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Gun owners urged to keep weapons in secure place

Hillsborough County sheriff's officials say guns keep ending up in the wrong hands, especially in east Hillsborough County.

And deputies say the blame lies partly with gun owners.

Hundreds of firearms are stolen each year. Perpetrators use them to commit violent crimes.

"There isn't a week that goes by when a firearm isn't taken," said Maj. Clyde Eisenberg, who oversees District 2. "If people would secure their guns in safes then burglars would not be able to go into homes and take them."

To cut down on thefts, the Sheriff's Office recently put up digital sign boards in Brandon and Valrico urging people to lock up their guns. Hillsborough County offers seminars on the responsibilities of gun ownership.

Still, the problem stays the same. Not better. Not worse. Just the same.

"Our advice is get an alarm system for your house," said Maj. Ron Hartley of District 4. "If there are guns where there is a break-in, chances are they're going to get taken. They are easy to sell and highly portable. It's a lot easier to fit a bunch of them in the trunk of your car than it is a flat-screen TV."

Car break-ins also pose a problem. Hunting rifles are swiped. Petty thieves walk away with handguns. Officials believe the problem is worse in east Hillsborough because the area is rural and people tend to own more firearms and keep them with them.

"Don't leave guns in your car and definitely don't leave them in the car with the door unlocked," Hartley said. "I've seen that one too many times."

Hartley explained burglars don't usually target homes or cars specifically for weapons. Once they break in, they treat weapons just like they do electronics, jewelry and other popular items. If something looks easy to grab, it gets added in with the loot.

Gun safes, which range from $50 to $1,200 online, help keep weapons out of the pile.

"A lot of people just have them in their dresser, under a mattress or in their bedroom drawer," Eisenberg said. "It's just something they grow up with, and we want to remind people it's a problem. "

It's a problem because felons prohibited from purchasing a gun count on obtaining them illegally.

"You certainly don't want (your gun) to be used in a violent crime," Eisenberg said.



FAST FACTS

Safety first

For more information on how to keep your weapons secured and out of criminal hands, visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.

Gun owners urged to keep weapons in secure place 12/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 23, 2010 3:30am]
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