ATF: 2016 gun thefts highest in state of Georgia

A new report shows thefts of firearms from gun stores and pawn shops skyrocketed last year.

It was published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the state of Georgia ranked highest on the list of targets.

The number of guns stolen from Georgia gun and pawn shops increased 122% from 2015 to 2016.

"Those are the firearms that are ending up on the streets committing the violent crime," said ATF Special Agent Michael Knight.

The data from the ATF also shows a spike in guns stolen from Tennessee stores too, up 73% from 2015.

"I think in the South in particular there's a rich history of gun ownership and there are a lot of available firearms," Knight explained.

When those guns are stolen, Knight says, it's more than just a problem for the targeted businesses: it's a safety issue for the entire community.

"More than likely those firearms are going to be used in additional crimes in this particular area - in the Chattanooga area - as well as surrounding states and even other parts of the country," said Knight.

Gun and pawn shop security isn't regulated by the federal government. It is up to the individual store to take proper security measures.

Ricky Jones owns the Pawnderosa Pawn Shop in Ringgold.

"While the business is open is the only time my guns are out," said Jones.

He has never had an incident at his store. He says the ATF makes recommendations that he takes seriously.

"Keep your guns locked up, don't leave too easy of access to them, don't leave them too visible to the street, especially through the night," said Jones.

Special Agent Knight asks people to keep in mind that guns purchased through a third party, either over the internet or person-to-person, could have been stolen from a gun store.

If you don't feel comfortable making a third party transaction, the ATF says you can go through a licensed store, pay a small fee, and have a background check.

If you chose not to do that, make sure you get all the information you can from the seller. Record the serial number, make, and model and take a photo of the gun that you store separately from the firearm.

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