Pa. tops nation in firearms lost or stolen from gun dealers

Customers line up at the gun counter at Duke's Sport Shop in New Castle, Pa., in January. A new report says more guns are reported lost or stolen from Pennsylvania gun dealers than anywhere else in the country. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

More firearms are reported lost or stolen from gun dealers in Pennsylvania than anywhere else in the country.

A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says 1,502 guns were reported lost or stolen from federally licensed Pennsylvania gun dealers in 2012, the highest total in the nation.

Texas had the second-highest number of lost or stolen firearms at 1,263, followed by Maryland with 984 and New York with 775.

In Pennsylvania, 191 of the misplaced guns were reported stolen, and 1,311 were reported lost, according to the ATF report.

The ATF says lost and stolen guns threaten public safety.

"Those that steal firearms commit violent crimes with stolen guns, transfer stolen firearms to others who commit crimes, and create an unregulated secondary market for firearms, including a market for those who are prohibited by law from possessing a gun," the report states. Like stolen guns, lost firearms "are most often bought and sold in an unregulated secondary market where law enforcement is unable to trace transactions."

In New Jersey, two firearm losses were reported by gun dealers. There were no thefts.

Nationwide, 16,677 guns were reported lost or stolen from federally licensed firearms dealers, who are required to report missing guns within 48 hours of the discovery.

The high number of gun sales in Pennsylvania may be a reason the state has many losses, Andrew Molchan, director of the national gun dealers organization American Firearms, told the Allentown Morning Call. All retail businesses lose inventory, he said.

"A lot of retail stores are not aware of 100 percent of inventory 100 percent of the time," Molchan told the newspaper. "One of the reasons that Pennsylvania would be high is because Pennsylvania has a lot of firearms sales."

Texas led the country in the number of guns reported as lost or stolen by private citizens, with 18,874. In Pennsylvania, 6,566 firearms were reported missing, and 1,604 were reported lost or stolen in New Jersey.

The ATF report cautions that private citizens in many places aren't required to notify authorities about lost or stolen firearms, so many go unreported.

Philadelphia and other Pennsylvania municipalities have passed laws requiring the reporting of missing guns, though Pennsylvania law -- which supersedes local ordinances -- has no such requirement.

New Jersey is one of eight states that require citizens to report lost or stolen guns to police. Delaware's governor signed a law with that mandate this month. 

The ATF report stems from an executive action President Obama issued in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre for the Department of Justice to prepare a report analyzing data on lost and stolen guns.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.