A rash of gun store thefts has alarmed law enforcement officials amid widespread protests accompanied by looting and vandalism across the U.S., Politico reports. In the last days of May and first week of June, there were more than 90 attempted or successful burglaries of gun stores, says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. More than 1,000 guns were stolen in that period. ATF’s Tom Chittum says, “It’s the biggest spike I have ever seen of gun store burglaries.” Protests against police brutality and racism were overwhelmingly peaceful, and many law enforcement officers drew criticism for heavy-handed responses. Some people who attended protests also engaged in looting and arson, leading to a federal crackdown that has seen charges filed against dozens of individuals.
Chittum said of the thefts, “I think people realized that police are occupied, businesses may be unattended, so they strike under those circumstances.” Advocates of tighter gun laws say the burglary surge is evidence that governments should require gun store owners to do more to secure their inventory. The gun industry opposes such requirements as too onerous. ATF usually gets reports of one or two burglaries per day targeting licensed firearms dealers, but on May 31, it received reports of 29, putting an unprecedented demand on bureau resources. There were more than 100 arson incidents in Minneapolis-St. Paul and hundreds more in Chicago among 900 cases around the U.S.