Stolen firearms popular in crimes, law enforcement officials say

TUPELO – From the glove compartment of your car, to the streets, to being pointed in the face of a store clerk.
That’s a common path that firearms take when stolen. According to Tupelo Police Lt. Tim Tate, guns stolen from homes and vehicles are often the same ones used in other crimes like armed robberies.
If registered owners are not more careful with storing and keeping up with their firearms, police say innocent people can potentially be staring down the barrels of them.
“Some of these guns have been stolen from homes and vehicles and have been passed around on the streets for years,” said Tate. “These type of burglaries make up a large number of guns that are on the streets right now and that’s not a good thing. Some of these weapons are used in other crimes and some are just out there, but no matter what, having a weapon that is not registered can cause a whole lot of problems for the person caught with it.”
There have been at least six armed robberies in Tupelo this year and out of those at least half were committed with guns not registered to the suspect caught with it.
One of those guns could very well have been the property of Jackson Randle. Randle’s .22-caliber pistol was stolen from his vehicle more than a year ago but because he never logged its serial number, a mistake made by many registered gun owners, police have no way if knowing if that happened.
“I used to always wonder what the person who stole my gun was doing with it,” said Randle. “They could have robbed someone or even hurt someone with it. Who knows? All I know is that I will be more careful with the gun that I have now.”
Careless storage
Like Randle, many people don’t keep the serial numbers of their guns written down, making it extremely difficult for them to be recovered or identified in a crime. Tate said people are often too careless with storing their firearms, which makes it easy for them to be stolen and sold on the streets.
Because of strict guidelines followed by pawn shops when dealing with gun purchases, Tate said stolen guns are more often than not sold illegally on the streets.
Wayne Ray, owner of East Main Pawn Shop, said anyone who tries to pawn a stolen gun is “stupid.” Ray said when someone pawns or sells him a gun they have to have valid state identification and that firearm’s serial number goes into a database at the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
“We take all your personal information and we have video of you coming in to sell the gun, so if it’s stolen you will get caught,” said Ray. “When someone comes in with a gun that is not theirs it doesn’t take me long to know it and I’m not going to buy a weapon like that. Seasoned thieves won’t come to a pawn shop to get rid of a gun. But inexperienced ones try it all the time and it doesn’t work out well for them.”
Being in possession of a stolen firearm or any other stolen item is a crime, said Tate. And saying you didn’t know it was stolen is not a good excuse.
“If you buy a gun with the serial numbers scratched off from a person who can’t explain where they got it from, then there is a good chance you know that person isn’t a registered dealer,” said Tate. “Just be safe and don’t buy or sell your guns on the streets.”
danza.johnson@journalinc.com

Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal