Increase in stolen guns in Washington state and across the county

Firearms are being stolen from gun shops in Washington state at an alarming rate.

KIRO 7 reported last month that thieves rammed a stolen car through the front door of a Skagit County gun shop earlier this month and three masked criminals ran in. Click here to read more.

Darek Pleasants, special agent in charge of the Buerau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Seattle Field Division, said such incidents are becoming more common.

“It is the technique of choice right now, nationwide,” Pleasants said,

It's leading to a lot of stolen guns, which Pleasants said will be used to commit crimes in the area.

According to the ATF, in 2016, thieves burglarized seven gun shops in Washington and made off with 28 guns.

In 2017, there were 11 burglaries at gun shops in the state and 231 guns were stolen.

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That's an 800% increase from the year before.

From 2013-2017 nationwide, there's been a nearly 134% increase in the number of stolen guns.

“The biggest attributor to that increase: When suspects are committing burglaries, they're getting more firearms,” Pleasants said.

For instance, in December, thieves made off with more than 70 guns at West Coast Armory in Bellevue. It was the second time criminals hit the gun shop in 18 months.

Stolen cars were used in a string of smash-and-grabs in the South Sound last May, during which  30 guns were stolen.

Pleasants wouldn't say whether it's the work of one crew or copycats, but he said the ATF is working with gun shops to help them better lock up their guns.

Pleasants said of the Skagit County break-in, in which thieves left empty-handed, "He (the gun shop owner) took and made his business a hard target. He removed the firearms from the accessibility of it being burglarized overnight.”

Two weeks ago, police arrested a 17-year-old in connection to the December burglary in Bellevue. Police are still trying to track down three others in that case.