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Find ways to keep from losing your guns

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Handguns apparently are as difficult to keep track of as house keys.

You know those aggravating moments when you're scratching your head wondering where the keys went? A lot of Pennsylvania firearms dealers frequently experience similar frustration, except that they misplace Glocks and Smith & Wessons.

A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives report released on Monday revealed the Keystone State led the nation last year in the number of firearms reported lost or stolen from federal firearms licensees. The 1,502 firearms that turned up missing represent an impressive 9 percent of the 16,667 that vanished nationwide from those licensed to manufacture, import or deal firearms.

Of the 1,502 that disappeared here from licensees, the vast majority — 1,311 — were reported lost.

What conclusion can be drawn from that statistic? Probably that the people charged with responsibly distributing guns across the state are an unusually absentminded bunch that probably is prone to forgetting important family birthdays.

Overall, 190,000 firearms were reported lost or stolen by gun vendors and individuals across the country. The bureau is using that figure to add velocity to the brushback pitch it is throwing to the firearms industry by absurdly attempting to link guns to crime and violence.

What the bureau fails to note, of course, is that guns themselves are just clunky lumps of hardware.

To become dangerous, a gun has to be retrofitted with ammunition, a time-consuming and technically challenging exercise that few criminals can master. The gun's safety needs to be off. Even then, the only chance people have of being harmed is if they happen to be standing in a bullet's path when the trigger is pulled. If you follow the news at all, you're aware that an alignment of such circumstances is extremely rare.

Still, lessons can be learned from the bureau's findings.

I know we've all spent nights searching for our Walther P22 that we were certain we left in its customary spot in a living room candy dish, only to chuckle in amusement hours later when we find it in the baby's bassinet. But lest gun dealers and manufacturers appear careless to the anti-gun crowd, they should take steps to secure their inventory and perform better searches for lost firearms.

How can that be accomplished? Several suggestions follow:

• When looking for missing weapons, don't begin with places they are unlikely to be, such as the oven or shower.

• Try to recall the last time the missing handgun or shotgun was seen. Could it mistakenly have been left on the bus or under a seat at McDonald's along with an umbrella?

• Clean the area where the weapons usually are kept. Piles of dirty laundry can obscure even a medium-sized display case.

• Just as what commonly occurs with house keys, don't rule out the missing guns turning up where they should have been all along. Check the candy dish.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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