In recent times, the issue of guns has garnered widespread attention across the state, driven by growing concerns about the potential for increased violence, particularly through shootings. Recently, in Albuquerque, a 15-year-old fired off a gun at Coronado Mall.
Democrats rammed through an extreme anti-gun bill last legislative session, making parents and guardians felons if a minor got access to their firearms and caused great bodily harm or death with them. But underaged offenders aren’t necessarily getting guns from parents who forget to lock their gun safes.
Kyle Hartsock, a commander with the Albuquerque Police Department, sheds light on a significant source of firearms for teenagers: theft, especially from vehicles, according to a report from KOAT 7 News. “Some are kept for self-defense, some are kept because they are just kept, and they have always been there. So that’s the primary place kids get guns. From mom and dad,” says Hartsock.
The prevalent method for teenagers acquiring guns is through the theft of firearms, particularly from vehicles. Hartsock emphasizes that the thieves often target vehicles displaying hunting stickers or stickers supporting law enforcement. The assumption is that individuals who support the police are likely to possess guns, making these vehicles attractive targets for theft. “They look for hunting stickers, stickers that support police because they see that guy that supports police carries guns, and they just look around for those cars to just break windows and roll the dice that they are going to find a gun inside,” explains Hartsock.
The consequences of these thefts are far-reaching, as the stolen guns frequently enter the black market and find buyers through various social media platforms. Hartsock points out that transactions involving these stolen firearms often take place on platforms like Facebook Messenger and Snapchat or through connections with individuals capable of selling guns. The ease of access to firearms through such channels contributes to a significant number of homicides stemming from black market gun sales.
Hartsock provides insights into recognizing potential warning signs related to teenagers and firearms. He suggests observing changes in behavior, even though teenagers can be enigmatic. Paying attention to whether they become more protective of certain objects, such as backpacks or their rooms, can offer clues. Additionally, he highlights the importance of scrutinizing specific language and emojis used in online communications. For instance, seemingly innocent references to water guns may indicate something more sinister. “We see the use of the water gun to show actual guns, and we see it in homicide investigations, and so it might be cartoonish and funny. It doesn’t mean let’s go have fun on a hot day; it means actual firearms,” warns Hartsock.
According to the Albuquerque Police Department, the statistics are alarming, with approximately 70-80 guns stolen in the city every month and a mere four or five of them being recovered. The prevalence of stolen firearms and their potential journey into illegal markets remains a pressing concern for law enforcement and public safety.