COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Four guns were stolen out of cars in Ashland early Thursday after three people burglarized 18 cars in the area, including a Jefferson City police vehicle.
Ashland police department officials tell ABC 17 they believe the suspects were looking for guns. Law enforcement say stolen guns are often used in crimes.
Sgt. Matt Gremore with Columbia Police Department's robbery homicide unit said stolen guns are frequently involved in violent crimes.
"If you're already in the criminal element of stealing a firearm, it's not a leap for you to go do a shooting with that firearm," Gremore said.
CPD spokesman Christian Tabak said there were 166 reported stolen firearms in Columbia in 2022, with 100 of the reports being stolen from vehicles. Both numbers are up from 2021, when there were 135 total reported stolen firearms and 57 stolen from motor vehicles.
Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows 10,213 firearms were recovered and traced in Missouri in 2021, with the most common gun being a pistol.
Gremore said when CPD recovers a firearm, they can use state and federal databases to almost immediately determine if the gun had been reported stolen.
Along with using stolen guns in violent crime, Gremore said thieves also steal them to sell for financial gain. He said there is a high demand in the criminal market for stolen guns.
"You could have a gun that was stolen and then years later it's used in a homicide, or you can have a gun stolen that shows up at a pawn shop," Gremore said. "So, it really varies by situation."
Owner of Tiger Pawn in Columbia, Dan Trim, said it's rare that stolen guns are sold to his shop, but it does happen. When he buys a gun from a seller, he documents the sellers ID information and the gun's manufactuer, model, serial number and description. This information goes in an online database that he said is shared with CPD and the Boone County Sheriff's office to monitor any items that may possibly be stolen.
"It's retroactive, so I don't know at the point of sale, but I will find out the next day or a couple days later," Trim said. "But, all of those guns go into a holding period, so if we do take one in that does turn out to be stolen, it's here and we can start the process of getting it back to the rightful owner."
Trim said he once took in a gun and found out a week later it had been reported stolen in Florida. He's then listed as a victim in the case since he lost money in purchasing the gun.
"It very rarely happens with firearms, though," Trim said. "That's a federal offense and most firearms go to a black market or they're sold on the street. They're not sold through official measures like we would go through here."
Trim said his shop goes through about 30-40 guns a week. One indicator of a stolen weapon is if the owner can't tell him much about the gun.
"If they know very little about what they've got or have trouble answering simple questions about the firearm, then it's suspicious and generally speaking, we'll just pass on it," Trim said.
While it's not required, Gremore encourages people to report a stolen firearm immediately. He said since people usually report their guns stolen, police are able to use the correct databases and match the serial numbers to determine if a stolen gun turns up in an investigation. He said there are also methods to recover a scratched off serial number.
"That's a big deal if a gun's stolen," Gremore said. "There's nothing requiring it, but I would suggest people absolutely report that immediately once they find out."
People can report a stolen firearm to Boone County Joint Communications.
The ATF report concluded that traced guns used in crimes typically are bought legally, but "Crime guns may change hands a number of times after that first retail sale, and some of those transactions may be a theft or violate one or more regulations on firearm commerce."
It goes on to say that people who are prohibited from owning guns are unlikely to purchase weapons from a licensed dealer and instead resort to underground crime gun markets with unregulated transactions and sources.
Gremore's biggest piece of advice is to keep firearms locked up, and don't leave them in a vehicle.
Investigators are yet to say what they think happened to the stolen guns in Ashland.