Both the FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted record numbers of gun-related background checks in 2012. In Florida and nationally, the interest in gun ownership surged after the November re-election of President Barrack Obama and the December mass shooting in Connecticut.
It is not clear how much of the surge is attributable to new gun owners and how much to previous owners adding to their arsenals.
However, it is probable that more weapons will eventually translate into more stolen firearms. An analysis by the U.S. Department of Justice says an annual average of 232,400 firearms are stolen during burglaries and other property crimes. That is in addition roughly 25,000 weapons a year that are lost by, or stolen from, federal firearms licensees.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri acknowledges the long-standing impact on law enforcement.
"When crimes are committed, the guns have fallen into the wrong hands, and it's because somebody has stolen it. Or you have a felon that's in possession of a firearm," Gualtieri said, "People who are felons can't buy them, so they'll steal them or they'll buy them on the street."
Rob Shewmake of Equip 2 Conceal, a firearms training company, said storage is covered in its three-hour training program. He added most new gun owners are focused on safe loading and firing of a weapon.
"When we get to cleaning and storage, there's just not as high an interest, and it's just as important," Shewmake said.
At a local sporting goods store, Shewmake pointed out small, single-weapon safes that can be bolted to the floor or wall. That product line offers large buttons for quickly entering a four-digit code, even in the dark.
"With home defense, that would probably be one of your best options," Shewmake said. "It would [also] be a good idea to have that in your car to prevent somebody from breaking in and stealing your gun."
The federal study concluded about one-third of firearms thefts involve long guns. Shewmake recommended full-sized gun vaults for those. Most are also fireproof, and some feature dehumidifiers to minimize rust issues.
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