The Trace reports that privately owned firearms are stolen in America with alarming frequency: between 300,000 and 600,000 every year, a forthcoming survey of gun ownership by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities will show. At the high end, that’s more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, more than one every minute. The survey, which will be published next year, offers the most comprehensive and accurate evaluation of gun ownership in America in more than two decades. A summary of its major findings was provided in advance to The Trace and The Guardian.
The research reveals a country whose gun-owning citizens are increasingly worried about the threat of violence — even though crime rates have fallen — and are responding to that fear by purchasing handguns in big numbers. Since 1994, the number of guns in the U.S. has increased by 70 million to an estimated 270 million. Many states have specifically rolled back restrictions against leaving firearms in vehicles. In interviews, gun owners said they took their guns with them when they traveled by car — and because they felt empowered to do so, or because they underestimated the risk — they left them there when they worked, shopped, or played. Thieves have apparently caught on to this trend and steal thousands of guns from cars.