The theft of more than 20 firearms at a Fenton gun store last week was the latest in an increase in such robberies at gun stores in Missouri and Illinois, according to federal officials.
Figures from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show there were at least eight gun store burglaries last year in St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties, including an April 2017 heist at the Hazelwood Cabela’s.
“If they’re willing to take the risk … they can steal these guns, and more importantly, they can offload them,” John Ham, an ATF spokesman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last year. “There are plenty of people out there that are willing to buy them at high prices and very quickly.”
At the same time, only eight states have regulations for security standards for gun dealers, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Missouri and Illinois are not among them.
Denny Dennis, the owner of the burglarized sporting goods store in Fenton, said Wednesday that his shop has security cameras, alarms and pilings to stop cars from crashing through the store’s front.
“It kind of sickens you,” Dennis said about the burglary. While most of the store’s 1,500 guns are locked up at night, some are stored in glass display cases. The thief grabbed guns from those glass cases, Dennis said.
Dennis said a single burglar was in his store for 72 seconds before fleeing.
“He brought his own satchel in,” Dennis said. “I guess he was in here, cased the joint, and then grabbed ’em and then went out the back where the car went through the garage door.”
At the Triple Threat Armory in nearby Affton, management has mostly stopped two burglary attempts in the last year. In November, thieves were able to steal only ammunition and a laptop computer because the store’s guns were locked in safes. In May, intruders threw a rock through the window of the store, though, again could not steal any guns because they were locked up, police said.
The ATF said the number of reported gun store burglaries in the United States increased to 577 in 2017 from 338 in 2013 — the fourth straight yearly increase.
The amount of firearms stolen by burglars also increased last year, with 7,841 guns reported stolen. In 2016, burglars stole 7,488 guns. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of guns stolen per year did not surpass 4,721, the federal data show.
In Missouri there were 19 burglaries last year, up from 14 in 2016. The number of burglaries in Missouri has fluctuated between 12 and 19 for six years, the federal data showed. In Illinois, there were 22 burglaries in 2017, up from 14 burglaries the year prior, five burglaries in 2015 and three in 2014, according to the data.