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CBS12 Investigates: Rise in gun store break-ins

CBS12 Investigates: Rise in gun store break-ins

CBS12 Investigates uncovered a rising trend putting guns into the hands of cold blooded criminals.

It's a significant threat that is arming criminals and putting the community at risk.

According to Florida law, there is nothing officials can do to stop it.

BRAZEN THIEVES

Thieves are going to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on firearms.

Criminals smashed gun store cases in Lakeland, barreled through a storefront in Zephyrhills and drilled through a concrete wall in Tampa to steal weapons at gun stores.

“The gun got fired within inches of my face,” explained West Palm Beach Police Officer Jason Barquin.

Dramatic video obtained by CBS12, shows an armed robbery suspect shoot at Officer Barquin in 2015.

"It was either, me pull out my gun and protect my life, or him kill me. "

The suspect had a stolen Glock 27.

The gun was also tied to a 2014 double shooting in Riviera Beach.

The number of weapons stolen from gun stores in Florida is sharply increasing.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Florida ranks third in the nation for gun store burglaries having 797 firearms stolen from 122 licensed firearms dealers in 2017.


"There is gang activity in Florida, and there is a demand for firearms," said Peter Forcelli, the Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Miami Field Division.

"Any gun that winds up in the wrong hands can be used to hurt someone; a child, a police officer, an elderly person, anyone."

Forcelli said weak security practices are making gun stores easy targets for crooks, and there is nothing his agency can do about it.

"There is no lawful means for us to enforce they are taking preventative measures," said Special Agent Forcelli.

NO LAW

No federal law regulates gun storage.

Some states pulled the trigger and enacted their own gun storage legislation, but Florida did the opposite.

In 1987, State law makers barred municipalities from passing any of their own gun restrictions.

With a recent surge of gun store burglaries in Central Florida Forcelli fears the heists will soon head south.

"That is a concern,” explained Special Agent Forcelli.

“Once those gun dealers in that particular areas of Central Florida have run dry or taken preventative measures, they are going to start looking to see where else they can get those firearms."

CBS12 Investigates found thieves stole 53 guns from 34 gun dealers in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.


Cops only found twelve of them.

We took our findings to Congressman Brain Mast.

"There are a lot of different ways to talk about the way you secure something," explained Congressman Mast.

We asked Congressman Mast, if the government plans to do anything to prevent these weapons from bleeding out into the streets?

"When you get the government involved in saying you have to do it one certain way, I think that is a government overreach,” responded Congressman Mast.

GUN STORE SECURITY

Gun store owner Alex Shkop installed his own security measures.

From bullet proof glass to security camera's on every corner of his business, Shkop does everything he can to stop burglars.

"It is constantly on the back of our minds and we try to safeguard as much as we can," added Shkop, Guns Range and Ammo.

The ATF said the best deterrent is locking the guns in a safe after hours or securing them with a cable lock.

Gun stores aren't required to do so by law.

Shkop said if it was required, it would cost too much and gun stores would go out of business.

"It's expensive," Shkop said.

"No matter what obstacles you create, there is a way around it."

During our CBS12 Investigation, the ATF launched an automated system that alerts gun dealers when a store is burglarized.

They are also hosting a seminar on the Treasure Coast in the upcoming months, to teach gun stores how to protect their inventory.

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