While violent crime and homicides are trending downward across much of the United States, thefts appear to be on the rise nationally, including at gun stores. One of the most brazen strategies that thieves are deploying when targeting gun shops is to steal a car and then ram it into the storefront; smashing glass and making a hole for them to quickly get inside, where they can grab a dozen or more guns in under a minute and be gone before cops ever show up.
That’s exactly what happened in Fall City, Washington on Monday… or rather, that’s the plan that thieves were trying to execute when they targeted Fall City Firearms. As it turns out, while they managed to steal a car and send it flying into the storefront, they weren’t able to get away with any purloined pistols or other guns.
“It all happened in moments,” said Lee Stallman, the owner of Fall City Firearms.
“Somebody stays here at the gun shop every night for security reasons, and it paid off this morning. Somebody at four o’clock this morning smashed through the front of the building with a stolen vehicle, and I yelled the building is occupied and they fled,” said Stallman.
They damaged the door, but Stallman says that was it.
“Nothing was stolen,” Stallman said.
Good thing that Stallman’s verbal warning was enough to send them running, because I’d bet that the gun store owner was prepared to defend himself with deadly force if the intruders had made their way inside.
Unfortunately, thieves don’t often run into owners like Stallman after they run their stolen car into the front of a gun store, and the number of these types of smash-and-grabs are on the rise.
“Nationwide they happen on a pretty much daily basis,” said Jason Chudy, the public information officer for Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Seattle Field Division.
Less than two weeks ago, it happened in Monroe. At Armageddon Arms, thieves used a stolen vehicle to smash the front door.
“They got in and they took two dozen firearms,” said Chudy.
According to ATF’s Federal Firearm Licensee Theft/Loss report, in Washington state in 2021, there were 27 incidents with a total of 110 firearms missing. Last year, there were 38 reports with a total of 265 firearms gone.
“In the majority of the cases when there is a gun store burglary, those firearms stay in the community,” said Chudy. “They are going to sell it for money, for drugs, for other firearms, or they are going to use those in other crimes.”
I applaud Stallman for taking precautions and ensuring a presence in his store even when it’s closed for business, but that’s not a tenable solution for many small business owners, at least on a long-term basis. But theft is getting so bad, broadly speaking, that even more non-gun store owners are standing guard over the family business. I know one guy near Farmville who runs a very successful business catering to construction and contractors (that’s about as specific as I’m willing to get) who rarely sleeps in his nice home because he’s usually keeping watch at night from a camper parked on company property; a decision he made after going through multiple thefts over the past couple of years.
Thefts are generally crimes of opportunity, and a shuttered business combined with the darkness of night can seem like the perfect chance to get away with thousands of dollars in guns at very little risk to the criminals themselves. Stallman proved these particular suspects wrong and sent them scurrying off into the shadows on Monday, but unless and until they’re caught and face consequences for their crimes they’re likely to be back at it again before long… even if Fall City Firearms is no longer on their hit list.