Over the last ten years, more than 82,000 guns stolen in Florida remain missing, Laura Morel reported in November 2017 in joint reports for the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Journalism’s program, Reveal. The study, based on a ten-month investigation of “thousands of law enforcement records,” found that in Tampa Bay alone at least 9,000 stolen guns are missing. In one recent year, 2016, on average at least one gun was reported stolen every hour.
Those guns turn up in the hands of drug dealers and felons, Morel wrote, and some wind up killing people.
Experts say the figures likely underestimate the actual number of missing guns, in part because Florida law does not require gun owners to report gun thefts, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement does not keep track of recovered guns. The Times/Reveal study found that five law enforcement agencies in the state documented nearly 11,000 stolen guns between 2014-2016. Based on this data, only about one in five has been recovered.
Burglaries of cars—many of which were unlocked—and of gun stores account for the great majority of stolen guns. A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Detective, Tom Martin, said, criminals are not buying guns. “They’re stealing them.” As David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard whose focus is gun research, noted, “Basically, the gun owners are arming people we really don’t want to have guns.”
As Morel reported, “There are also more guns to steal.” The number of people owning guns in the state of Florida has spiked over the last decade. For example, in 2007, 438,864 Florida residents had permits to carry concealed weapons; in 2017 that figure reached 1.7 million permit holders.
There has been little corporate media coverage of this topic, despite widespread concern about Florida’s crime rate. In November, WUSF, the Tampa Bay NPR station, ran a brief segment on the story, based on Morel’s reports.
Laura Morel, “82,000 Stolen Guns Are Missing in Florida,” Reveal (Center for Investigative Reporting), November 1, 2017, https://www.revealnews.org/article/82000-stolen-guns-are-missing-in-florida.
Laura Morel, “Thieves Are Breaking into Florida Gun Stores, Often in Brazen Ways,” Reveal (Center for Investigative Reporting), November 1, 2017, https://www.revealnews.org/article/thieves-are-breaking-into-florida-gun-stores-often-in-brazen-ways.
Laura C. Morel, “Unlocked and Loaded,” Tampa Bay Times, November 1, 2017, http://project.tampabay.com/2017/special-report/unlocked-loaded/stolen-guns/.
Laura C. Morel, “Prime Targets,” Tampa Bay Times, November 1, 2017, http://project.tampabay.com/2017/special-report/unlocked-loaded/gun-dealers/
Laura C. Morel, “$ 36 Million Worth of Guns Stolen in Florida in Four Years,” Tampa Bay Times, July 26, 2017, http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/report-36-million-worth-of-guns-stolen-in-florida-in-four-years/2331615.
Student Researcher: Samantha Ring (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)