It’s not uncommon for Southern California police agencies to lose track of their firearms, and often these missing weapons end up in the wrong hands.
An investigation conducted by the Orange County Register found that in the past five years, state and local police agencies spanning from Kern County to the Mexican border have reported 329 firearms lost or stolen.
The OC Register reports that an audit conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department found 103 of their 20,000 firearms to be missing or stolen.
These numbers, although seemly high, may be only a fraction of the law enforcement firearms that have ended up on the street. Because there are no state or federal laws requiring agencies to account for their firearms, auditing missing weapons isn’t always a high priority. Departments that audit their weaponry do so voluntarily.
One of the larger agencies in Southern California, Long Beach Police Department, told the OC Register that it does not track their weapons because LBPD officers provide their own guns.
Some departments, including Hermosa Beach Police Department, reported that after performing their voluntary annual weaponry audit, they found no weapons missing.
Many lost or stolen weapons can end up in the hands of violent criminals.
Kate Steinle, a young woman from San Francisco, was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant armed with a handgun stolen from a federal park ranger’s car last year.
Armando Gonzalez, a former deputy, didn’t report his duty weapon missing for two years, claiming his “wife took the gun” after their breakup. The Mercury News reports that police later found Gonzalez’s missing gun was connected to the killing of a California teenager.
Although California State law does not require police or civilians to report stolen firearms, Proposition 63 — a gun control proposition that will be on the state’s November ballot — would make it mandatory for both gun owners and police to report their stolen weapons to the authorities.