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Too often, criminals are in possession of guns once legally purchased by ‘responsible’ gun owners.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Since the December massacre of schoolchildren at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., much has been said about how to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands. The debate has homed in on a hotly contested piece: closing the gun show loophole. Through this, people with criminal histories can skirt background checks by purchasing from unlicensed private sellers.
But there’s a more common manner in which illegal guns fall into criminal hands, a way not often raised in public debate: burglaries. The guns don’t start out illegal. Mostly they’re owned by good, law-abiding citizens who think of themselves as responsible gun owners and would shudder to think their possessions would turn into criminals’ tools.
Yet that is what happens to stolen guns. Last week, Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins briefed city council on last year’s crimes and what his department is doing about them. The city saw a surge in both burglaries and people wounded and killed by guns.
It would be unfair to draw a direct correlation between guns stolen from Roanoke homes and the 20 percent rise in violent crimes. But Perkins said, “in a large portion of the cases, the weapon was illegally possessed.”
It is a point gun owners should note, especially those clinging to the notion they own weapons in order to defend themselves, their loved ones and their castle. Thankfully, we live in a community in which it is rare for an armed intruder to forcefully enter the home of law-abiding citizens.
Unfortunately, break-ins while no one is home are far too commonplace.
Early last year, Roanoke was on pace for a 27 percent increase in home burglaries until the arrests of five suspects — each believed to have committed more than 100 break-ins. Many of the burglaries occurred during the power-failure aftermath of the summer’s derecho.
As families fled their sweltering homes in search of a little air conditioning, burglars pounced, carting away the three items treasured most on the black market: jewelry, electronics and guns.
There are ways to prevent the theft of guns. Perkins said his department will engage in more educational campaigns, helping gun owners learn more effective ways to lock up and store firearms. Those who consider themselves responsible gun owners might want to double-check that they indeed are exercising an abundance of caution.
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