An investigation by the Associated Press determined that at least 1,900 U.S. military firearms were lost or stolen during the 2010s, and some of them were used to commit violent crimes afterward.
A variety of weapons ranging from handguns and shotguns to automatic rifles have disappeared from military facilities, according to records from the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Army reviewed by The Associated Press (AP). Weapons were lost or stolen because of simple errors like unlocked doors and sleeping troops, but also due to incidents such as break-ins and other security failures.
The U.S. military has several million firearms. The Beretta M9 pistol is one of those workhorse weapons. See which others, including automatic assault rifles, have been lost or stolen in the @AP investigation AWOL Weapons. https://t.co/rySeMpeYUg pic.twitter.com/j7uHUB7QI4
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 15, 2021
The AP asserts that their total is most likely an undercounting, as the release of some information has allegedly been suppressed by the military. The scope of these losses and thefts was previously unknown to the public. (RELATED: Top Navy Officer Refuses To Condemn Idea That White People Created HIV In Testy Exchange Over Critical Race Theory)
Some explosives were taken as well, including armor-piercing grenades that were found in a backyard in Atlanta, according to the AP. Another incident highlighted by the AP occurred in Afghanistan, where 65 handguns were stolen after a padlock was cut off a container, and the theft went unnoticed for two weeks.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday she’d be open to increased oversight on weapons accountability. The Pentagon is required to notify Congress of “significant” cases of missing weapons, but such an alert has not been given since 2017.
The AP identified eight cases where a stolen military gun was used in a civilian shooting or other violent crime. While the military is required to notify civilian law enforcement when a firearm is lost or stolen and assist in ensuing investigations, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said his office did not know of any stolen guns used in civilian crimes.
One stolen handgun was recovered in Albany, New York, and was linked to four different shootings plus a standoff with a civilian hostage. A review by the ATF found that Beretta M9 had been listed as “in-transit” between two different units at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for two years, according to the AP.
Many of the stolen weapons ended up being sold through pawn shops, surplus stores, online or via direct meetings with buyers. Stolen machine gun parts from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were found to have ended up with online buyers from Mexico to Russia to China. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: Watch These Chinese Military Ads, Then These American Military Ads. Which Country Wins Wars?)
An analysis of investigations conducted by the Navy and the Marines found that 55% of missing weapons cases resulted in no suspect being identified and the weapon in question not being recovered. Record-keeping in some branches, particularly the Army, was described as incomplete and unorganized, while the AP detailed multiple instances in which officials were reluctant to cooperate with their investigation.