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March 9, 2018

Profile of an FFL Burglary

By John Bocker

Profile of an FFL Burglary

I have received many questions from members asking about the continued frequency of gun store burglaries by gangs that have been reported around the country. The perpetrators all seem to fit a similar mold, in which, wearing hoodies, they brazenly smash through glass storefronts and firearms showcases. In addition to the fact that these burglaries have been on an upward trajectory for the last year or so, it is further disconcerting that these criminals perform these thefts without any noticeable concern or fear of being detected or apprehended.

Why Firearms Are a Top Target

I think most of us realize that bad guys steal guns because they are indeed “bad” and therefore cannot legally purchase a firearm at an FFL due to the background check process. Individuals with criminal records or other disqualifying factors to purchase guns aren’t finding gun shows as a venue to acquire firearms, as such events often now require background checks even for private sales.

Another circumvention to the NICS background check program takes place when a prohibited person uses someone else to purchase the firearm, a transaction most of you know as a “straw sale.” NSSF’s Security Consultant Team receives many calls throughout the year alerting us to this occurring at member locations, and thanks to alert counter employees, more and more straw sales are being prevented.

So aside from the inability to purchase a gun legally, why are guns such a popular target for theft these days? Economics. On the streets, guns are used by criminals to commit other crimes, to use as trade and to sell for cash. A stolen handgun on the street can easily fetch two or three times the face value of the firearm.

How Guns Get Stolen

From what we have been investigating over the past four years, we are seeing more and more brazen acts of burglary, primarily the smash-and-grab event that is often broadcast on the evening news. This type of burglary usually includes two vehicles being stolen, one to penetrate the FFL location and the other used to flee the scene with the stolen goods. This type of burglary results in devastating property damage for the FFL, but typically only a handful of firearms being stolen. In a best-case scenario, only a small window or door will be shattered to gain access, and guns will be secured and unavailable for after-hours theft resulting in few, if any, being reported stolen — but this is not the standard. We have recently seen an increase in amateur-level burglaries wherein a window or unprotected glass door is smashed to gain entry and handguns are stolen from an easy-to-access showcase. And as more and more such events are broadcasted by the media, YouTube or social channels, this pattern is apt to continue.

The Criminal Profile

A good number of the individuals apprehended or identified in the more than 500 FFL burglaries reported in 2017 were part of a gang and, in many cases, were juveniles. Our intelligence has led us to believe that adult gang members often require the younger gang members to steal vehicles and burglarize FFLs as part of their gang initiation.

There’s a strategy behind this. Juveniles are typically not prosecuted as adults for firearms thefts and may not be subject to the same penalties and minimum sentencing guidelines for theft of firearms from a licensed dealer. Adult gang leaders explain this to the younger members and, hence, the younger members proceed to commit these crimes with less fear of consequence. Of course, individual local, state or federal prosecutors will uphold the law in varying capacities, but the fact remains the juveniles are often coerced into these illegal acts.

This now common practice doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Keep in mind that many adults do indeed commit thefts from FFLs, but if we believe the videos being broadcasted across our media, we tend to lean toward gangs perpetrating these thefts more so than individuals. Therefore, it’s prudent upon us all as retail FFLs to do our part in protecting and securing firearms after store hours and deter as many firearm thefts as possible.

It’s a new year. Make time now to take a fresh look at improving and upgrading your firearms security programs to prevent future gun thefts.

NSSF’s Store Security Audit team is standing by to assist you with any physical or operational security or safety issue you may have including design, planning, training and crisis management. NSSF also partners with a variety of security product vendors. Log in to the Members-only side of to discover more.

About the Author
John Bocker is an NSSF Security Consultant Team Member and the Managing Director at JB Group, LLC, based in Denver, Colorado. JB Group is a business security and strategy consulting organization specializing in ATF FFL compliance and protecting FFLs against unexpected losses resulting from burglary, robbery and internal control failures. For more information call 720-514-0609.


You may also be interested in: Put the Criminals on Notice

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