Gun thefts on the rise in Gallatin County and nationwide - KXLF.com | Continuous News | Butte, Montana

Gun thefts on the rise in Gallatin County and nationwide

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Gun thefts continue to climb (MTN News photo) Gun thefts continue to climb (MTN News photo)

Last week 19-year-old Jakob Page allegedly stole hunting gear from his neighbor's garage, including a pistol. Page's reportedly burglary is not unique.

Police say firearm thefts have increased by at least 50 percent in Gallatin County over the past year.

"The return on a stolen gun is a lot higher right now than it normally was,” said Detective Robert Vanuka, Bozeman Police Department.

In Montana, in 2016, 31 guns were reported stolen from licensed dealers in 8 burglaries, compared to 15 stolen in 2015 from 6 dealers, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"Stolen guns are at an all-time high in price, you're making several hundred dollars on a quick transaction and it's usually traded for dangerous drugs,” Vanuka said.

Locally, at least 17 guns were taken from a series of car break ins last December. Police say stolen guns are often taken by felons who cannot legally purchase a firearm.

"And the fact that it puts a gun in a person's hand that presents a definite threat to law enforcement if we come in contact with them, and it puts the community in direct threat,” Vanuka said.

When pawn shops buy guns, the seller's name along with the make and serial number are entered into a database accessible to law enforcement and ATF.

“In some sense if they don't bring those stolen firearms to me, it's much less likely that they will be recovered. So it's actually a really good thing when someone brings in a stolen firearm to a pawn shop because it's almost guaranteed that they're going to be caught,” said Theron Fountaine, Debos Pawn Shop owner.

"They're possessing a weapon that can take a person's life, and that's very dangerous,” Vanuka said.

Law enforcement often works with pawn shops to help identify illegal sellers and locate stolen guns.

"I just really think that if they can give us a heads up to watch out for something or if we can give them a call when we see something that looks suspicious, then that really expedites the process of getting stolen guns and bad guys off the street,” Fountaine said.

As of February 2016.... there are almost 16,000 registered firearms in the state.

Police say gun owners should take a photo of their firearms, log the serial number and make, in case of a burglary. Police encourage anyone who has a firearm stolen to immediately contact law enforcement. 

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