Half of all firearms stolen in America came from a parked vehicle, but attempts to keep the trend from growing further are meeting resistance
As the culture war around firearms has intensified, a subset of gun owners has taken to putting bumper stickers on their vehicles emblazoned with the message “Come and take them.” To some thieves, that’s less of a defiant provocation than it is an open invitation.
That’s because over the last decade, parked vehicles, especially those that have bumper stickers with pro-gun messages on them, have become increasingly targeted by thieves. In fact, in 2020, parked vehicles were the largest source of stolen firearms in America.
According to research from the gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety, a quarter of all stolen guns in America came from a parked vehicle a decade ago, reports the New York Times. In 2022, more than half of all stolen guns came from a parked vehicle.
advertisement scroll to continue
For example, in Nashville, the number of firearms taken from parked vehicles increased nearly tenfold over the last decade. In 2012, just 152 guns were stolen from vehicles. In 2022, that figure had risen to 1,378.
Read: Ford Dealer Launches “God, Guns and America” Campaign Which Gives Customers A Gun And A Bible
Those stolen guns can then be used in crimes, as happened with a Glock 9mm pistol stolen from a Dodge Charger in Nashville in 2022. Less than a year later, the gun was connected to three shootings that wounded at least five people.
It’s hard to know exactly how big of a problem stolen guns are across the country, because just 15 states require owners to report them as stolen. However, increasing that number is not where lawmakers are starting. Fearing a culture war, there is bipartisan support for rules that would require owners to store their guns in locked compartments when they park their vehicles.
In Tennessee, a pair of bills seek to outlaw the practice of leaving a firearm in a vehicle unless it is “locked within the trunk, utility or glove box, or a locked container securely affixed,” with violators required to attend a gun safety course.
But the National Rifle Association (N.R.A.) and other advocates object to these measures. They argue that the laws target victims of robbery, and say that such measures might discourage owners from reporting their guns as stolen. Lawmakers are trying to work around these objections.
“We’re likening it to a speeding ticket,” said Caleb Hemmer, a Tennessee state representative. “We know we’re in a conservative state, and we’re trying to convince people to be responsible gun owners.”
Meanwhile, others reject the N.R.A.’s arguments altogether. Republican Tennessee Representative John Gillespie, who co-sponsored Hemmer’s bill, was frustrated by the objections.
“I’m more than willing to increase the penalties for people stealing a gun,” said Gillespie. “But are we really that burdened by asking someone to properly lock up their gun in a vehicle so it can’t be stolen?”
While some states, such as California, New York, and New Jersey already have laws on the books mandating that firearms be locked in a secure compartment, they are being resisted in other states. For example, Virginia recently tried and failed to introduce such a measure.
Meanwhile, cities trying to enforce their own rules face difficulties when people come in from out of town. Still, they are trying. In many, authorities are simply giving in-vehicle gun safes away to encourage their use, and curb this dangerous trend.