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Guns and cars don’t mix

Gun thieves in the US have been targeting vehicles, a reminder that we must never get complacent about travelling with our firearms, warns Alasdair Mitchell

gun slip in car boot

There's plenty of room for all your kit in the boot

I have long thought that guns and cars don’t mix. How many shotgun barrels bear the scars of having been clonked on a door pillar, despite having been encased in a slip? (Read leaving guns in cars – is it legal?)

And then there are the guns that have been placed on a car roof, only to be forgotten as the hapless driver sets off. I can even recall a case where a police firearms office found himself in hot water after losing the magazine of a sub-machine gun that he had left on top of his armed response vehicle.

Across the pond, the days of American pickup trucks with gun in a rack on display in the back window may be coming to an end. A recent news item in the Daily Telegraph was titled: “Thieves prey on gun owners’ cars showing pro-arms stickers.”

The story was set in the US. It stated that research based on figures from the FBI had shown that “motorists who plaster their vehicles with stickers from the likes of the National Rifle Association (NRA) or advertising weapons manufacturers are especially vulnerable as cars emerge as the biggest source of stolen weapons”.

Stolen guns

The researchers — who trawled through FBI data from 271 cities — found that more than half of stolen guns were taken from cars and pickups; a decade earlier it was around a quarter. Thieves had apparently been breaking into vehicles and finding firearms under car seats, in central consoles or the glove department.

It is worth noting that the analysis in question was carried out by a gun control group called Everytown for Gun Safety. But the issue does appear to be gaining traction. Legislators in at least one US state are considering making storing a gun in a car a criminal offence, unless it is securely locked up.

The NRA is opposed to the move, saying that gun owners would be discouraged from reporting thefts if they feared being prosecuted themselves. Note that the proposed US legislation seems to be aimed at those who ‘store’ guns in cars. In this country, we are advised not leave firearms in cars for any longer than strictly necessary. It is advisable to remove an essential working part of the gun if the vehicle is to be left unattended for more than a short time, or to take other reasonable security precautions.

Notoriously rough

I remember a case where a licence holder had his certificate revoked after his guns were stolen from his car, which had been parked on a street in a notoriously rough part of a city. Some thought this unfair, given that the police are supposed to deter and prevent crime, rather than merely blaming the victims. However, it emerged that the guns had been left in the boot in full working order, together with ammunition, over an entire weekend.

gun safes for cars

Security safes in cars can be useful

Many UK shooters have invested in security cabinets that can be fitted into a four-wheel drive. Others use cables or trigger locks. I always take the bolt with me when I have to leave my rifle in my pickup — though that invariably leads to an outbreak of bolt anxiety, as I constantly check it. There is no easy solution. (Read more on gun safes for cars.)