U.S. civilians own approximately 393 million guns (Small Arms Survey 2018).
Nationally, over 1 million guns were stolen between 2017-2021.
Gun thefts are likely higher than estimates which depend on voluntary reporting in most states.
Figure 1. Annual firearm theft rate per 100,000 people (ATF 2023).
Most firearms are stolen from individuals who (Hemenway 2017):
There are no studies regarding why these factors increase risk.
Read our Science Note Secure Firearm Storage to learn how storage impacts firearm safety.
Most violent crimes are enacted with recently acquired firearms (both legally and illegally obtained); about 5% of these are stolen.
It is unclear if reducing firearm theft impacts gun availability to violent offenders (Cook 2018).
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives recommends problem-oriented policing (POP) to reduce gun theft (ATF 2023).
Law enforcement officials from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) recommend safely storing guns to reduce thefts (PERF 2019).
Gun theft rates in states with and without safe storage laws has not been studied.
PERF recommends private citizens report missing firearms and serial numbers as soon as possible (PERF 2019).
Stolen, recovered, lost, or felony-involved weapons can be reported by law enforcement to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a criminal records database managed by the Criminal Justice Information Services.
FFLs and private citizens from 15 states (e.g. MI, OH, IL) must report gun theft or loss.
ATF Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (2023, January 11). NFCTA Volume ii Part V: Firearm Thefts. Retrieved from ATF Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/docs/report/nfcta-volume-ii-part-v-firearm-thefts/download
Congress. (2018, March 23). H.R. 1625- Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. Retrieved from Congress.gov: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1625
Cook, P. J. (2018). Gun Markets. Annual Review of Criminology, 359-377.
Criminal Justice Information Services Division. (2023, January 1). 2022 CJIS Year in Review. Retrieved from Federal Bureau of Investigations: https://le.fbi.gov/file-repository/2022-cjis-year-in-review-010323.pdf/view
Federal Bureau of Investigations. (2019). Table 4 2019 Crime in the United States . Retrieved from FBI: UCR: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/tables/table-4
Federal Bureau of Investigations. (n.d.). National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Retrieved from Federal Bureau of Investigations: https://le.fbi.gov/informational-tools/ncic
Hemenway D, Azrael D, Miller M. Whose guns are stolen? The epidemiology of Gun theft victims. Inj Epidemiol. 2017 Dec;4(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s40621-017-0109-8. Epub 2017 Apr 10. PMID: 28367592; PMCID: PMC5385318.
McCraken, H., Okuley, H., & Floyd, L. (2016). Gun Ownership in America. Retrieved from Rand Corporation: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/gun-ownership.html
Missouri State Highway Patrol. (2023, April 25). Burglary Trend Combined. Retrieved from Show me crime: https://showmecrime.mo.gov/public/View/dispview.aspx?ReportId=160&MemberSelection_%5BSummary+Jurisdiction+by+County%5D.%5BSummary+Jurisdiction+by+County+Hierarchy%5D=MO
Parker, K., Horowitz, J., Igielnik, R., Oliphant, J. B., & Brown, A. (2017, June 22). 1. The demographics of gun ownership. Retrieved from Pew Research Center: https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2017/06/22/the-demographics-of-gun-ownership/
Police Executive Research Forum. (2019, March). Reducing Gun Violence: What Works, and What Can Be Done Now. Retrieved from Police Executive Research Forum: https://www.policeforum.org/assets/reducinggunviolence.pdf
Rostron A, “The Dickey Amendment on Federal Funding for Research on Gun Violence: A Legal Dissection”, American Journal of Public Health 108, no. 7 (July 1, 2018): pp. 865-867.
Scott, M. S. (2004, January). Burglary of Single-Family Houses in Savannah, Georgia. Retrieved from ASU Center for Problem-Oreinted Policing: https://popcenter.asu.edu/sites/default/files/library/researcherprojects/BurglarySingleHouses.pdf
Sidebottom, A., Kirby, S., Tilley, N., Armitage, R., Ashby, M., Bullock, K. and Laycock, G. (2020). Implementing and sustaining problem-oriented policing: a guide. Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, University College London.
Small Arms Survey. (2020, March 29). Global Firearms Holdings. Retrieved from Small Arms Survey: https://www.smallarmssurvey.org/database/global-firearms-holdings
Weisburd, D., Telep, C.W., Hinkle, J.C. and Eck, J.E. (2010), Is problem-oriented policing effective in reducing crime and disorder?. Criminology & Public Policy, 9: 139-172. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9133.2010.00617.x