Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Gun control minus the legislation

Post by Brian O'Neill on Jan. 5, 2012 at 10:05 pm with 17 Comments »
January 6, 2012 8:50 am

In December, 1997, I was visiting family in California. My thoughts at the time were reserved for the imminent birth of my second child and thus far away from my Puget Sound area home that was being blanketed with record snowfall.

Unfortunately, the snow that accumulated in my driveway for a week proved a tempting target for two roving meth addicts looking for empty houses. The tweakers loaded up their vehicle (and my car), and took everything. With apologies to Dr. Seuss, the twitchy grinches took  more than just pop-guns and pantookas – the burglars found my gun safe, pulled it out of the wall, and made off with my department issued handgun and rifle.

Seized firearms/ AP Photo

That is the story of how I joined the legion of gun owners who accidentally armed the criminal element.

“Outing” myself as a past victim of burglary is a means of illustrating the potential risks involved in gun ownership. According to the website, U.S. firearms manufacturers produced 5.9 million firearms in 2009 alone, including hand guns (revolvers and semi-auto pistols) and long guns (shotguns and rifles). Domestic firearms are well made products designed to function properly for several years.

So do the math. Start by adding up the millions of guns produced each year, subtract the few that either fall apart, whither away in safes or rest quietly on evidence shelves, and see what kind of number you get.

The answer is that the number of guns that remain viable is huge. By viable I refer to the fact that the primary means by which criminals arm themselves is by stealing guns.

The black market for firearms is a thriving business. I have noticed little change in the number of weapons seized by law enforcement even during this bleak economy. What was true before also remains true now – most of the seized weapons are stolen. 

Stolen weapons taken off gang members. Stolen weapons found in search warrants. Stolen weapons found at crime scenes. When I hear someone query the dispatcher on a firearm, I find myself doing a mental, “3,2,1” until the answer returns that the weapon is, of course, stolen.

Criminals obtain stolen weapons in two basic ways: they steal them or they buy them. Gang members, who often establish their credibility by simply possessing a gun, are especially adept at finding and targeting the homes of individuals whom they suspect of having weapons (including cops). Serial burglars steal firearms because the black market for firearms is very lucrative. Large scale heists from gun stores (which occurred recently in our area) quickly inundate the streets with new and high-powered firearms. If criminals don’t want to steal a gun themselves, they can find always find someone willing to sell a stolen firearm.

Despite this fact, people are much more interested in discussing gun control legislation than gun security. Recently, the Trib ran a piece by a Washington Post columnist on the topic of the ranger’s homicide at Mt. Rainier. The writer was quick to point out that Washington’s concealed weapon’s restrictions are lax in comparison to much of the U.S. Then, in the written equivalent of a mumble, he mentions that this fact had little or nothing to do with the tragedy itself. So why mention it?

Firearms security is a topic that never seems to generate much interest or discussion. Perhaps the topic of trigger locks or gun safes don’t have polling numbers worth making it an issue. I also can not understand why gun owners who strictly adhere to the laws regarding possession sometimes do such a poor job securing their weapons at home.

If we want to do more to ensure that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands – hands that include criminals as well as curious children –  we would do best to make sure they don’t slip out of the right ones. Lock them up.

Epilogue: The two tweakers who stole my weapons, truck and worldly possessions were both caught by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office (thanks again, Sgt Cassio).

Leave a comment Comments → 17
  1. TheButlerDidIt says:

    Brian: Appreciate your comments. Whenever there’s a shooting, the discussion invariably turns to gun rights. I agree with your comments regarding the Washington Post column that was in the Thursday’s print edition of The News Tribune. I’d like to know the writer’s source for citing this state’s (supposed) lax gun restrictions.

    Agree that gun safety is paramount. I am a responsible gun owner and keep mine in a locked safe, though I know that even that is not 100%. Still, if more people bought good safes and used them diligently, there would be less available inventory to the dirtbags out there. Responsibility in every aspect of gun ownership is a priority.

  2. elmerfudpucker says:

    Same with the ones that blame the wrong end of the leash when it comes to dog attacks. No one wants to put the blame on the criminal anymore, the victim must have provoked it, or the criminal had a bad childhood. Bad people do bad things, and as far as tweekers go, personally I would put them down like a rabid animal. They are no longer human but zombies, not so much as in lack of life but lack of any moral fiber. No I do not claim any religion; it doesn’t take religion to be a good person.

  3. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    The children have ignored the first part.
    Pop, pop, pop.

  4. Alinup, although I tended to agree with you before the Supreme Court ruled on this issue in 2008, their decision is the final word on the meaning of the text to the Second Amendment. The first phrase, they decided, was just a general purpose phrase and not an “operational” phrase.

    Scalia went to great lengths parsing the meaning and diagramming the sentence using historical texts as his examples.

    If you are interested, here is one free site that has the text of his decision:

  5. rivitman says:

    We can do our part, and lock our guns up.

    Local law enforcement does their job, and catches the thieves.

    Then the county prosecuting attorney slaps them on the hand by letting them plead down, nullifying ‘hard time for armed crime”.

    I personally know of an offender who was charged with:

    Burg , 1 count

    4 counts theft of a firearm.

    Trafficking is stolen property

    Possession of stolen property

    All from one incident.

    Caught red handed by PCSD.

    This should have resulted in 5 plus years behind bars, as State law imposes a 1 year sentence for each gun stolen.

    But not in Pierce county, he was allowed to plead down to:

    Burg 2, and 1 count theft of a firearm.

    Sentence? 15 months, but is in work release after less that three months.

    Hard time for armed crime? Bah.

  6. BlaineCGarver says:

    With the plethora of firmarm laws, I can’t think of a single new regulation, including completely outlawing guns, that would have any effect on criminals. Even completely legalizing drugs would not stop theft, because most druggies would not work, and need an income stream for their drugs.

  7. smokey984 says:

    Safes need to be bolted into the cement ground of your house. Huge 4 inch steel bolts.

    Most, if not all, safes have the holes precut into the bottom of your safe for such.

    If not then these idiots bring in a utility dolly and haul your 500lb safe away for further examination…Its not rocket science. Everybody with some common sense knows there are some valuables locked within.

    Other options: store/hide your firearms in discrete places..with the appropriate gun locks attached for child safety. House alarms work, dogs bark, motion lights startle and scare, keeping your shrubs trimmed, closing blinds at night, reinforced doors/locks, leaving lights on when your not home, neighborhood watch programs, etc.

    My point being, make it difficult or present the hard target scenario to make these goons wanna rob somebody else…

    Tuddo sias: Alinup, although I tended to agree with you before the Supreme Court ruled on this issue in 2008, their decision is the final word on the meaning of the text to the Second Amendment.

    I beg to differ Tuddo. The citizens of this great country will have the last say.

    Jefferson said: The tree of liberty from time to time has to be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants. And unfortunately the incompetence in power, whether it be the city, county, state or federal level keeps passing laws that make absolutely no sense at all. Take for instance the NDAA Mr. Pres just signed that now allows the indefinite detention of Americans without due process! Completely bypassing the 4th and 6th amendments of our constitution! Its only a matter of time…

  8. smokey, maybe “final” was too much certainty, but shy of a bloody revolution, I do not think the interpretation of the Second Amendment that I cited will change much in the next 200 years or more and law abiding individuals will have a right to keep arms in their homes and on their persons and juse them for self defense, sport, hunting and other appropriate purposes.

  9. smokey984 says:

    and the most important option is Operational Security(OPSEC)….

    Do not advertise the Man toys you have. Its nobody’s business. The more you run ur mouth about all the cool hobbies you enjoy someone’s jealousy will get the best of them and your Man toys will disappear.

  10. smokey984 says:

    Keep your actions private and your principles public!

  11. donfosters says:

    If you had alert neighbors, watching your house, this would not have been a problem. When my dogs bark incessently, I look at what they’re barking at, usually it’s someone passing by (I live on a busy street), but sometimes there are some unsavory character(s) hanging around where they shouldn’t be. This is when I get out and let them know that I am watching them and tell them to move on. My point is, is we all need to watch each others back. Once criminals realize they are being watched they won’t hang around long.

  12. smokey984 says:

    And if you want to learn how to keep your life more private from prying eyes, nosy relatives, over committed bosses, keyboard bullies, and law enforcement on a power trip here’s a good read.

  13. smokey984 says:

    Excuse me from my ignorance of Law enforcement on a power trip…I shall say, “Law Enforcement under the orders of corrupt political agenda’s.”

  14. wyecoyote says:

    Most safes it takes two guys under two minutes with crowbars to break in. There are a few YouTube clips showing this. High end gun safes take longer. Yes if they are not bolted down it can be moved of site. I have my safe bolted down to the concrete and back bolted to the wall. Only thing we can do is try to slow them down and buy time. However, trigger locks are a joke easy enough to get off. Cops are a target since it is pretty easy for a criminal to know that there is a firearm either in the vehicle or in the residence. Believe it was a FBI vehicle that was broken into this past summer with a select fire M-4 stolen. Heck, SPD drove around with an AR-15 on the trunk. Personaly, I believe the only laws should be tougher on stolen guns to the criminal and for committing a crime with a firearm.

  15. rivitman says:

    wyecoyote, we do have pretty tough “laws” since hard time for armed crime, which imposes a mandatory 1 year sentence for each stolen gun, even in the same incident.

    Thus having armed themselves for the trip out the door, makes the offender eligible for Burglary 1, a violent offense, and not eligible for first time offender waivers.

    However, it seems prosecutors ignore the will of the people on this, and drop all but one charge on theft of a firearm, and often let the perp plead down to Burglary 2, which means the sentences can be further mitigated by allowing them to run concurrently, and allowing “good time” and or work release.

    In the meantime, we are asked to but gun safes, better locks, alarm systems, and hope for alert neighbors (who in some cases are thieves themselves?).

    Well, I’ll except I have to do my part these days, and lock them away instead of enjoying viewing them in a nice glass enclosure as I would prefer.

    Because I know the Pierce County prosecuting attorney has set a low threshold of punishment for gun thieves.

  16. wyecoyote says:

    Rivitman, I agree I would like to have mine in a nice glass case or like my father hung on the wall. But, I’ll do what my wife likes and keep them in a safe. I don’t like the thought of some saying they should be in a safe with trigger locks and trying to legislate it.

  17. smokey984 says:

    Safe with a trigger lock? Ya whatever….That wont happen.

    Its either trigger lock or safe.

    Put me in jail..

    – In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law … That would lead to anarchy. An individual who breaks a law that his conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “When all is said and done, Civilizations do not fall because of the barbarians at the gates. Nor does a great city fall from the death wish of bored and morally bankrupt stewards presumably sworn to its defense. Civilizations fall only because each citizen of the city comes to accept that nothing can be done to rally and rebuild broken walls; that ground lost may never be recovered; and that greatness lived in our grandparents but not our grandchildren. Yes, our betters tell us these things daily. But that doesn’t mean we have to believe it.- Bill Whittle

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