With an estimated 1.2 civilian-owned firearms for every resident, the United States is the only country in the world with more guns than people. While the vast majority of the estimated 393 million firearms in circulation nationwide were legally obtained, each year, thousands of guns are stolen from gun makers and gun stores.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, 10,325 firearms were either lost or stolen from licensed dealers and gunmakers in 2021. Notably, these figures do not include the estimated 380,000 firearms stolen from private citizens, as federal law does not require individuals to report stolen guns.
Gun thefts are a serious threat to public safety. Even if they are not obtained for the explicit purpose of committing a violent crime, stolen firearms are often sold on the black market to violent criminals. In its 2018 Congressional Budget Submission, the ATF stated that a firearm stolen from a gun store in a burglary or robbery “is almost assuredly destined for criminal use in the immediate area of the theft.” (Here is a look at the states where the most people are killed by guns.)
While firearm thefts occur in every part of the country, they are far more common in some states than others. Using data from the ATF, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the most gun theft. States are ranked by the number of guns that were lost or stolen for every 100,000 residents in 2021. Only firearms lost or stolen from licensed dealers and manufacturers were considered.
While there are exceptions, many of the states with the lowest firearm theft rates also have fewer locations that sell or manufacture guns. With fewer commercial firearm operations in these states, there are also fewer opportunities for theft or for unexplained loss of firearms. Here is a look at the state selling the fewest guns.
Meanwhile, many of the states with higher rates of gun theft tend to also have more permissive gun laws that place minimal restrictions on gun ownership.
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