(WASHINGTON) -- Just how many unregistered or stolen guns are available on the streets? A new report by the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives finds the numbers are staggering.
According to the report, the result of an audit ordered by President Obama following the Newtown shootings, more than 191,000 guns were lost or stolen in the United States in 2012. The government says more than 16,000 of those guns disappeared from licensed gun dealers.
Pistols were the most common firearm stolen, the report says, and gun dealers reported more than 4,000 rifles were simply lost. And these numbers only represent the missing guns reported to the National Crime Information Center. ATF spokesman Charles Mulham points out that in many states it's not even mandatory to report stolen firearms.
Still, UCLA Public Policy expert Mark Kleiman says the number of lost or stolen firearms seems low, given the 300 million firearms in private hands in the U.S.
"The bigger issue than stolen guns is the easy availability of guns to people who aren't legally possessed through the private sale loophole," Kleiman says.
The ATF report also shows Texas is the top state for total firearms reported lost and stolen in 2012. Kleiman explains that people with stolen firearms might be more likely to commit violent crimes.
"In some cases, gun dealers, federal firearms licensees, falsely report a theft as a way of concealing an illegal sale," say Kleiman.
As for owners of legally registered guns, Mulham says they should be taking steps to safeguard firearms in their possession.
"You need to [be responsible] in keeping that weapon not only out of the hands of criminals if you were robbed or if your house was to be burglarized, but also out of the hands of children," he says.
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