be locked- up when not around to directly supervise, so hiding is not a legal option.
Slightly more than one- third of the remaining stolen guns were taken from a vehicle, while 10% were stolen from a business or commercial location, which we will examine further in Part 2 of this series.