How Many Guns Stolen Each Year? The DOJ Has An Answer

Someone stopped by searching for “how many guns are stolen each year.”

That has been somewhat of a puzzle, since surveys have consistently shown that a total of approximately 400,000 guns are stolen each year, with about 250,000 of those reported to police. The Justice Department has this study essentially verifying the surveys – and conventional wisdom.(PDF)

Briefly quoting the DOJ report:

About 1.4 million guns, or an annual average of 232,400, were stolen during burglaries and other property crimes in the six-year period from 2005 through 2010.

On average, firearms were stolen in an annual average of about 4% of the 2.4 million burglaries occurring each year, in 2% of the 529,200 robberies, and in less than 1% of the 13.6 million other crimes involving theft from 2005 through 2010.

2011 Percentage of Homes With Guns by Region, Gallup

This study, taken from data generated by the National Crime Survey, is not well documented. In addition it contains several highly questionable statements – including one that the Gallup poll shows the number of properties with guns has declined from 51% in 1993 to 41% in 2010. The chart from Gallup is on the left, and you can click on it for a clearer view.

As you can see, the percentage of households whose owners admit they have a gun on the property is up from 52 percent to 54 percent in the South: up from 48% to 52% in the Midwest: flat from 43% to 43% in the West: and up from 29% to 36% in the East. One flat and three increases a decrease does not make. Except perhaps in a world where there are 57 American States.

Furthermore, as I have pointed out many times, the response to polls depends on public perception of the threat an honest answer would incur. That is clearly seen in the “east” line, where the fear of gun confiscation Gotham Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun drive engendered resulted in a sharp drop in affirmative answers.

However, while it is possible for residents of “Gallups East” to throw 14 million guns away to drop the percentage of dwellings with guns from 33 percent to 23 percent, it is not possible for “easterners” to have purchased 16 million guns in one year to make up for the loss and account for the 13 percent one year increase, from 23 percent to 36 percent. Obviously, a high percentage of “easterners” were uncomfortable with a truthful answer in 2010.

Two million new families with guns is about what I would expect, given the number of guns sold overall, and the number of NICS checks recorded for the area. I will look into that in more detail. With the caveat to take everything in this politically influenced “study” with extreme caution, here is the DOJ’s bottom line (click to embiggen):

The key sentence in that conclusory paragraph is this, the penultimate sentence. Only about half of all violent crimes and forty percent of property crimes are reported to the police.

At that rate, the DOJ conclusion that 232,000 guns are stolen each year and independent surveys showing 380,000 to 430,000 guns stolen are in the same range. In the meantime, the estimate that the underworld has some sixteen million guns available lacks confirming data but is credible from a number of standpoints.

Not the least indicator of how common guns are in the underworld is the startling speed with which a released convict can walk out of prison and obtain a gun.


About Stranger

Extranos Alley is a Collaborate effort to provide up to information on the relationship between restrictive gun laws and violent crime; as well as other related topics. While emphasis is on United States gun laws and crime, we also provide data on crime trends world wide.
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2 Responses to How Many Guns Stolen Each Year? The DOJ Has An Answer

  1. Richard Mertens says:

    I’d say the gun laws against fully automatic firearms and sawed off shotguns have been highly effective. State or municipal regulation is useless if all one has to do is take a short drive into another jurisdiction. Better yet, just go through guns for sale websites and get one from a private seller. No background check required.

  2. Stranger says:

    Richard, the question is not whether or not the ban on automatic weapons or sawed off shotguns has been effective but whether those bans were justified. On a basis of danger to the public, almost certainly not.

    As far as “going through guns for sales websites,” most gun sales websites set the price for all guns of a type at the maximum the market will bear. The street price of a like new Smith and Wesson M&P .40 in New York is $140, pay the money to your pusher and pick your gun up in a half an hour. Tonight’s Gunbroker price for a similar pistol is $675.

    Joe Blow in Stamford, who has an M&P and needs to pay a car note will ask $750, and grudgingly come down to $700. Or to $675 if you wave Franklins in his face.

    As a result, individual to individual gun sales very seldom arm criminals.


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