Article about stolen guns


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April 26, 2006, 11:23 AM
http://www.lockportjournal.com/local/local_story_116000623.html

Missing guns, tense times
By Tasha Kates / katest@gnnewspaper.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal (NY)

When guns are missing from a home, it’s everyone’s problem.

The difference between a stolen DVD player and a lifted handgun is simple: One of them is a lethal weapon that could be sold on the black market to an unknown person with unknown intent.
That scenario was almost avoided in the Town of Wilson. On April 9, a group of people broke into a house on Wilson-Burt Road and stole 22 handguns. State police and a Lockport detective were able to track down 19 of the guns after the homeowner helped police with suspect information. Four men have been charged in the theft, but the other three guns are still missing.

Stolen firearms like these are sometimes sold on the sly.

“Guns are the currency of the street,” Lockport’s Detective Capt. Larry Eggert said. “People sell guns for drug money. But eventually it lands in the wrong hands. That person wants a gun for a reason: To commit a robbery, to settle a score with a drug dealer.”

According to a 1997 study conducted by the FBI, 80 percent of prison inmates that possessed a gun got it from family, friends or an illegal source. Depending on the type of pistol, a seller can get $100 to $300 each without worry about a depreciated value.

There is no shortage of guns in Niagara County, Sheriff Thomas Beilein said. “We live in an area where a lot of people own guns because of the rural environment we’re in,” Beilein said. “There is a lot of hunting.”

Getting a firearm

For those who want a gun without also earning an arrest record, they can be bought at Wal-Mart stores around the country, gun stores, gun shows and from other people in advertisements. But before someone buys a new pistol, there is the matter of the proper paperwork. That is where the county’s Pistol Permit Office comes in. Before someone purchases a firearm, he must fill out an application which includes four character references, questions about arrest records and a medical history. The application and fingerprints are sent out to be verified against a background check. The office strives for an average wait of 90 days.

As long as things go smoothly, Pistol Permit Investigator William Ingham doesn't involve himself in the permit process. Over 25,000 Niagara County residents have pistol permits, and only 1 percent get their permits suspended or revoked for incidents.

“Pistol permit holders are the most law-abiding citizens we have,” Ingham said.

Anytime a handgun is stolen, Ingham looks into the conditions surrounding the theft. A person who kept his guns in a safe that was stolen will not be sanctioned because he tried to keep the firearm from being taken. If he kept his gun under his pillow or another unsecured place and it is stolen while he is gone, he will likely face a suspension. “The application is an ongoing assessment,” Ingham said. “They have to be responsible adults. Some people go in and out of maturity in life.”

Sometimes people forget that they have guns and don’t tell anyone. Ingham said families looking through their late relative's belongings may find old war relics they didn't know they had. Beilein said others may store them improperly. “People have become too complacent with storage of the guns, especially with long guns, Beilein said. “They leave it in a corner in a closet out of sight, but a burglar finds it right away.”

Tracking stolen guns

Burglaries are not usually spontaneous events. Beilein said burglars keep an eye out for the right place to hit. “They case the place,” Beilein said. “They see the pattern of traffic in and out of the house. They tend to look for houses and nicer homes that they surmise have more valuables.” Sometimes even guns enclosed inside a locked cabinet won’t thwart a burglar from stealing the entire gun rack. If the criminal succeeds, law enforcement agencies set out to find the guns before they have gone far.

The New York State Police have started to crack down on people who take guns with their Gun Enforcement Unit. The program, which is stationed in Batavia, started helping 14 Western New York counties with gun issues on Jan. 12. The group helped local troopers find the guns taken in Wilson earlier this month. Investigator Michael Davis, who helps head the group, said the unit took on 14 cases through the end of March and retrieved about a dozen weapons. People who the group is looking for aren’t usually expecting a visitor. “We do a number of search warrants,” Davis said. “With search warrants, the element of surprise is in our favor.”

As for Eggert and Beilein, both said they rely on shared information between agencies to help recover the handguns. “There is very little you can do except through education,” Beilein said.

An increased police presence also may make a difference. Eggert said he noticed an increased crack problem in the city after the 1992 layoff of several police officers and firefighters. “We became the place to go and safely conduct business,” Eggert said. “We were Dodge City Lockport from 1992 until 1995. There were shootings at noon on Genesee and stabbings in daylight.”

Both the cities of Lockport and Niagara Falls will be adding more shifts this summer during Operation IMPACT. The program was started in 2004 to help law enforcement officials address crime issues strategically and on all levels.

Protecting the law

An increase in guns on the street also increases the likelihood that a police officer will run into one while on patrol. Both the sheriff's department and Lockport police carry Glocks and keep a rifle in a patrol car. Eggert said almost all of the officers wear bullet-resistant vests for their entire shift and have changed how they approach situations. “We have gotten a lot of complaints from the public when we approach their car with a hand on the gun,” Eggert said. “Until you're sure it's all right, you can't let your guard down. You never know what will happen.”

Eggert experienced a situation gone wrong when he was shot on the job in February 2003. “My perspective changed,” Eggert said. “I enjoy shooting but I'm starting to question if it's necessary for people to have an assault rifle. You don't need it to hunt deer.”

Detective Michael J. Pillot, one of the department's firearms instructors, said Lockport officers aren’t usually involved in shoot-outs. “If they're getting violent, they might be high on drugs,” Pillot said. “They get pulled over and the guy's higher than a kite. He thinks he can shoot at the cop and get away.”

Pillot and Lt. Anthony Palumbo spend some Thursday mornings at the indoor gun range at the Lockport Conservation Club. There officers can practice accurate shooting with their Glock .40-caliber guns from various positions and prove it during semi-annual qualifying tests. “They learn how to shoot in close quarters, on their back, kneeling and from a seated position,” Palumbo said. “They practice shooting while moving around.”

Officers also role-play to help one another get used to working through pain and running into a criminal while doing a building search. For these tasks, the officials use one of two “simunition” guns, which look and fire like Glocks, but shoot out paint-filled bullets instead of the real thing.

Beilein said his deputies practice with their Glock .45 caliber automatics at their training facility. The officials go through training and testing on the handgun and rifle. Those who don’t score at a certain level are guided through remedial firearms training.

Sinking in

Beilein said stealing guns seems to go hand-in-hand with more crime. “Taking guns in a burglary doesn’t surprise me,” Beilein said. “There has always been a black market for guns.” Over his years at with the Lockport Police Department, Eggert said he has seen a marked increase in violence, while younger people have grown accustomed to seeing it.

“I think violence has increased all over the world,” Eggert said. “We see people getting their heads cut off on television. It tends to desensitize people.”

Contact Tasha Kates at 439-9222, Ext. 6241.

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Standing Wolf
April 26, 2006, 06:11 PM
That person wants a gun for a reason: To commit a robbery, to settle a score with a drug dealer.

Settles that, I guess.

mbs357
April 26, 2006, 06:26 PM
I'm pretty sure that when he says "that person" he's talking about a criminal.

“Guns are the currency of the street,” Lockport’s Detective Capt. Larry Eggert said. “People sell guns for drug money. But eventually it lands in the wrong hands. That person wants a gun for a reason: To commit a robbery, to settle a score with a drug dealer.”

John G
April 26, 2006, 06:30 PM
The part about "assault rifles" being no good for deer hunting was nice. It's good to see the same tired straw man arguments are still being used. :rolleyes:

bromdenlong
April 26, 2006, 06:41 PM
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Eggert experienced a situation gone wrong when he was shot on the job in February 2003. “My perspective changed,” Eggert said. “I enjoy shooting but I'm starting to question if it's necessary for people to have an assault rifle. You don't need it to hunt deer.”
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This guy is a Captain of Detectives, and doesn't understand that the 2nd Amendment isn't about hunting.

:banghead: :banghead: :fire: :cuss: :fire: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :fire: :cuss: :cuss: :fire: :fire: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead: :banghead:

No one in this country should be able to get a high school diploma, let alone be a cop or serve in the military, without being able to pass a test on what the Constitution actually says. This ass has no conception of what he has pledged to defend, or he doesn't care.

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