Just how commonly are guns found in unlocked cars?

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I’ve written a lot of stories about guns being stolen out of unlocked cars. It’s a pet peeve of mine, really. I mean, guns aren’t inexpensive items. Even the least costly firearms you can buy are over $100. I don’t know about you, but I can’t just throw away hundred-dollar bills like they’re nothing, and leaving any firearm in an unlocked car is a lot like that.

Yet there are questions about just how common the practice is. While we get police warnings and whatnot, it doesn’t mean it’s ridiculously common. It just means there’s an issue.

Frankly, even one or two guns stolen out of unlocked cars is enough to make problems.

But when I see a headline that reads, “Nashville teens are ‘car hopping’ – trying unlocked car doors to see what they can find. Often, it’s guns,” I get a little bent out of shape.

That’s because the term “often” is doing a lot of work here.

They start off with a sob story of a kid who was killed by one of his car-hopping friends after they found a gun in a car. Horrible and tragic, to be sure, but is it really that common, all things considered?

That was the last time Jazmine car hopped. But it wasn’t the first.

It started when she was only 14.

“The first time I found a gun in the car was actually the first night I ever car hopped,” Jazmine says. “It was that easy.”

Well, that does sound easy.

However, as anyone who looks at statistics understands, outliers are a thing. Was this an outlier?

Jazmine claims she found a lot of guns, firearms which she then sold to pay for drugs.

Yet is Jazmine telling the truth? Did she really find that many guns? Or is she just feeling guilty?

After all, she was the friend who shot the kid in the opening story.

See, the problem with the anecdotes here is that we don’t really know how often anything happened. If someone car-hopped a hundred cars and found one gun, that’s not really often. It’s a 1 in 100 chance. That’s not exactly common, thus it’s hard to see how that equates to “often.”

With Jazmine’s story, we don’t know how many nights she car-hopped and how many cars she hit a night.

And again, that’s assuming that Jazmine is telling the truth. She’s an admitted thief who also accidentally killed her friend because she was an idiot. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine her stretching the truth to try and make it seem like it wasn’t her fault she stole a gun and pulled the trigger, shooting her friend.

I’m just saying.

The only real numbers we get are the total number of firearms stolen out of cars. In 2021, that was 1,305 in a city with a population of almost 700,000 and a whole lot of tourists coming and going.

Now, the problem is that the graphic they use doesn’t say whether they were unlocked cars or not, but let’s assume they were. For the sake of argument.

There’s no way Jazmine got every gun and there’s no way of knowing how many she reportedly found.

But the media runs this relatively uncritically. Why? Because it’s the narrative they want to see pushed.

The truth is that we don’t know how often car-hoppers find guns, so we damn sure can’t say how often it is. Regardless, don’t leave guns unattended in unlocked cars. That’s just asking for trouble, even if it’s the only gun that year that gets stolen.