Some Stolen U.S. Military Guns Used in Violent Crimes

Kristin M. Hall, James Laporta, Justin Pritchard and Justin Myers, Associated Press

Pulling a pistol from his waistband, the young man spun his human shield toward police.

“Don’t do it!” a pursuing officer pleaded. The young man complied, releasing the bystander and tossing the gun, which skittered across the city street and then into the hands of police.

They soon learned that the 9mm Beretta had a rap sheet. Bullet casings linked it to four shootings, all of them in Albany, New York.

And there was something else. The pistol was U.S. Army property, a weapon intended for use against America’s enemies, not on its streets.

The Army couldn’t say how its Beretta M9 got to New York’s capital. Until the June 2018 police foot chase, the Army didn’t even realize someone had stolen the gun. Inventory records checked by investigators said the M9 was 600 miles away — safe inside Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“It’s incredibly alarming,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares. “It raises the other question as to what else is seeping into a community that could pose a clear and present danger.”

The armed services and the Pentagon are not eager for the public to know the answer.

A photo illustration of semi-automatic weapons inside a U.S. Marine Corps arms room at Camp Foster. (AP Illustration)

In the first public accounting of its kind in decades, an Associated Press investigation has found that at least 1,900 U.S. military firearms were lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some resurfacing in violent crimes. Because some armed services have suppressed the release of basic information, AP’s total is a certain undercount.

Government records covering the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force show pistols, machine guns, shotguns and automatic assault rifles have vanished from armories, supply warehouses, Navy warships, firing ranges and other places where they were used, stored or transported. These weapons of war disappeared because of unlocked doors, sleeping troops, a surveillance system that didn’t record, break-ins and other security lapses that, until now, have not been publicly reported.

While AP’s focus was firearms, military explosives also were lost or stolen, including armor-piercing grenades that ended up in an Atlanta backyard.

Weapon theft or loss spanned the military’s global footprint, touching installations from coast to coast, as well as overseas. In Afghanistan, someone cut the padlock on an Army container and stole 65 Beretta M9s — the same type of gun recovered in Albany. The theft went undetected for at least two weeks, when empty pistol boxes were discovered in the compound. The weapons were not recovered.

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