Rash of recent gun store thefts threatens to further increase metro violence

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Gun shop thefts are up over 100 percent nationwide. For the most part, the Kansas City metro has been somewhat insulated from that, until recently.

There have been five gun store burglaries in just two months in the metro. The latest one happened early Thursday morning at The Armory KC on 40 Highway in Independence.

Law enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are scrambling to find these weapons they say are in the hands of criminals.

“Any time that there is a theft from a gun store, those guns are going to the street. We are confident of that,” said ATF spokesman John Ham. “Where else would they be going?”

Dozens of guns were stolen from The Armory KC after burglars tied a truck to the front door and ripped it off.

After a police chase, one juvenile was arrested, and police say four to five other suspects got away with the guns.

“As we have seen over the last few weeks, it continues to be violent crime, violent gun-related crime in and around the city,” Ham said. "ATF’s primary mission in that is to shut down the channels where criminals are getting their guns. As we continue to do that they are looking for new opportunities to replace those guns and get those guns and so unfortunately that has led us to this.”

Brian Becker is the co-owner of Gunner’s Firearms. Several guns were stolen from his Raymore store July 7.

Becker described the break-in, caught on surveillance video: “Three masked suspects broke the glass, tried to pry into the bars but could not pry into the bars. So they rammed the front entrance of the shop with a stolen SUV,” he said.

Brian Becker, co-owner of Gunner’s Firearms

Becker has bars on the windows, a security system and security cameras but said if someone wants to get in, they can no matter what you do.

To try and prevent a repeat, Becker is adding concrete barriers around his shop, much like the ones at Quick’s Guns in Kansas City, Kansas, where they have cameras, a security system, no windows and a trained security dog on site.

On July 17, burglars broke into Tactical Advantage in Overland Park. They lock their weapons up at night, so the burglar got away with just $40 and a pair of gloves.

Federal regulation requires security at licensed gun stores but the law does not go into detail about how to do that.

Until the legislature provides those details, the ATF is doing what it can to educate gun store owners about security to cut off this stream of guns that are used by the bad guys.

“They know they will be able to move these guns very quickly,” Ham said. “So that’s why when a theft like this occurs, ATF and local law enforcement mobilize very quickly because we know the clock is already ticking against us.”

Gun thefts from homes and cars are also in the rise and those can be an even bigger problem to track down.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James was clearly frustrated at a news conference Monday, speaking about the increasing violence in the city.

“We know that a lot of crime guns are guns that are being stolen out of people’s cars and stuff when they leave them unsecured.” James said. “And people break into their cars and take them and we don’t know where they are.”

The ATF has been successful in cutting off many of the channels putting weapons into the black market, so criminals are looking for new ways to replace those guns. That's leading to an increase in gun store burglaries and thefts of guns from homes and cars.

“And it is important for us to know where the crime guns came from because that is one way we may be able to skim the tide,” James said.

Gun shops are required to keep records of serial numbers of the guns in their possession and record who the gun was sold to. That's how the ATF tracks guns used in crimes. There are different rules for private gun owners.

“Our big problem is people who have their homes broken into or people who have guns stolen out of their vehicles often times don't take the time to record that information, so they are not recording the serial number, the model, the make of the gun. We have to have that to report the gun is stolen,” Ham said. “That is the only thing that separates that gun from every other gun int he world, and so if we don’t have that information the gun can never be reported stolen and the percentage of those guns that are out there, we just have no way to measure.”

The ATF is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in The Armory KC burglary. If you know anything call 1-888-ATF-TIPS.