The number of guns reported lost from licensed firearm dealers and pawn shops in Alabama is the highest in the country, according to a new government report.
The report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF), an arm of the Justice Department, shows that in 2016 the number of missing weapons more than tripled from the year previous, going from 277 to 842. The report also shows that the theft of firearms from dealers has gone up significantly, taking Alabama into the top three alongside Texas and Georgia.
Four years ago, the rate of lost guns in Alabama was 119.
The increase in lost and stolen firearms, up 59 percent from 2015, comes during a period of increased gun violence across the United States, which has been highlighted in recent years by the high level of homicides taking place in Chicago. At the end of 2017, Chicago had recorded 762 homicides, the highest in two decades, according to Chicago Police Department records.
That has placed America’s third largest city at the center of the national dialogue on gun violence. Incidents of gun violence have risen to more than 58,500 last year, up from 51,850 and 53,611 in 2014 and 2015, respectively, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a Washington D.C. non-profit organization that collects figures from over 2,000 media, law enforcement, government and commercial sources.
Chicago city officials have said that the flood of illegal firearms coming into the city has not helped. According to city officials, most of the guns come from Illinois and neighboring states, although the rest of the guns tend to come from the south. Of the 50,000 guns traced between 2001 and 2012, a little less than 4,300 came from Mississippi, while Alabama accounted for over 1,000, according to official data collated by the New York Times. Both figures place the southern states in the top 10.
The Chicago Police Department did not respond to AL.com’s request for updated figures.
Alabama can’t stop losing guns
In comparison to Alabama, the second highest state, Ohio, reported 660 losses in 2016. Florida and California reported 598 and 473, respectively. Alaska, a state with high gun ownership, reported seven losses last year. Wyoming also recorded seven and Delaware just three.
While the rate of loss has hit a spike in Alabama, the national trend has shown a significant decrease. In 2013, around 15,077 firearms were lost by FFLs, which was nearly halved to 8,637 in 2016 before rising to 9113 last year. In terms of theft, the ATF reported that 6163 firearms were stolen in 2015, compared to 9281 in 2016.
Stores with a federal firearms license, commonly referred to as an FFL, can sometimes forget to record the whereabouts of a weapon that has, for example, been sold or sent for cleaning, according to ATF Special Agent Michael Knight, who told AL.com that internal theft is also a possibility given the high number of losses in the state and nationwide.
“ATF Industry Operations…