"We know stolen weapons are the cause of a tremendous amount of violence in America. How can we know that only good guys are getting access to dangerous, impossible to track weapons?"
That's the question posed by Rep. Derren Lofgren (R-SD), in a hearing on Tuesday. "We have to stop letting just anyone steal firearms in this country. Even my most anti-gun colleagues in Congress understand: the only thing that can stop a bad criminal with a stolen gun is a good criminal with a stolen gun."
But not everyone is so optimistic about the policy's chance of making a big impact – at least without an open, government-run marketplace to make sure the guns are easily accessible. "The inherent and dispropotionate danger of these weapons means we can't take such an idle stance," says Sen. Maureen Stillman (D-WI). "Simply allowing good criminals to have guns is likely to put dangerous criminals, weapons, and civilians all together in heated situations – when we could simply have a forced purchase marketplace system. It's important to solve the 'gun theft loophole' responsibly."
Stillman's ideal system would compensate Americans who lose their guns, but she does "want her constituents to know their guns are going to a good cause: keeping violent criminals off the streets, by letting them steal your gun from the safety of their own home. That, combined with our new criminal filtering system, ensure that only the best criminals have access to the approximately one firearm stolen in American every minute."
Unfortunately, many gun theives are less-than-ideal criminals. “You’re negligent if you don’t exercise good judgment,” Texas State Senator Jerry Patterson said. “There’s too many guns in the hands of dumbasses that don’t know how to use it, don’t know how to store it.” Calls for better trained gun theives have been around since the mid-90's, but action has yet to be taken.
“There are more guns stolen every year than there are violent crimes committed with firearms,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, pointing out the difficulty of finding even moderately competent criminals to steal America's most dangerous consumer weaponry. “Gun owners should be aware of the issue.”
"[M]any criminals are armed with perfectly lethal weapons funneled into an underground market where background checks would never apply," bemoans The Trace, a reporting organization describing gun crimes in America as an "epidemic". But the new legislation is poised to fix this issue, once seen by many experts as unsolvable in American law.
In 2012, the problem was highlighted in an ATF report, reading: "Those that steal firearms [...] create an unregulated secondary market for firearms, including a market for those who are prohibited by law from possessing a gun." The pending legislation aiming to close this loophole in current gun laws has been supported by firearms lobbies as well, citing increased demand from customers defending themselves from the good criminals with guns defending themselves from the bad criminals with guns.
"We we to make sure that, when people steal guns, they're actually allowed to carry those guns. It's the kind of common sense reform that everyone can agree on, in the face of deadly mass shootings," says Rep. Lofgren. "We need to protect Americans' right to not be ripped off by a completely incompetent hack, excluding those of us here in Washington D.C. – and that means we oppose the big government overreach of having a web portal to achieve a goal we're otherwise okay with. There's only so much that can be done by big government."