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I’m part of the problem

Ask just about any gun rights advocate where criminals get their guns, and most will immediately tell you that they steal them from law-abiding gun owners. Unfortunately, a few months ago, I unwittingly contributed to that problem. The worst part is, I didn’t even notice until yesterday.

I had stored a couple of handguns up there, ironically so that they wouldn’t get stolen (I had gone on vacation, and the thinking was that if anyone breaks into the house while I’m gone, they won’t go up there, so whatever they get, they won’t get the guns). I don’t yet have a safe — I’ve been procrastinating on that for a couple of years now, I’m afraid — so this seemed like a logical choice. Since nobody ever goes in our attic but me, and we don’t have children in the house, the two gun cases were more or less in plain sight, once you got into the attic. One was locked, the other was unlocked. The locked case contained a .22 varmint pistol, and the unlocked case contained a .40 S&W.

A couple of months ago, I had some contractors working in my attic. They were up there unattended for several hours. I had forgotten that I stashed the guns up there, so I didn’t think anything of it. Yesterday, I went up to go get the .40 to take it to the range (life’s been busy, and the range is a ways away, so it’s been months since I’ve been able to go). The locked case with the .22 was still there, more or less where I remembered putting it. The unlocked case, the one with the .40, was missing.

Panic set in, and I just felt sick inside. I tore apart the house, hoping against hope that I had moved the .40 and simply forgotten I’d done so. I checked all the places where I’ve ever stored it, and several where I never did, to no avail. No trace. Finally, I decided to do a more thorough search of the attic. And it was up there, inside a blue plastic storage container, that I found the conclusive proof: the empty gun case had been hastily dumped in there, wide open, along with the holster. The .40 and all three magazines were gone. That sick feeling just got worse.

I called the police and filed a report, but months after the fact, there’s only so much they can do. Worse, that particular gun was a gift, and I hadn’t bothered to write down the serial number anywhere, meaning that the odds of ever recovering the piece drop from “pretty remote” to “zero.” (I called the guy who gave me the gun; he didn’t have a record of the S/N, either.) The loss of the gun isn’t that big a deal to me; it’s the thought that my gun, a gun I’m responsible for, could wind up in the hands of some thug, and someone could be hurt or even killed with it. If that happened, I don’t know if I could live with myself.

Now, I’ve always been of the (somewhat outspoken) opinion that we as gun owners bear additional responsibility because of the very nature of the tool we choose to own. And in that regard, not only did I fail to live by my principles, I let all gun owners down. I’ve unwittingly contributed to the gun-grabbers’ argument that we can’t be trusted, that guns are too dangerous to just have “out there,” blah blah blah. And for that, too, I am deeply sorry.

The thing that has me kicking myself the most about all of this is how easily it could have been prevented. Not only did I not do everything I should have done to prevent the gun from being stolen; I didn’t even take basic, reasonable precautions that would have taken almost no time and cost almost no money. The locked gun case, the one with the .22 in it, wasn’t tampered with. How fucking hard would it have been to put a padlock on the case? Yet I procrastinated, and I didn’t do it. I didn’t buy a safe — there were always “more important” priorities. Some friends have tried to calm me down, saying that it’s not my fault that some scumbag stole the gun. Maybe not, but it’s certainly my fault that it was so easy for them.

My only hope in writing this is that you learn from my mistake, and don’t repeat it. Don’t be a shithead when it comes to your guns. When they’re not on you or with you, lock them up. Preferably in a safe. Don’t make it easy for the wrong people to get their hands on them. I’ve learned my lesson, but unfortunately, it’s too late.

17 Responses to “Location”

  1. karrde Says:

    Note to self: new storage box with padlock for new rifle. (I’ve seen sets of 3 or 4 Master Padlocks with the same key at some stores…handy, so you don’t have to keep a big keyring and set of keys for the guns…)

    And a new gun safe, with next week’s paycheck.

  2. HardCorps Says:

    Hey man, I feel sorry that someone stole your gun, but you have zero liability if some animal hurts someone else with it. Make a claim with your homeowners policy if you want to get another one – I think the limit on the HO-3 is like $2500 for firearms.

    How could you access your firearm hastily in an emergency if it’s locked up? Please, he is definitely not part of the problem.

  3. Paul Boughton Says:

    Sounds like some needs to call the contractor. Unless he was picking up vagrants to do the work he should have a handle on at least who was in the attic. Let the police know the list and I would bet they are aware of a a name or two from the list as persons of interest.

    The biggest problem with the gun control people, in my mind, is they have created an atmosphere where we are responsible for some one elses lack of self control.

    I guess the next time I punch one in the face the arguement the devil made me do it will be a valid defense.

  4. Ride Fast Says:

    I would also be all over the contractor to compensate me for the stolen property. By the way, a padlock through the frame of a pistol is pretty disabling and discouraging to a thief.

  5. chris Says:

    Don’t beat yourself up, pal.

    Just buy yourself a nice safe and lock up everything but your home defense and carry weapons.

  6. Madrocketscientist Says:

    I agree with the author, he should feel bad. As gun owners, we have a responsibility to do all that we can to secure our firearms from thieves. Recording serial numbers and keeping guns not in use locked up (not just hidden) is just a good idea. Granted no safe is going to stop a determined thief, but it will stop a casual one.

    As for home defense, I got a quick opening safe from Gun Vault that I can open in the dark in about 1 second. I have yet to meet a person who can get into my yard without waking the dogs (who will wake me), much less get into my house, so I get more than a second or two or warning. Granted everyone has a different situation, but a little bit of thought and creativity will yield an affordable solution that allows a person to secure their firearms (when not in use or at hand) while leaving them available for use in an emergency.

  7. retro Says:

    For what it’s worth, I had one of those small and quick opening gun safes a few years ago. Kept it on my nightstand and regularly practiced opening it quickly. When my home was broken into a while later, they were apparently unable to get it open so they just took the whole damn safe – presumably to be pounded opened later.

    Lesson learned: if you DO use a small gun safe, find a way to secure it to something big, heavy and solid.

  8. Oldsmoblogger Says:

    I’m thinking about a Gun Vault myself for the bedroom (will be quite a selling job for Mrs. Oldsmoblogger, I’m thinkin’), and Retro brings up a great point. Is there an easy way to lag bolt one of those through the floor?

  9. brolin_1911a1 Says:

    Here in Southern Missouri the local sheriff has literally boxes of nice cable-type handgun locks that are given away free to anyone who asks. It’s part of a NSSF “Safe Storage” campaign. I recently had reason to stop by and talk to a deputy before going to the Social Security office. Since both locations ban my concealed weapon, I asked for one of those free locks. I now keep that lock in the car so that I can cable the unloaded gun to an underdash frame member when I have to leave it in the car. I also have several of those locks at home for my guns when they’re not in service. They’re not as secure as my gun safe but do add a extra protection.

    Storing the slide/bolt separate from the firearm(s) is another good idea. That way the thief has to search in order to actually steal a working firearm.

  10. Les Jones Says:

    For a pistol safe I love my DAC Sports Safe. It’s $55 from and very well built. Electronic keypad lock, automatic lockout after a few failed attempts, motion alarm, and comes with a mounting plate and bolts to attach it to a piece of furniture or automobile.

  11. David Says:

    HardCorps, if by chance the letter-writer is a California resident, he IS liable under certain circumstances.

  12. Letalis Maximus, Esq. Says:

    Had a nice stainless steel revolver stolen out of my locked (at least I think it was locked) vehicle a couple of years back. The same night, I had a nearly new battery charger stolen out of my other locked (at least I think it was locked) vehicle the same night. The best I can figure is that they came down the street slim-jimming pretty much every vehicle on my block.

    My neighbor had a .22 revolver stolen out of his attic by the crew doing his roofing work. Calling the contractor will get you nothing. And yes, they hire the scum of the earth. Tweakers, illegals, deadbeats, felons, the works.

    It happens.

  13. Madrocketscientist Says:

    My GunVault is bolted to the wall in my closet, with at least one lag screw in a stud.

    Sure they could get it off with a prybar, but they’ll only have a few minutes unless they are real lucky (on average the police are at my house in 2 minutes from the time my alarm goes off).

    Of course, I store the paperwork on it somewhere else.

    My rifle safe is in my garage (also alarmed) and it is bolted not only to the wall, but also the floor. You’d need more than a three foot pry bar to get it lose.

  14. Jay G. Says:

    I need to get more safes.

    And claymores. Definitely more claymores…

  15. Lyle Says:

    So, if your car gets stolen, and the perp runs over someone while making his escape, you’re liable? You dumbass– you left your car right out in the open in a parking lot, just begging a criminal to steal it. If your gas can gets stolen and the perp uses the gas to commit arson, you’re liable? Shall we talk about kitchen knives and axes? Are you responsible for an axe murder because you “failed” to put steel bars on your windows and your axe was stolen? Baseball bats? What about that rebar sitting out in that construction site? What if a potted plant was stolen, the perp threw out your plant, and used the pot and your potting soil to grow weed? You’re now responsible for contributing to the manufacture of a controlled substance?


    Bullshit, bullshit, and double bullshit.

    Your “failing” is no different than it would be if your computer or stereo system was stolen. There is a victim who deserves compensation, and there is a perpetrator who deserves punishment. Don’t get all confused about a cut-and-dried situation. The only reason we’re discussing this in this way is because gun rights have been under attack for so long we’re unable to even imagine a situation without bigotry, and a life under actual liberty.

    Do not accept the stupid, insane, bigoted premises of the enemy. If you do, you’re playing by their/i> rules and on their turf. Fuck that!

    Even if it doesn’t get you anywhere, call the contractor with their invoice number and date, and get names, then tell the police about them.

  16. straightarrow Says:

    Unfortunately Lyle, you car analogy is actually the law in some places. I have lived in them.

  17. HardCorps Says:

    +1 lyle.

    I’ve mentioned this before, and I don’t know if it will hold for every state with those draconian laws, but most renters and homeowners insurance policies state that they will defend and pay civil damages (which could be hundreds of thousands of dollars), up to the limit, with defense costs covered fully to go above the limit of insurance. Now if a law imposed civil liability due to ‘bodily injury’ because your weapon was stolen, I imagine that would be a trigger for defense at the least, and a trigger of liability coverage as well. Example:

    4 elements of negligence:
    Duty owed to plaintiff due to laws (i.e. you negligenty stored a firearm which was used in the commission of an assault which caused ‘bodily injury’)
    Duty defined under law was broken
    Plaintiff sustained actual ‘bodily injury’
    Damages suffered were causally inflicted by defendant (very broad here)

    So under the senario described, I believe your renters/HO policy would have a duty to defend you, plus pay for any civil damages imposed, and have to replace your stolen gun.

    Keep paying those premiums folks 😉

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