Police announced this week the arrest of a man and a woman accused of breaking into vehicles in the Atlanta area in what appeared to be a coordinated campaign to steal firearms, reports The Trace. Authorities said the duo had stolen more than 40 firearms in 161 vehicle break-ins since January. That means that about one out of every four cars they ransacked had a gun in it. The case highlights a nationwide trend experts say stems from increasingly lax state rules around storing and carrying guns. Many states, including Texas, Georgia, Nevada, and Kansas, have passed laws in recent years to make it easier for gun owners to go armed into public spaces, shoot in self defense from behind the wheel, or stash weapons in their cars. As those statutes pave the way for gun owners to bring their weapons along whenever they leave home, some of those owners wind up stowing their firearms in the glovebox, the center console, or under their seats.
Police data shows thefts of firearms from vehicles are rising in many large cities. A review of Atlanta police data found that the city recorded at least 850 guns stolen from cars in 2015, almost double the number reported in 2009. In Savannah, Georgia’s third-largest city, gun thefts from cars rose nearly 30 percent in 2015 over the year before, from 140 to 181. “These are staggering statistics that raise an eyebrow and cause great concern for law enforcement,” said Frank Fernandez of the International Association of Chiefs of Police firearms committee. “Out of the all the things we’re seeing, the most consistent problem is thefts from motor vehicles, and many of these weapons are being used in violent crimes, armed robberies and assaults.” This October, the group plans to premiere a public service announcement at its annual conference. The spot will urge gun owners to adopt more secure storage practices by showing what sometimes happens after a gun goes missing.