Gun Owners Have Rights – and Responsibilities

Guess how many stolen guns are out there floating around America? (Hint: its in the millions!)

These are guns that most frequently make their way to the criminal element and are used with impunity because the shooter knows it will be difficult to tie to them to the weapon. Imagine the trouble this causes law enforcement as they try to find the perpetrator of a deadly crime in which a stolen gun was used. There are no sales receipts floating around when guns change hands this way.

In the wake of each of America’s never-ending string of mass shootings there are widespread demands for new laws to restrict gun and ammunition sales, to mandate stronger background checks or to find ways to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. But next to nothing is said about irresponsible gun owners, manufacturers and sellers who fail to keep their weapons safe from theft.  It is time to talk about that.

A study of nationwide police reports from the decade between 2006 and 2016 shows that more than two million guns were stolen from gun shops, homes, vehicles and from people who were carrying their weapon in public. The actual number of filched firearms that decade was probably considerably higher since many gun thefts are not reported to law enforcement.  The latest annual estimates come from calendar year 2016 when at least 237,000 guns were reported stolen. If that trend continues, we’ll have another million missing guns saturating the landscape in no time, and all because gun owners didn’t take personal responsibility to do the right thing.

Good grief, we buy cars, backyard swimming pools and chain saws that come with the implied responsibility to keep them secure and safe from ne’er-do-wells. Why should an item that can easily kill another person be treated any less carefully?

Stuffing a gun in your underwear drawer or nightstand or in your car’s center console is not the right way to store a  firearm, especially if it is loaded. Yet this happens in households across the country.   Setting aside the issue of keeping a gun safe if there are children in the house (a trigger lock is always a good idea), a firearm owner also automatically inherits the responsibility to keep their gun away from the criminal element.

This is what many home burglars are looking for …

Any cop on the beat will tell you there’s a class of crooks who break into homes specifically looking for guns to steal. Please, don’t make it easy for them. Guns need to be stored in sturdy locked safes or bolted down lock boxes, preferably unloaded and with ammunition kept in a separate location.  Keep these safeguards in your bedroom if you are worried about nighttime intruders.

Reader Michael Daly of Gallup, New Mexico recently wrote to tell me his is worried about this issue and related a personal story.

“A local FBI friend of mine said that when he has to go someplace without his gun he breaks it down, leaving parts in several places in his car and carries a part with him so if the thief does get in he or she will only get parts, not a whole weapon.”  A nifty idea, I’d say.

It’s not just citizen gun owners who have weapons for their own personal use and protection that need to be aware.  Those involved in manufacturing and selling guns also have a legal and civic responsibility to make sure their product doesn’t land in the wrong hands. According to the feds assigned to monitor this those businesses aren’t performing their duty very well.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports that since 2012 there has been a significant rise in the number of guns that have gone missing from federal firearms licensees (FFLs), those being either individuals or companies that are approved to manufacture, import or sell firearms.  Burglaries at FFLs locations went up by 45%. Robberies increased a staggering 175% allowing thousands more guns out into the criminal underground.

So, with this in mind how about Congress pass a law requiring mandatory, strong security measures at these firearm locations? Safeguards like alarm systems and surveillance cameras, specific guidelines for storing guns after hours and more ATF compliance inspections. Oh, and while they’re at it how about doling out stiff fines and even jail sentences for those civilians and businesses that fail to report a stolen gun that is later used in a crime.

If you consider yourself responsible enough to own a gun or sell guns, please understand the rest of us are counting on you to do the right thing. Everyone understands the constitutional right American citizens have to own a gun – or multiple guns – but anyone with a brain understands that that gun, put into the wrong hands, can and often does have deadly consequences.  If you’re not part of the solution you are part of the problem.



  1. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Reader Bruce Krohn writes:

    I do not understand your basic premise. Your theme seems to be that an inanimate object, that I once owned but was purloined from my possession, is still my responsibility. Does this also apply to a crow bar in my tool shed, or my car? Are you arguing that somehow somebody is turned into a criminal simply because they touched a gun that I once possessed? Perhaps they were first a criminal and then stole from me. I think I should secure what I own simply to keep owning it, but if there is a theft, how the stolen goods are use is not my responsibility. As a member of a Society, I owe responsibility to the society in general, but not on an individual basis. If your car, credit card, jewelry, cash or whatever is stolen and used as a tool to facilitate a crime, are you now responsible? I think it is the criminal that is actually responsible for a crime, not the inanimate objects they use. By the way, most firearms involved in gun crimes are not used by the original thief. They are usually taken by a miscreant looking for a quick sale for drug money, so this, “chain of possession” stuff is irrelevant in a logical argument.

    A good column and food for thought. Keep up the good work.
    Thank You,
    Bruce Krohn

  2. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2019 at 10:05 pm

    Reader Kenneth O Day writes:

    My question to you is, how does one protect their house, family and self from an armed intruder if it takes him 3 minutes to find the keys, 2 minutes to get to the safe and 20 seconds to open it when it takes the intruder a minute to find the inhabitants of the home? Or if they call 911 and it’s 20 minutes before the police arrive? Are you OK with the police getting there in time to put up the yellow crime scene tape around the house where the family was killed? Oh, and the intruder pulled the gun safe off the wall, breaking the studs and destroying the sheetrock, so that he can have someone break into it when he has “MORE TIME”?

    My point is there are a growing number of people (idiots) that don’t believe people have the right to self defense. I’m hoping that you’re not one of them. If someone is rich enough to afford a $2000 (and way up) biometrics gun safe, or several $200 biometrics handgun safes, then it means ONLY THE RICH CAN OWN GUNS. So we sacrifice the poor people in poor neighborhoods. And, yes, I’ve had this conversation with college kids before, they believe we should all be ready to sacrifice ourselves for the “good of peace”. What a JOKE! Then all that will be left will be the criminals.

  3. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Reader Natalie Fido-Kennedy writes;

    Love your article I can understand why people keep their guns near by and loaded cause during a break in your adrenaline is at its height and u just want to reach for your protection ready to use instead of scrambling around for the gun the bullets loading it … A robbery a home invasion happens in a split Second a split second that can determine life or death .. I am not a gun owner but if you leave the house lock it up when u come home put it in a safe reachable place …

  4. Diane Dimond on February 26, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Reader Jack Owen Jr. writes:

    Great article! I 100% agree that gun owners have a responsibility to secure their firearms to prevent them from getting into criminals’ hands. That being said, criminals will get guns, even when securely stored. Some are so determined to get them they will use extraordinary means to get them. However, these crooks are a very small minority and most gun thefts are the result of owners lack of dilligence in storing their guns.

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