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ATF: Gun thefts are on the rise in Tennessee

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Gun thefts are on the rise in Tennessee, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Guns ending up in the wrong hands is a major concern for a gun shop owner Raymond Hopkins. The Shooters Guns and Ammo shop owner said that fear almost became a reality for him late last year.

"They tried to break in about six months ago," Hopkins said. "They broke in through the back room. Fortunately for us they didn't get anything."

Even with the bars on the windows, security cameras and blocks out front, Hopkins' Nashville business became a victim of a crime that's become more common.

"Relative to previous years, these numbers are going up in terms of each individual crime," said Michael Knight with the ATF. "Historically, we've had four, five, or six firearms being stolen. Now we're having larger numbers of firearms being stolen from these gun shops."

A LaVergne gun shop, Specialty Firearms, is part of that trend with larger numbers of firearms stolen at a time. A group of thieves ravaged the store over the weekend, stealing 39 firearms.

Knight said more than 18,000 firearms were reported lost or stolen last year nationwide. Tennessee made it in the top ten for most reports with 616 firearms lost or stolen.

"The concerning factor is that even if there's one stolen firearm, that firearm can potentially be used in additional crimes," Knight said. "It can be used in homicide, aggravated assault or any other violent crime."

Knight said Tennesseans can help curb the problem by avoiding buying a stolen gun. ATF recommends purchasing from a licensed retailer over a private seller.

Buyers should also save their receipt with the serial number so it can be reported to police if stolen. ATF also advised gun owners to lock the firearm in a safe at home.

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