Tougher penalties in the works for thieves who steal guns

Posted at 3:08 PM, Mar 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-25 20:49:37-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Think about it: The penalty for stealing a gun is the same as stealing a T.V. or bicycle as the punishment is simply based on the value of the item.

But unlike a T.V. or bicycle, stolen guns can then be used to commit violent crimes.

Now there's a plan in the works to come down harder on those who steal weapons.

We are talking about a penalty enhancement.

For instance: A simple assault can be a hate crime bringing a stiffer sentence if you target someone because of their race.

Now a simple theft could bring an enhanced sentence if you steal a gun.

"Stealing a gun is different than a golf bag so we should treat it differently," said Representative Michael Curcio.

For Curcio it's simple: A carjacking victim is not shot with a stolen golf bag.

Police say in case after case of gun violence -- if the weapon is ever recovered -- the gun often turns out to have been stolen.

Either from a home or "We are having a lot of guns stolen out of cars," said Curcio.

With the recent rash of violent carjackings -- like the recent one where a rideshare driver was shot at a downtown Nashville Exxon -- John Harris with the Tennessee Firearms Association said more people are choosing to drive armed.

"Is this typical of how you would travel with a weapon? Yeah, it slides right here," said Harris showing how he put the gun at the arm rest next to his seat..

Harris said people need to make sure guns are secure in their vehicles and not leave them overnight.

But still, one problem is that thieves now do break into cars -- looking not only for money but guns.

And when they are caught Representative Curcio says they are punished only based on the value.

"Right now under current law it's treated like a property theft. The penalty is the value of objects like a T.V. or car."

But that may be about to change.

A bill making it's way through the legislature would set an enhancement ... or tougher penalty for anyone caught stealing a gun.

"A mandatory 30 day sentence for a firearm regardless of the value of it," said Curcio.

In addition to the jail sentence lawmakers also are looking to increase the financial penalties for such thefts.

Harris, with the Tennessee Firearms Association, says the new enhancements will bring stiffer penalties but he is not convinced that the laws will reduce gun thefts.