KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The ATF recently released surveillance pictures of a man who broke into Patriot Pawn in Blue Springs in March by cutting a hole through one of the front windows.
"It's somebody that has a pretty unique skill set and also has some unique equipment," ATF Kansas City Field Division Public Information Officer John Ham told 41 Action News.
Law enforcement isn't searching only the suspect. They'd like to recover the dozen handguns he stole.
"Unfortunately, the guns that they are stealing are on the streets within hours — not days not months, but within hours — because they can get rid of them quickly at a high price," Ham said.
Those stolen weapons also play a possible role in Kansas City's ongoing and escalating violence.
"All of the guns that are used in crimes in Kansas City, the vast majority of them, are sourced right here in Kansas City," Ham said. "There's no stream of guns that are coming in from Texas or Chicago or anywhere else."
Last year, the ATF said 268 guns were stolen in 18 gun stores burglaries in Missouri and 60 guns were stolen from six gun burglaries in Kansas.
"There is no shortage of demand out there that they're trying to fulfill," Ham said.
Besides gun and pawn stores, thieves also target parking garages and lots around entertainment districts and sporting venues, knowing gun owners have to leave their firearms in a vehicle before entering such venues.
The ATF said gun owners going to place where weapons are prohibited should consider leaving it at home.
"This, like so many problems in law enforcement, can't be fixed by policing alone," Ham said. "It's going to take some cooperation from the public."
But it's not just Kansas City. Stolen guns are a national problem.
The number of guns stolen increased by 60% from 2006 to 2016, totaling around 380,000 guns. Only 40% of those thefts ever were reported to police or ATF.
Ham said if you have a gun stolen, you must report it to them or the police within 48 hours.
Law enforcement officials say there are things gun owners can do to be prepared in case their gun is stolen. Jot down the make, model, year of manufacture and serial number.
It also can useful to detail anything unique, like marks or modifications to the gun, and list where you bought it or when it was transferred to you.
The ATF is offering a $5,000 reward for anyone with information regarding the Blue Springs gun thefts.
Tipsters can call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (283-4867). The agency also encourages anyone who knows about stolen weapons to call the KC Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).