Gun thefts fuel a thriving supply chain that provides criminals in Florida with tens of thousands of guns. In 2016 alone, at least one gun was reported stolen, on average, every hour, reports Reveal from the Center of Investigative Reporting and the Tampa Bay Times. The news organizations spent 10 months examining thousands of law enforcement records to chronicle the extent of the stolen gun problem in the state. The guns turn up in the hands of drug dealers and felons; some wind up killing people. Since 2007, at least 82,000 guns have been reported stolen and never found.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement doesn’t keep track of how many stolen guns are recovered. The Times and Reveal obtained data from five law enforcement agencies in Florida and found that between 2014 and 2016, they documented nearly 11,000 stolen guns. Only about 1 in 5 has been recovered. Car burglaries across the state are driving the epidemic. Many gun owners leave their vehicles unlocked, making it easy for thieves to slip inside. In Jacksonville, more than 1,000 firearms were stolen from unsecured cars in total during 2015 and 2016. Gun stores offer another easy target. Firearms stolen from these businesses during burglaries have more than quadrupled over the last five years, according to federal data, as owners leave large caches of weapons in glass display cases at night. “That is how the criminals are getting armed,” said Jacksonville Sheriff’s Detective Tom Martin. “They’re not going to go to a store to buy guns. They’re stealing them.” There are also more guns to steal. In Florida, the number of people carrying guns has surged in the past decade, from 438,864 in 2007 to 1.7 million concealed permit holders this year.