Gun theft out of cars is the No. 1 source of stolen firearms in cities that report crime data to the FBI, according to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety, and Houston is no exception.
Between 2021 and 2022, the number of guns reported stolen from parked vehicles citywide jumped from 3,695 to 4,401 – a 19 percent increase – and month-over-month comparisons suggest the trend has continued into 2023.
While law enforcement officials are unsure why gun thefts out of cars are spiking, they agree that it poses a danger to local communities. A 2016 study of guns recovered by police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania found that most gun homicides and assaults are committed with illegal guns. Meanwhile, a separate study published last month in the academic journal Homicide Studies discovered that rates of those crimes tend to rise along with the availability of illegal firearms.
However, prevention is possible. Responsible gun-owners can take steps to avoid theft by protecting their firearms, experts said.
Here’s how to secure your gun when you bring it in your car and reduce the flow of illegal weapons into your community.
Invest in gun cases or safes built for cars
Above all, experts recommend gun-owners invest in secure gun cases or safes. Available from licensed firearms dealers and via large online retailers like Amazon.com, gun storage solutions include options built especially for cars. These range from cases with heavy cables that loop around the bottom of car seats to safes that bolt into the floor. The cheapest cases cost around $10, while sturdier safes run up to $350.
The BeSmart campaign provides free information about gun storage that will help you determine which option is right for you.
Avoid stickers that show you may own a weapon
Any indication that a car owner supports gun rights or enjoys activities involving guns makes that vehicle a target for burglars. You can reduce the likelihood that your car will be singled out by avoiding bumper stickers and decals that express support for:
- Gun rights or gun rights organizations like the National Rifle Association
- The military
- Law enforcement
- Gun manufacturers
The Houston Police Department, which has produced extensive educational content about gun storage and gun theft out of cars, provides examples of stickers that draw attention from thieves in this video.
Record key details about your gun
If your gun is stolen, you can help law enforcement by providing the make, model and serial number of the weapon. You can easily record this information by keeping photographs of your gun and its serial number on your cell phone. Because law enforcement maintains a database of stolen weapons organized by serial number, providing this information in case of theft makes it more likely that gun-owners will recover their firearm and often results in steeper penalties for thieves.
Benefits of glass break sensors or alarms
Glass break sensors, which sound the alarm when they detect shattered glass, range from small attachments that can be installed manually to more advanced systems that alert car owners via their smartphones. The most inexpensive sensors retail for less than $30 and are available online, while more robust options can be purchased through car alarm and auto glass businesses.
Finally, always lock your car
All too often, experts said, gun-owners leave weapons in their cars and forget to lock the vehicle. Locked doors won’t stop a determined thief, but they can act as a deterrent.