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Expert urges use of safes as gun thefts from cars rise

Targetmasters manager Joe Gilbert said gun owners should keep a safe such as this one in their cars if they ever have to leave their handguns behind. (Garrett Bergquist)

A local gun store owner on Tuesday said he knows from personal experience locking your gun in your console doesn't secure it from theft.

Targetmasters manager Joe Gilbert said someone pried their way into his truck a few years ago, popped the lock on his console, and stole his handgun.

"It's a sickening feeling," he said.

Gilbert now doesn't leave his gun in a car unless it's locked inside a gun safe.

Kansas City saw a 37 percent jump in gun thefts last year and is on pace to have even more this year. Detective Tom O'Sullivan, of the Boone County Sheriff's Department, said his agency doesn't have comparable data, but guns are a prime target for theft.

"More people are carrying firearms on their person, more people are carrying firearms in their cars, and there are more firearms in people's houses," he said.

Although some thefts are targeted, O'Sullivan said most gun thefts happen when thieves pick a neighborhood at random and start looking for unlocked cars. He said Boone County deputies sometimes recover guns that were reported stolen in Kansas City or St. Louis, but guns used in crimes in mid-Missouri more often were obtained locally. That's assuming investigators can trace them at all.

"Sometimes firearms are stolen and the rightful owner of the firearm does not have a serial number, so we are unable to enter it into a national database," O'Sullivan said. "So, sometimes we do get a hold of a firearm that we think might be stolen, but it's not showing as stolen."

Gun stores such as Gilbert's sell small metal safes that can be attached via a steel cable to a car seat or secured inside a trunk. Gilbert said you can attach the key to your car key ring.

"It just takes an extra 30 seconds, and then we don't have to worry about it," he said.

O'Sullivan said you should never leave your gun in your car overnight, especially if it's parked outside. He said you should maintain a written record of every gun you own, including its make, model and serial number. This way, you can give police more information about it if it is stolen.

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