I-Team: Where do guns used in NC crimes come from?

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Lax stewardship by legal gun owners often leads to weapons being stolen.

Just about every gun used in every crime started out legal. Sure, there are exceptions, but it's true that the vast majority of illegal guns were, at one point, purchased legally.

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Data from the U.S. Department of Justice for North Carolina paints a stark picture of where the guns come from, what kind of guns are being stolen and recovered, what kind of crimes they're being used for and more. The numbers show the overwhelming majority of guns recovered by police in North Carolina originated in North Carolina.

RELATED: See the report for North Carolina here (.pdf)

What's more, a study out of Pittsburgh shows that in 8 out of 10 crimes, the guns used were stolen. Taken together, it's not hard to see that most of the guns used illegally in North Carolina were stolen during crimes committed in North Carolina.

Part of the problem, according to law enforcement, is that gun owners often don't report their weapons stolen until long after the fact, sometimes after crimes have been committed with their weapons.

In the Pittsburgh study, among the more concerning findings was that for the majority of guns recovered (62%), "the place where the owner lost possession of the firearm was unknown."

A separate, new report from researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities showed between 300,000 and 600,000 guns are stolen every year in the United States. On the upper end, that's more than one every minute.

"If there's a hand gun, most of the time, they're going to take it," said Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison. "Either they can keep if for themselves or they can quick turnover. Make a dollar off of it and go buy some marijuana or whatever they buy."

The Harvard study showed a startling spike in the numbers of guns stolen from cars.

It's something Harrison says his deputies have also found.

"You'd be surprised how many people will leave a weapon in the car because it's a habit," Harrison said. "They carry it with them when they're travelling, they carry it with them to work. They're not allowed to take it into work, so they put it in their glove box. They don't lock their glovebox, they get home late at night, they're tired, they don't think about their gun. And that's when they get stolen. And they do get stolen that way."
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