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Repeal of Missouri Gun Law Links to Stolen Guns, Study Finds

The state’s 2007 repeal of the requirement to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun is connected to an increase in the number of stolen firearms, firearm deaths and further gun deregulation.

(TNS) — A new report has linked a change in a Missouri firearm law with an increase in the value of stolen firearms reported in the state — an indirect measure of an increase in the number of stolen guns.

The study published Monday by researchers at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning public policy group, analyzed federal data 12 years prior and 12 years after the state's 2007 repeal of the requirement to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun. Researchers used federal data showing the values of stolen firearms reported to law enforcement agencies as a way to estimate the changes in the number of stolen firearms.

The repeal also led to anywhere from 49 to 68 additional firearm deaths each year in the decade following 2007, researchers at Johns Hopkins found.

The state's firearms death rate increased 58 percent by 2019, according to a Star analysis of state firearms death figures.

A Star analysis also found that the repeal was widely supported by the state's General Assembly at the time — with 108 Republicans and 73 Democrats voting yes on the larger bill the law was folded into, while nine Democrats voted no. Seven lawmakers were absent from the vote.

Although the law's repeal didn't garner a lot of attention at the time, researchers have pointed to that one piece of legislation as a catalyst for the state's deregulation of gun laws and have tied it to impacts on gun violence.

"(The study) shows that permit to purchase laws not only prevent gun suicides and homicides, but also contribute to gun thefts and the easy movement of guns across the state and beyond state," said Eugenio Weigend Vargas, director for gun violence prevention at the Center for American Progress.

Firearms stolen in Missouri have been found at crime scenes within the state and nationally, he said. Missouri ranked 10th nationally in the value and number of firearms reported stolen between 2012 and 2017, according to a CAP analysis last year.

In a recent case in Kansas City, two men face felony charges related to illegal possession and sale of firearms after federal agents discovered 16 stolen guns, including an AR-style rifle in their possession.

At least one of the weapons that Treyon Bloodsoe, 20, and Roy Rushing, 24, allegedly trafficked was found in the possession of a juvenile.

In July, local police and federal agents announced that dozens of firearms had been reported stolen in a string of thefts targeting vehicles near Kansas City's Westport entertainment district.

Nationally, about 380,000 firearms are stolen every year, a 2017 Harvard study led by David Hemenway, professor of healty policy, found. However less than 240,000 gun thefts are reported to law enforcement annually.

The lack of consistent reporting makes it hard to know how many firearms go from manufacturing to being legally purchased to ending up in the hands of someone who commits a crime, Hemenway said. There's no clear way to know the exact trail of stolen firearms.

Missouri does not require firearm owners to report the loss or theft of their guns. Only 11 states require that owners report the loss or theft of all types of firearms to law enforcement, according to the Giffords Law Center. And federal law doesn't require individuals to report their lost or stolen guns, but it does require licensed firearm dealers to report thefts from their inventory.

"One of the big issues we don't know is, how important currently are stolen guns, in terms of getting guns into the hands of people who commit crimes," Hemenway said. "Is this (theft) a major source?"

The CAP study found that the overall value of reported firearm thefts in Missouri rose from $3.1 million to $4.3 million — a 38 percent increase — following the repeal of permit-to-purchase.

When the study filtered for four sheriff's offices and 19 police departments in Missouri that consistently reported data to the federal government over the 24 year period, the difference rose to 42 percent.

Aside from the repeal of permitting requirements for firearms, Missouri deregulated other key laws regarding guns in the years immediately before and after 2007 that may have impacted the increase in stolen firearms, said Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

"I suspect in Missouri this increase in theft is a combination of repealing permit the purchase and moving from a more restrictive 'may issue' concealed carry license law to a less restrictive 'shall issue' a concealed carry permit," he said. "We do see increases in guns thefts correlated with more relaxed regulation of civilians gun carrying."

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