NPI Releases Report on Strengthening Lost and Stolen Firearm Reporting Policies

National Policing Institute

April 18, 2024

National Policing Institute Issues Report on Strengthening Lost and Stolen Firearm Reporting Policies

The National Policing Institute (NPI) today released a full-length report addressing state laws mandating reporting of lost and stolen firearms. The 40-page report is the first known of its kind and reflects a culmination of research, including a review of literature and state policies and interviews with policing executives, investigators, and other experts throughout the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), 205,000 firearms were stolen from private owners each year from 2017 to 2021. Most of these thefts involved pistols, and 62% of the incidents took place in the southern states. These figures represent only those firearms reported stolen and do not include firearms that were lost.

Most significantly, most states and cities have no legal requirement to report a firearm that is lost or stolen from an individual owner, which suggests the actual number of thefts and losses is possibly much higher. Research confirms that stolen firearms can and do make their way into the hands of criminals, those prohibited from possessing firearms, and into trafficking and other illicit networks.

Keeping Firearms Out of the Wrong Hands: Addressing Theft and Diversion Through Reporting of Lost and Stolen Firearms offers a rare opportunity to examine the design and implementation of crime policies rather than solely focusing on the effects or outcomes of the policy. The report offers nearly two dozen best practices and recommendations which fill a critical knowledge gap in determining if the laws can be effective as designed in the 15 states that currently have these laws in place.

“Despite how well-intended some policy choices may be, we cannot ignore the design and implementation of these policies and how these features may strengthen or weaken compliance with the laws and their intended outcomes,” commented NPI President Jim Burch. “Many of the laws we reviewed appear to lack the necessary support of logical design and well-conceived implementation features in addition to the input and support of state and local law enforcement.”

“The NPI report is a powerful example of how careful policy analysis can improve public safety. Policy—overall but especially when it comes to policy that can make the difference between life and death—has got to be designed with a focus on implementation and in consideration of the input from the anticipated implementers. It can’t be just what feels right or sounds good,” said Adam Gelb, President & CEO of the Council on Criminal Justice (CCJ).

“Getting these policies and practices right is critical in our efforts to reduce gun violence,” added Tim Daly, Program Director for Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform at the Joyce Foundation. “NPI’s focus on improving policy design and implementation offers important recommendations for strengthening these approaches at a time when new research shows how big of a problem lost and stolen firearms are becoming in our communities, and where little was previously known on how best to upend this source of crime guns.”

This study was funded by the Joyce Foundation, a private, nonpartisan philanthropy that invests in public policies and strategies related to culture, democracy, education and economic mobility, environment, gun violence prevention and justice, reform, and journalism.

To read the full report, visit