Jan 9, 2023 - News

Nashville saw a record year of gun thefts from cars

Reported Nashville gun thefts, 2017–2022
Data: Metropolitan Nashville Police Department; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

More guns were stolen from cars in 2022 than any other year on record, according to Nashville police data.

  • Gun thefts have risen steadily for years in Nashville. At the same time, state lawmakers have eliminated more and more restrictions surrounding gun possession.

Why it matters: Stolen guns present a clear danger to the community. They have been used in high-profile crimes around the city.

By the numbers: Police reported 1,378 guns were stolen from cars last year, making up more than 70% of total gun thefts in Nashville.

  • Gun thefts from cars have skyrocketed over the last several years. In 2017, the number stood at 576, per police data.

"It's a disturbing trend, because we know that those guns taken from motor vehicles obviously end up in the hands of people that don't need to have them," Sgt. Robert Weaver tells Axios.

  • "We know that those guns get passed around. They get used with robberies, in shootings."
  • Weaver encouraged gun owners to lock their cars and take guns into their houses at night.

Driving the news: Weaver, who works in the Hermitage precinct, says guns are stolen from vehicles in hotel parking lots, outside apartment buildings and in residential driveways.

  • Sometimes, he says, thieves appear to target vehicles if there are stickers or insignias on a car that suggest the owner has a gun.
  • The department's prevention efforts are focused on building awareness through weekly updates, parking lot signage and community meetings.

Zoom out: The rise in gun thefts has happened in parallel with legislative efforts to ease gun restrictions in Tennessee.

  • Over the last decade, lawmakers passed laws allowing guns to be stored in parked cars and allowing most gun owners to carry their weapons without a permit.

State of play: State Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said those new laws "have directly resulted in more handguns on the streets in the hands of criminals."

  • "Repealing those laws and holding negligent gun owners accountable would be possible options to increase public safety while respecting the integrity of the Second Amendment," he said.

What's next: Last year, state Rep. Mark White (R-Memphis) said he would try to revive legislation that would require gun owners to report thefts or penalize them for failing to secure their guns.

  • The Republican supermajority has backed harsher penalties for gun thefts. But White's measure and other efforts to regulate guns have failed to gain traction.
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