U.S. firearm sales have surged in recent years and have coincided with a steep increase in gun violence — a record number of Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While law-abiding citizens with no intention of engaging in criminal activity account for the vast majority of gun purchases, the influx of guns in American households increases the likelihood of firearms falling into the wrong hands, particularly through theft.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, more than 1 million firearms were reported stolen by private citizens in the five years from 2017 to 2021. Stolen guns are most commonly burgled from homes and vehicles, but some are also taken directly from a person. Though many stolen guns are ultimately linked to crimes, they are typically first sold on the black market.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of firearms were reported stolen in every state in the last five years. Still, gun theft is far more common in some states than in others.
Using data from the ATF’s report National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA): Crime Guns – Volume Two,, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the highest firearm theft rates. States are ranked by the annual average number of guns stolen from private citizens from 2017 to 2021 for every 100,000 people in the state. Thefts from gun stores and gunmakers were not considered.
Depending on the state, the average number of guns stolen each year ranges from 5.4 for every 100,000 people to 185.1 guns stolen per 100,000. According to the ATF, there is a regional pattern to firearm theft. Southern states, for example, accounted for over 60% of all incidents of firearm theft from 2017 to 2021, while states in the Northeast accounted for less than 5%. In keeping with these findings, each of the five states with the highest gun theft rates is in the South, while four of the five states with the lowest rates are in the Northeast. (Here is a look at how many guns used to commit crime are traced in every state.)
Semi-automatic pistols are by far the most commonly stolen firearm type, accounting for over 70% of all reported firearm thefts in the U.S. in the last five years. And all of the top five stolen calibers – .45, .22, .380, .40, and 9mm – are widely available in semi-automatic handguns. (Here is a look at the gun calibers most likely to be used for crime in every state.)
Click here to see the states where the most guns are stolen.
Click here to read our detailed methodology.
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