Military Downplays Stolen Gun Report

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

Earlier this week, I wrote about an AP report on the total number of weapons missing from military armories. There are a number of ways to take the report, to be sure, but a lot of people were legitimately alarmed.

To be sure, there’s nothing good about 1,900 or so weapons missing from armories, somehow unaccounted for, especially since most of them are things generally not legally available on the civilian market. Things like rifles capable of full-auto or three-round burst–both of which make them NFA firearms–are bad enough, but the report also covered things like grenade launchers, rocket launchers, and even some mortars.

I kind of want a mortar now, for the record.

Anyway, it seems the military has thoughts.

The U.S. military’s top general on Thursday downplayed a recent Associated Press report that found at least 1,900 military firearms had gone missing or stolen over the past decade, claiming the real figure was “much less.”

“I saw the reports as well … I was, frankly, shocked by the numbers that were in there,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

Milley said the numbers from service reports submitted to him as of Thursday morning on missing firearms “are significantly less numbers than are reported” in the AP story, which was released Tuesday.

“That’s not to say it’s zero, but it’s much less. So, I need to square the balance here. I owe you a firm answer,” he added.

The AP claims that the military didn’t provide some basic information and argued they likely undercounted the total number of weapons missing.

However, as I noted earlier this week, this is over the span of a decade. With a military as large as ours, with millions upon millions of weapons in inventory and thousands purchased every year, something in the neighborhood of 190 weapons per year going missing doesn’t sound like a whole hell of a lot.

Especially when some of them were likely demilled or cannibalized for some reason and the paperwork got screwed up.

However, Milley claims the number isn’t even that high. Could he be right?

Well, Milley apparently intends to submit the numbers he has to Congress, which I’d think he’d want to make sure are accurate. He also wants to try and figure out how the AP got their numbers, which is fair. There are going to be questions for him about why the AP reports one thing and he’s reporting something else.

Truth be told, this is one of those things where Milley is going to get grilled no matter what. Congress will say, with some justification, that the correct number of missing weapons should be zero. I don’t think anyone will dispute that.

Unfortunately, with millions of service members between active and reserve components, there’s just no way to make that happen. Someone will take guns for profit. Some will get lost in the field. Others will be put somewhere and forgotten about, lost until the end of time…or until someone finds them, anyway.

You’re never going to hit the number zero. It’s just not going to happen. As it stands, what the AP reported sounds scarier than it actually is. Especially when you consider all the people and moving parts that make the military work. Honestly, I’m surprised it’s not more than that. In the past, it was.

But what the AP report does is scare people, and scared people motivate politicians, so Milley has to deal with this. I look forward to his report to Congress. It should make for some interesting reading, especially if it can explain the discrepancy.

Jul 31, 2021 8:30 AM ET