ATF schools Wisconsin gun dealers on security measures after uptick in thefts

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An ATF Industry Operations Investigator presents to area federal firearms licensees on methods of securing firearm inventories including installation of alarm systems and other physical security measures, as well as best practices in record keeping to ensure a good record of inventory is in place.  (Photo: ATF Saint Paul Field Division)

The federal government turned up in southern Wisconsin last week to refresh local gun dealers on security tactics following an uptick in store thefts across the region.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives partnered with the Rock County Sheriff’s Office for an educational seminar Feb. 15 in Janesville, about 75 miles southwest of Milwaukee. The agency said local law enforcement reached out for guidance after a string of FFL thefts.

“The recent spike in firearm thefts are serious and continue to dominate the headlines,” said Rock County Sheriff Robert D. Spoden. “These crimes affect the lives of our community members. This educational seminar will help educate our firearm dealers on methods to help safeguard their property and help keep the community safe. We were grateful for the opportunity to partner with the ATF on this important issue.”

More than three dozen federally licensed dealers and officers from Janesville and Beloit police departments attended the free seminar, where ATF agents reviewed security measures and proper inventory protocol.

Joel Lee, assistant special agent in charge at ATF’s Saint Paul Field Division, said holding the seminar was “necessary.”

“This area of Wisconsin doesn’t typically see frequent gun store burglaries,” he said. “When firearms are stolen, they often turn up at crimes scenes. FFLs are the first-line defense against criminals having access to firearms. We want licensees to be equipped with the best knowledge on how to prevent becoming a victim of any future burglary attempts.”

ATF Director of Industry Operations Hans Hummel said the federal partnership with local dealers is “critical” and often provides insights many are missing when it comes to keeping inventory safe.

“We want licensees to be aware that there are low-cost solutions that can be implemented,” he said. “Many burglaries can be prevented with just a few safeguards in place.”

Southwestern Wisconsin isn’t the only area grappling with an unprecedented spike in FFL thefts. Guns stolen from federally licensed dealers exceeded 8,000 last year, according to a federal report released last month. The ATF recorded 7,841 firearms stolen during 577 burglaries in 2017. An additional 288 guns were taken during 33 FFL robberies.

In all, the number of guns stolen last year increased about 3 percent over 2016. Firearms taken over the last five years have more than doubled, according to the ATF.

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