In what is being touted as one of the toughest such zero-tolerance measures aimed at cops, Atlanta police say officers will be slapped with a hefty fine if their city-issued guns are stolen.
Since 2010, Atlanta Police Department officers have reported 55 lost or stolen guns — nine this year. Now they’ll be subject to a fine of up to $500 and a minimum three-day suspension if they fail to follow department guidelines on properly securing their weapons when left in an unattended vehicle. The new policy went into effect last Thursday.
“We have to practice what we preach,” said APD spokesman Carlos Campos. “Chief (Erica) Shields is very passionate about getting the public to not leave unsecured guns in cars. We have to lead the way.”
Stolen guns remain an epidemic in Atlanta. According to a 2016 study by The Trace, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for information related to gun violence, more firearms were stolen in Atlanta than in any other major city surveyed.
The city now averages about 1,000 pilfered guns a year, Campos said. And most are stolen from vehicles.
The suburbs are not immune. Last month, 18 firearms, including revolvers, rifles, a .50-caliber pistol and an AR-15, were stolen from three vehicles outside the Alpharetta Dave & Buster’s. The weapons belonged to a charity group that had just held a fundraiser for breast cancer research at the nearby gun range, SharpShooters USA.
“Everything they did was contradictory to everything we preach and teach in the firearms industry,” said Tom Deets, owner of SharpShooters USA. “You never, ever leave those firearms unsecured.”
Few are ever recovered — less than 9 percent nationwide, according to the FBI.
“Most of the time guns are ending up in the hands of people who aren’t legally allowed to purchase or obtain firearms, so when people leave their personal guns in the cars, they’re just opening up an opportunity for criminals to get their hands on guns,” Alpharetta Police Officer Howard Miller told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In Georgia, there are no penalties for citizens who leave their guns unsecured. Firearms placed under the front seat or inside the glove box may be hidden, but are not secured.
But while it’s permissible to have a gun in your vehicle, venues such as Mercedes Benz Stadium do not allow them inside.
“We encourage people coming into the city to either leave their gun at home or get a gun safe,” Campos said.
APD officers are also being encouraged to purchase gun safes, and Campos said they can now use part of their annual $800 equipment allotment to purchase them.
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