A report released this week by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows a dramatic uptick in gun thefts across the country.
The ATF reports more than 9,200 firearms were stolen from federally licensed dealers in 2016, a 51 percent increase over the previous year.
Texas is listed as the state with the third most stolen firearms from federally licensed dealers.
“People automatically assume that Texas, you know, we're all about firearms, so, yes, it's going to be one of those places where people are interested in guns and so that's where the thefts are,” said Central Texas Gun Works owner Michael Cargill.
The report states that more than 1,200 firearms were reported stolen in the Lone Star State in 2016.
“It's not a matter of if; it's a matter of when. So, they break in here, they're going to damage this place and they're not going to get any guns at all because they're all locked in a safe,” Cargill said.
One big problem with gun thefts at nearby stores is that other gun dealers are not alerted about them according to Cargill. That makes it easier for thieves to sell a stolen gun at a different gun store.
“When people actually break into gun stores in this area, I don't even know about it. I have to find out from the news. I would think that either the ATF or the FBI or the local police department would actually come to me and say, ‘Hey, just so you know, these are the guns that were stolen from a gun store in your area, so you might want to be on the lookout for those guns,’ but we don’t get that information at all,” said Cargill.
The agency is starting to test out an alert system to warn gun dealers of gun thefts in their area. That’s something Cargill said would make it much easier to know what he should and shouldn't purchase.
Right now, it's basically up to gun store owners to figure out whether a gun being sold to them is stolen or purchased legally.
“There are a couple things. Is that gun in a case, is it just by itself? And we profile that person, and that's sad, and that's what you have to do because there's really no way I can run that serial number and verify that gun's been stolen," Cargill said.
Licensed gun dealers must report a stolen firearm to the ATF within 48 hours.
The bureau suggests shop owners use any means necessary, including window bars and a safe, to protect their firearms.