(WCBD) — More than 9,000 firearms were stolen last year nationwide, a sharp increase from the year before.
Here in South Carolina, we are learning most firearm theft occurs because gun owners aren’t keeping their weapons under lock and key.
That means using gun safes for your firearms is becoming increasingly important.
“With holidays and schools being out young adults are checking doors. We have had some burglaries where guns were stolen too and that has created a problem,” said Major Jeremy Baker, in charge of logistics in Berkeley County.
More than 9,200 firearms were stolen from federally licensed dealers last year, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The figure shows a sharp increase from 2015 — up more than 50 percent — marking the fourth year of rising thefts.
For Berkeley County, the sheriff’s office says the main problem is residents in rural communities don’t lock up their guns.
“We have people who leave them in unlocked cars and also their home,” said Baker.
He said they’ve had 25 guns reported stolen from January to March — and of those, only 2 were safely locked away.
“They break in and find them and they are used in commission of a crime,” Baker said. “If people would lock their cars I think that would help — take your gun inside and secure it in your home.”
A hunter with many guns, David Whaley said he learned from a past experience to be more careful.
“We did have an incident when someone took a few things,” said Whaley. “I have a gun safe that i keep locked and I’m the only one with a key to it. Either the weapon is with me or it is locked, usually I am hunting so I have it with me.”
The ATF is kicking off a new initiative to alert gun stores when firearms are reported lost or stolen in their given county.
Another initiative, a phone app called “report it,” lets you notify the bureau when a gun goes missing and you can easily send in tips.