Wednesday, September 13, 2017

What are they thinking?

My blog, languishing in suspended animation due to lack of interest, has been awakened today for a rant that has been brewing for a considerable time. It's a topic I have blogged about on several past occasions: the practice of leaving your loaded gun stored in your motor vehicle overnight--compounded by not locking the doors.

Some follow-up investigation by the police department this week on a case earlier this summer is what caused my pot to boil over. Back on August 8, LPD was summoned to the parking lot of the Lancaster County Event Center on a juvenile disturbance. They arrived and spotted the primary disturber, a 17 year-old who made a beeline for his parked vehicle upon their approach. His escape was interrupted, and he put up a fight but was quickly cuffed and stuffed. A subsequent search of his car turned up a stash of cash, pot, scales, packaging material, and a loaded pistol.

As is normal practice, an e-trace was initiated through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. The results came back last week, and identified the original purchaser of the pistol, which was acquired in 2014 from a local gun dealer by a 40 year-old Lincoln man who holds a Nebraska concealed carry permit. When he was contacted, he told officers that he noticed his pistol missing from his unlocked car back in November, 2016. He didn't report it as stolen, because he thought he might have misplaced it.

This encounter with a gun-toting teenager on August 8 could easily have ended quite differently. It reminds me of this case last fall, where another absent-minded concealed carry permit holder left his loaded pistol in his unlocked pickup. It was snatched by a teenaged runaway, and pulled from his pocket about an hour later after some fisticuffs with police officers who spotted him a mile away from the site of the theft.

Thefts of this kind are happening with depressing regularity. Noticing what seemed to be a trend last year, I started pulling these cases out and creating a spreadsheet to keep track. Since January 1, 2016, there have been 37 cases of this nature where a pistol has been stolen from a motor vehicle. Only two of those were locked. More than half of the stolen firearms belonged to victims who hold concealed carry permits.

Here's what I think is happening: people are acquiring concealed carry permits, but quickly learning what most rookie police officers learn--that carrying a concealed pistol has certain drawbacks. It ruins the lining of your jacket, pokes a hole in your driver's seat bolster, precludes you from stopping for a beer on the way home, limits your wardrobe choices, causes your pants to sag, your ribcage to hurt, and so forth. As a result, many of these permittees are deciding to just carry the gun in their vehicle. The practice of actually carrying it back and forth every night from the vehicle is apparently too inconvenient for some, so it simply remains in the console, under the seat, or in the door pocket pretty much permanently--easy prey for a thief who is trying door handles around the neighborhood in the wee hours of the morning.

It's one thing to lose your Ray-Bans and $2.25 in loose change from your cup holder because you either habitually or absent-mindedly leave your vehicle unlocked. It's another thing entirely when your Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semi-auto with a fully-loaded magazine is now in possession of a 17 year old drug dealer grappling with the police in the dark parking lot at the Lancaster County Fair. If you consider yourself sufficiently level-headed and disciplined to carry a concealed firearm, you ought to know better.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Tom--I really missed reading your daily thoughts.
It's a damned shame a few idiots can ruin things for people by not securing their guns. Is there legal action that can be taken here? I'd think even a slap on the wrist whold help against few

Anonymous said...

Here's a concept. Maybe the reason so many evil CCW permit holders leave their gun in the car when they get home is from habit.

Depending on where you shop, I would guess that between 50 to 100% of the places you go do not allow firearms by either State law or the decision of the business owner. These are the infamous 'gun free zones' that ignorant people think keep us so safe. So an evil, law abiding CCW holder has to leave his or her gun in the car the majority of the time and probably forgets to take it into the house and secure it at the end of the day.

So instead of blaming the victims, I blame the laws passed by ignorant law makers for putting our brave police officers lives in danger.

Tom Casady said...

3:15 PM,

I understand your thought, and I think in at least one case that was indeed the circumstance--as the victim said he left the gun in the car because he was going into a bar. I stand by my impression, though, that many of the people who just leave their gun in the car all the time simply don't care to tote it around--not because they are spending that much time in "gun-free zones", rather because its not very convenient generally to go about armed on your person. And that's fine. I don't really mind that you leave it in the car while you are out and about--just lock the darned doors, take it into your house when you get home for the day, and spend a few bucks on a quality gun safe--rapid access if that's your wish. If most of these victims had treated their pistol with the same care as their cellphone, these thefts would never had occurred.

Steve said...

Tom,

I suspect that both you and anon@3:15 have pointed out the prime reasons for guns being left in cars. When I got my permit, I carried frequently, if not most of the time. Over time, I experienced some of the issues you mentioned as well as finding so many places that did not allow concealed carry on their property. I hate to say it was more of a hassle than it was worth, because there is always a chance that having a gun might save my life or someone else's life. Still, I seldom carry on my person these days. Actually, the whole reason I wanted the concealed handgun act to pass in the first place was so that I could carry my handgun in my vehicle without leaving it exposed on the seat or dashboard or in a holster on my hip.

I don't disagree with you at all about locking ones vehicle, gun inside or not. I always lock my vehicle, no matter where it is parked, if it will be out of my sight even a few minutes. I think there are reasons why someone might prefer to leave their gun in their vehicle when they come home that deserve some consideration. One is, that perhaps your neighbors are not the most trustworthy of people. They might see you carrying a gun back and forth every time you leave and come home again and get the idea that maybe there are more in the house they could help themselves to when you're gone (or sleeping). Another is the gunaphobes who will call police any time they see a gun. Someone just driving by might see you carrying your gun into the house and call the police. At the very least, it would mean another trip for your people and a hassle for me. If I can't afford one of those fancy quick-access gun safes, or any gun safe, my gun is probably as safe in my locked truck as it is in my home, which is probably easier to break into. Also, my grandchildren come to visit, and they would be safer if my gun were in my locked truck than if it were in my nightstand drawer. Finally, though probably the least important, is that it is a hassle to carry it back and forth every time you come and go. It's one more thing to carry when you might already have your hands full, or else another trip back and forth.

That being said, I don't understand why people can't lock their vehicles. Unless they are driving some antique, they probably have electronic door locks and a fob they can carry in their pocket. Some cars even lock automatically. I can't even imagine why anyone would leave the keys in the ignition, gun or no gun in the car.

We should not lose sight of the fact that it is not illegal to leave a gun in a vehicle, locked or not, keys in the ignition or not, but it is illegal for someone to steal those items. The blame, and the consequences for whatever happens should fall squarely on the ones breaking the law, not the ones just being stupid.

How many times have people actually been charged with violating the city ordinance against leaving a firearm in an unattended vehicle? If it's not being enforced, it will certainly not be a deterrent. How many of the people who have been caught with these stolen guns have a record a mile long and should have been in jail, not out stealing and robbing? If we're really concerned about people stealing guns and the hazard they present for law-enforcement officers, these people need to remain in jail, not get a slap on the wrist and be sent off to do it again. Make stealing a firearm a felony punishable by 50 years in prison. Even if it's not a deterrent, we'll eventually have all the gun thieves locked up.

Steve said...

Oh, by the way, Tom; if your blog was languishing due to lack of interest, it must have been your lack of interest. There are plenty who enjoyed your posts on a regular basis, though I will admit some of the tech-related posts got a little ho hum. :)

Tom Casady said...

Steve,

Yes, my lack of interest mostly--although readership had declined quite a bit in the last couple years. Blogs are so 90s ;-) Actually, I've been using my time in the early morning before work to bike, rather than write. My cycling had really suffered during the heyday of the Director's Desk/Chief's Corner. It takes a lot of time and effort to write a blog post several days a week--even when it's a little ho-hum. Thanks for enduring my posts for a decade. Feedback like this really kept me motivated.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I miss the blog too, especially on my favorite holiday.

Steve said...

Tom,

I see your tweets now, but I don't know if tweeting is something I'll ever get into. I understand about the biking and blogging, though, and it's probably healthier to bike. :)

With all your tech savvy, I'd think you would have the ability to dictate to a device while you ride, though. :) Or, would that be texting while driving? :)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it wonderful--I can get my credit cards paid off with no interest. Muar be the same great folks offering you the loan. Only one problem--I don't HAVE a credit card! I do have the time though, to really give them a bad time about the whole thing. Cheap entertainment! Anyone else do this?