Firearm thefts from vehicles triple over the past decade, data shows

The incidence of firearms being stolen from vehicles in the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase over the past decade, according to an analysis of FBI data by the gun safety group Everytown.

This trend has made vehicle break-ins the predominant source of stolen guns nationwide.

Firearm thefts from vehicles triple

Over the last ten years, the rate of guns stolen from cars has tripled, with the number climbing nearly every year. A significant spike occurred during the coronavirus pandemic, coinciding with an upsurge in weapon purchases nationwide.

In 2022 alone, nearly 112,000 firearms were reported stolen, with more than half of these thefts occurring from cars—often parked in driveways or outside residences. The stolen weapons frequently end up at crime scenes or are used in violent acts. 

For instance, a firearm stolen from an unlocked car in Riverside, Florida, was used in the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old Coast Guard member attempting to thwart a car burglary in July 2021, the Associated Press reported. 

Additionally, stolen guns have been implicated in tragic accidents, such as a case in St. Petersburg, Florida, where a 14-year-old accidentally killed his younger brother with a gun he found, which had been stolen days earlier.

Officials emphasize the need for secure firearm storage

The alarming increase in firearms theft from vehicles has prompted calls from officials for better security measures. 

"People don't go to a mall and steal a firearm from a locked car to go hunting. Those guns are going straight to the street," stated Steve Dettelbach, Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). 

The agency notes that stolen guns are often acquired by individuals involved in criminal activities who cannot legally purchase firearms.

Legislative responses and ongoing challenges

In response to the rising trend, some cities have begun to legislate more stringent measures to secure firearms in vehicles. 

For example, Savannah, Georgia, recently passed an ordinance requiring firearms in cars to be secured. However, such measures face legal challenges and opposition from various groups.

The ATF has also highlighted that theft remains a significant way guns are supplied to criminals, with over 1 million guns reported stolen from individuals between 2017 and 2021.

This surge in gun thefts from cars, despite a general decline in other types of car theft, underscores a growing public safety concern, particularly in states with more relaxed gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.