According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), since 2012 “there has been significant increases in the number of robberies and burglaries from FFLs [federal firearm licensees, which include gun shops, manufacturers, and importers], as well as significant increases in the number of firearms stolen during these crimes.” As a result, many gun shop owners are more carefully considering gun shop security.
Guns reported lost by or stolen from FFLs have increased by 25% to 30% each year for the last several years:
In 2015, 14,800 guns were reported lost or stolen by FFLs.
By 2016, that number had jumped to 18,394.
In their most recent report (covering 2017), the ATF reported 21,535 guns lost/stolen from FFLs.
All told, the number of guns lost or stolen from gun retailers and manufacturers has more than doubled since 2013.
Bulletproof Protection for Gun Shops
Total Security Solutions (TSS) installs bullet proof glass, fiberglass, and doors in gun shops fairly regularly—but owners rarely have security as their primary motivation.
“In most gun shops,” explains TSS CEO Jim Richards, “these installation are more for safety than security. That may be driven by local ordinances, or simply sound business planning. Many shops, they’ll have their range with a little lobby or viewing area right off the retail floor. The windows and doors separating the range and lobby, they’ll want those to be bullet resistant—because accidents happen.”
FFLs installing bullet resistant materials usually aren’t thinking about deterring robberies or burglaries. A quick search on YouTube for “gun shop robbery” will show you why. (SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t go well for the would-be thief.) “As anyone who spends time in gun shops knows,” Jim adds, “these typically aren’t businesses where you’re all that worried about an armed robbery.”
The data supports this thinking. Even as the ATF has tracked a sharp increase in firearms lost and stolen from FFLs, relatively few of these are lost during a robbery. For example, in 2013 there were only nine FFL robberies nationwide. Robberies accounted for just 3% of the guns lost that year; the rest were in burglaries (break-ins) or larcenies (stealing a gun without unlawfully entering a building).
An “All-Hazards” Approach to Gun Shop Security
For gun shops already considering a renovation, either to increase safety or comply with a local gun-range ordinance, this is an excellent opportunity to take an “all-hazards” approach to that renovation:
- What hazards need to be addressed?
- What assets are at risk?
- What is the impact of the loss of those assets?
- What are your options for mitigating these risks?
The risk of an armed robbery is clearly quite a bit lower than that of burglary—but those burglaries are notable in their use of overwhelming force, and in high losses. This is compounded by the fact that every one of the guns stolen could end up in the hands of someone who should not have a gun.
Tailoring Your Physical Security to Slow a Burglary
“I look at these things,” Jim says, “and what jumps out at me is how fast these burglars need to be in and out.”
Once they start making any sort of ruckus outside the building, that clock starts ticking. Delaying the burglars means starkly reducing how many guns they get. A sufficient delay might mean they have to flee before getting anything.
“So, anything you can do to slow down entry is good move. For example, store owners could install a vestibule system, which can also increase security in a robbery or attack. Adding a forced-entry rating to those exterior doors and windows is definitely a must. In some cases, you might want to replace exterior windows and doors with a heavier UL-rated laminated glass. Other times, it might make more sense to add an aftermarket film to the existing windows.”
Shops may also want to consider adding aftermarket window security films to their display cases. These won’t stop a determined thief. But imagine how wrung out these guys would be if, after battling through the front door and a second vestibule door, they hammered on the display case and the glass remained intact. It would make for a very gratifying YouTube video—and mean a dozen fewer guns hitting the streets.