Warthog Firearms in Harris County, Texas, was reduced to pieces through brute force on Monday, July 6 when a masked suspect rammed a stolen backhoe through the gun shop’s exterior wall. While the at-large burglar’s tactics were dramatic, he shares an audacious modus operandi with a recent crop of gun store robbers: Smashing their way to stolen goods.
A rash of thefts over the past two years make it clear that it doesn’t take a criminal mastermind to steal a deadly weapon, even from a federally licensed firearms dealer. There’s often little compelling gun dealers to secure their products from the simplest kind of smash-and-grab theft. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, only California and Minnesota regulate how gun shops store their weapons after hours.
In the absence of mandatory protocols, gun shops across North America have found themselves vulnerable to vehicular forced entry in particular, and rarely do the culprits require anything so heavy-duty as construction equipment. This June, a group of burglars helped themselves to the contents of Connecticut’s Woodbridge Firearms Trading Post after ramming through the front door with a stolen car. Just a week prior to that incident, burglars in Guntersville, Alabama, made off with dozens of handguns after stealing a flatbed truck and backing it through the glass front door of the Tactical Command gun shop.
On April Fool’s Day in Pueblo West, Colorado, thieves found that a stolen SUV could make short work of a gun shop’s defenses: They smashed the rear wall of Pueblo West Guns and Ammo in the style of the Kool-Aid Man and made off with a dozen handguns, all in under 40 seconds. In sundry 2014 burglaries, thieves gained entry to gun stores with a powerful Dodge Ram fresh off the dealer’s lot, a Honda Accord, and what appeared from crime scene photos to be a modest Dodge Neon compact sedan.
But smashing one’s way into a gun store doesn’t always require a couple hundred horsepower. On the last day of June, a North Carolina retailer lost almost all of its pistol inventory to a pair of thieves only equipped with a tire iron. In mid-March, burglars took up to 10 handguns from a Des Moines, Iowa, gun shop when they used a pry bar to gain access through the roof. This past January, a West Virginia thief simply smashed the glass front door of TIK Guns and Ammo with a hammer, where he helped himself to more than a dozen guns. That same month, two robbers entered a Florida gun store by smashing through drywall in an adjacent, vacant storefront. Based on local news reports, it was not clear they used any tools at all.
Incidentally, the owner of Warthog Firearms, the store burglarized by means of backhoe, did take his inventory’s security seriously, even though his native Texas mandates no such measures: While the heavy machinery breached the store with ease, the assault rifles the thief sought were kept secure behind additional glass casing. The thief departed, dejected, with only a nonfunctional gun that had been left at the shop for repairs.
[Photo: Flickr user Anthony Doudt]