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.