Lost and Stolen Firearms Reporting Research & Policy Analysis

This project assesses the reporting of lost and stolen firearms and makes recommendations for improvements in policy. It further emphasizes local laws establishing mandatory reporting of lost and stolen firearms and provides recommendations for preventing firearm theft.

Project Overview

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the primary federal agency responsible for national firearm regulation and enforcement, estimates that 266,000 firearms are stolen each year. From 2017 to 2022, 75% of stolen firearms were thought to be reported to the policei, resulting in an estimated 66,500 stolen firearms that go unreported. This estimate of stolen firearms includes thefts from private citizens, which comprises 96% of annual firearm theft incidents during these years, and thefts from Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs) and interstate commerce (shipping/transporting).ii

Efforts to reduce or prevent the theft of firearms would provide significant public safety benefits. As of December 2023, fifteen states1 and some cities have enacted mandatory lost and stolen firearm reporting laws. In some cases, these laws require owners to report the theft or loss of a firearm as soon as the theft is discovered, but in other cases, reporting is required within days. However, it is unclear if mandatory reporting laws are being enforced and if they lead to a reduction in gun crime or violence.

This project assesses firearm loss and theft and the current mandatory reporting laws. At its conclusion, the study will provide recommendations for improving reporting and compliance, enforcement, and firearm theft prevention.

1 NY, MA, RI, CT, NJ, DE, DC, MD, VA, OH, IL, MI, OR, CO, CA, HI

i United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. National Crime Victimization Survey, [United States], 2016: Revised Version. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2020-08-24. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR37296.v2

ii This figure is estimated because not all stolen firearms are reported to the police. The method of estimation is explained by ATF as “there were 1,026,538 guns reported stolen to the FBI NCIC between 2017 and 2021. To account for guns stolen from citizens but not reported, this number was multiplied by 1.25 to estimate 1,283,173 total guns stolen from private citizens during the study period. This number was added to 34,339 stolen in all FFL thefts and 13,145 stolen in interstate shipments for a total estimate of 1,330,657 stolen guns. This total was then divided by 5 (years) to produce an estimate of 266,000 guns stolen per year between 2017 and 2021.

Methodology

NPI conducted an in-depth review of the literature, facilitated interviews with law enforcement officials in multiple states and agencies, and held a focus group with law enforcement executives and investigators. A final report and recommendations will be developed.

Project Publications

TBD

Strategic Priority Area(s)

Service Area(s)

Staff Contact(s)

Jim Burch

Jim Burch

President

Media Contact

Media inquiries should be directed to our Communications team at:

media@policinginstitute.org
202-833-1460

More Information

Project Status: Active

Project Period:  December 2022 - January 2024

Research Method(s): Focus groups, Interviews, Literature review

Strategic Priority Area(s)

Service Area(s)

Staff Contact(s)

Jim Burch

Jim Burch

President

Media Contact

 

Media inquiries should be directed to our Communications team at:

media@policinginstitute.org
202-833-1460