Reports of stolen guns have skyrocketed in Tampa, Florida, with over 1,500 firearms falling into the wrong hands so far this year. The chilling reality is that these stolen weapons often end up with criminals who can’t legally purchase them, sparking a surge in crime.
The grim reality of this situation was brought to light following the Ybor City mass shooting in October. Police disclosed that one of the two weapons recovered at the horrific scene, which left two dead and more than a dozen injured, was stolen. While details of the gun’s use in the tragedy remain under wraps, the incident underscores a disturbing trend of criminals turning to stolen firearms.
Tampa Police Major Eric DeFelice shed light on the common modus operandi of these thieves, who frequently target unlocked cars, scouring glove compartments and consoles for guns to resell in the criminal underworld. “Thieves are specifically targeting guns, rummaging through cars and leaving other valuables in plain view,” DeFelice explained.
Data obtained by 8 On Your Side from law enforcement agencies across the Tampa Bay area reveals a troubling pattern. Through early November, 1,515 guns were reported stolen—an average of 151 per month. This figure represents a slight increase from 2021, where 1,754 guns were stolen, averaging 146 per month.
DeFelice expressed little surprise at the involvement of stolen guns in crimes, noting, “We also see people who steal them to sell them because criminals can’t usually get a gun. So, how do they get it? They do it this way.”
The onus is also on gun owners to mitigate this growing crisis by more securely storing their firearms. While the total number of stolen guns in Tampa has trended downward this year, the figure of 327 stolen guns is still alarmingly high.
“327 is way too many. In a perfect world, we’re down to zero,” said DeFelice. “That may never happen but the lower we can go the better. We have to make it as difficult as possible for evil doers and perpetrators of these guns from your car.”
This escalating gun theft epidemic is not just a statistic; it’s a stark reminder of the dangers lurking in unsecured firearms and the pressing need for vigilance and responsibility among gun owners in Tampa.