Since Jan.1, 2014, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office stated in a release issued today, 34 firearms were stolen from vehicles in the county. Of those, only seven have been recovered. The value of the guns stolen has been estimated to be more than $16,500. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the time span as starting in 2015 rather than 2014.)
“More guns in the hands of criminals means more innocent people may be victimized,” Sheriff Jim Manfre said in the release. “It also places our law enforcement officers at a greater risk.”
The majority of car break-ins in Flagler County are crimes of opportunity: car owners leave their vehicles unlocked. Only a minority of break-ins involve the shattering of door windows or other violent means of gaining access. Most of the break-ins take place in residents’ driveways or in commonly used parking lots.
The sheriff’s office again reminded residents today to take the extra time to lock their vehicles, place valuables out of sight and remove weapons when the vehicle is left unattended for an extended period of time. Florida law, however, is weak regarding the safe storage of weapons. The law requires that a loaded firearm be kept in a lockbox or secured with a trigger lock, but only if the gun owner “reasonably” knows that a minor could gain access to the weapon. The law makes exceptions if the gun owner is carrying the weapon, and is vague about vehicles, as it provides that the gun owner may keep the gun “within such close proximity” that he or she “can retrieve and use it as easily and quickly as if he or she carried it on his or her body.”
The penalty for violating the law is also weak: it’s a second-degree misdemeanor, but only if a minor not only gets hold of the weapon, but goes on to exhibit it in a public place or to use it in a threatening way.