Although Second Amendment loyalists and gun-control advocates have widely divergent views regarding firearms, the vast majority of folks on either side of this issue agree that violent criminals shouldn't have access to guns.
But according to new data provided by the Denver Police Department, dozens of these weapons are stolen in the Mile High City every month, adding up to hundreds over the course of a year.
Indeed, more than 500 firearms were stolen in Denver during each of the past three years.
Gun-control advocate Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed during the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, isn't surprised by these numbers. Indeed, he points out that they're part of a worrisome national trend.
"A gun is stolen in the U.S. every two minutes," Phillips writes as part of an email commentary on the subject included below in its entirety. "These stolen guns pose a significant threat to public safety, are often used in violent crimes, and are virtually untraceable by law enforcement investigations."
Gun thefts tend to make headlines in the Denver area only under unusual circumstances. Note the 2013 burglary of Wheat Ridge's Gunsmoke Guns shortly after the Discovery Channel canceled American Guns, the reality-TV show starring the shop's owner, Rich Wyatt, who was sentenced to 78 months in prison earlier this year for conspiring to deal firearms without a license and multiple tax charges.
Offenses can also get attention based on sheer volume and the types of firearms involved. Take the January 2016 arrests of Jasirii Thomas and two other alleged Denver-area gang members. They were taken into custody on federal gun accusations related to seventeen high-powered weapons, including a Glock 26, a Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver, an AR-15, a Jimenez Arms .380 caliber handgun and a Mac 11. Photos from the haul can be seen in this post.
Otherwise, gun thefts in Denver and beyond tend to take place outside the public's view. But they create the potential for tragedy in the community, as noted by Steve Tarzia, the man behind GunMemorial.org, whom we recently profiled for a post about his chronicling of Coloradans killed by guns.
"Most everybody agrees that those with a history of violent crime should not have access to firearms," Tarzia notes via email. "But our current laws and habits do little to block felons from getting guns. Most states do little to hold gun owners accountable for safe storage."
Tarzia adds: "If you own a gun, you're responsible for keeping it out of the wrong hands; this is for your safety and everyone else's. We require registration of automobiles, but there is no federal gun registry. Law enforcement has no way to track firearms recovered from crime scenes and to trace back to illegal suppliers of guns."
Beyond registering guns, Tarzia acknowledges, "I would go a step further and suggest that firearms be officially inspected every few years to ensure they were not stolen or sold on the black market. When lives are at risk, we should be proactive instead of reactive. You can see on the website the cost of gun violence in the U.S. and it's simply unacceptable."
The same can be said about the amount of gun thefts in Denver. The DPD pulled together statistics from 2013 through July 23, 2018, and they show the number of stolen firearms has been on a generally upward trajectory.
In 2013 and 2014, fewer than 500 firearms were stolen in Denver, the figures reveal. For the three years that followed, the total was well over 500, with 2017 topping out at 599. And while the pace in 2018 to date is a bit slower, the final sum will likely be around 500 again.
Moreover, the thefts are happening on a regular basis. The fewest firearms stolen during any month over the past five years or so was seventeen in March 2014. The most: 87 in July 2017.
Continue to see the number of firearms stolen in Denver each month since 2013, followed by Lonnie Phillips's statement about the growing gun-theft problem.
STOLEN FIREARMS IN DENVER
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July: 26 through July 23, 2018
Total: 271 through July 23, 2018
Comment on the issue of gun theft by Lonnie Phillips:
According to the Dept. of Justice, 40 percent of criminals obtain their gun illegally. The Center for American Progress did a report on stolen guns in America about a year ago. They looked at the quantity and value of guns stolen from both gun dealers and private owners, revealing that a gun is stolen in the U.S. every two minutes. These stolen guns pose a significant threat to public safety, are often used in violent crimes, and are virtually untraceable by law enforcement investigations. Only nine states and Washington, D.C., have laws mandating that gun owners report when guns in their possession are stolen or lost, and there is nothing in federal law that requires gun dealers to implement any specific security measures to help protect their dangerous inventory. According to FBI data, nearly half a billion dollars' worth of guns were stolen from individual gun owners between 2012 and 2015, amounting to an estimated 1.2 million guns.
Using data from this report Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced legislation, “The SECURE Firearm Storage Act," to help prevent thefts from gun stores. This bill required licensed gun dealers to implement certain security measures to ensure that guns are stored securely during non-business hours. This bill includes straightforward, commonsense improvements to reduce the supply of stolen guns and lower violence in our communities, but has been lingering in committee for over a year now.
While we are working through our legislature to get a handle on the proliferation of guns everywhere, pro gun groups like the NRA and and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners are doing everything they can to stop us. The beat goes on.