A new report from the BATF points out that Federally Licensed Gun Dealers had 6,163 firearms stolen from them in 2015. With the Obama administration finalizing a new rule to enhance dealer reporting of stolen or lost firearms, this BATF report allows us to investigate the size of the current stolen or lost firearm problem for dealers and to compare those rates to other retail outlets. Given that at the very least 16 million guns were sold in 2015, that is a rate of guns stolen of 0.039%. By comparison, according to the National Retail Federation/University of Florida National Retail Security Survey, in 2014 the rate of theft from retail stores generally is 1.15% (“shoplifting, worker and vendor theft or fraud”) — still 29.5 times higher than for gun stores.
Another study by Checkpoint Systems reporting on data for 2014-15 found a much higher rate of theft at retail stores for the United States of 1.97% — a rate 51 times higher than for gun stores. The difference between the two surveys appears to be based on the membership of the two groups so the true rate of theft is something between 19 and 51 times higher in retail stores and gun stores. However, in either case, the rates for retail stores generally is at least 29.5 times higher than it is for gun stores.
Data readily available from the survey Checkpoint Systems survey for other countries in 2014 found Norway with the lowest rate of thefts at retail stores of 0.83%. For the countries with the lowest rates:
Norway 0.83% rate of theft at retail stores — 21 times higher than for US gun stores
Japan 1% rate of theft at retail stores — 26 times higher than for US gun stores
Hong Kong, Australia and Germany (1.1 percent) — 28 times higher than for US gun stores
Average country 1.29% — 33 times higher than for US gun stores
Background on numbers
NICS checks that involved gun sales by FFLs was about 16 million (total NICS checks were 23.1 million, but that includes background checks on concealed handgun permits and private gun transfers. That gives you a rate of 0.039%. Yet, NICS checks aren’t done per gun sold, but per transaction. There is no limit on the number of guns that could be involved with a single NICS check. 16 million is thus an extremely conservative estimate of the number of guns sold.
From the BATF report:
The National Retail Federation reports that “inventory shrinkage averaged 1.38% of retail sales in 2014. But since 16.5% of that is due to “administrative and paperwork errors,” we reduced that percent down to 1.15%.
The rate for “administrative and paperwork errors” for the average retail store is thus 0.228% (1.38 x 0.165).
The CPRC inquired into the differences between the two surveys and got this answer from Checkpoint Systems:
“Thanks for your question. The difficulty in comparing different survey results is that they often have different survey periods, different sample sizes, use different methodologies, a different survey base and don’t always use normalization of data. That is the case here. As such, these numbers are often different. Hope that is helpful.”