INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Greenwood firearms dealer Russ Elmore has been victimized by gun store burglars three times in 20 years.
The results of the first break-in were the worst.
“One of the firearms that was stolen from my place was used to kill a West Virginia state highway patrolman two days after the burglary in Wheeling, West Virginia,” said Elmore, seated behind a glass display case full of pistols and revolvers. “For me, being a retired police officer, that was a stab right in my heart. Something that was stolen from me had taken the life of a fellow police officer.”
Security at Elmore’s Firearms has improved over the years when those first burglars took an axe to a wall.
Bars and reinforced doors protect the showroom, but not enough to halt smash-n-grab thieves who drive vehicles through Elmore’s storefront, so other internal security measures make a quick getaway problematic and not worth the effort for the relatively small payoff.
“The thieves backed up to the front window pushed it in, came in and basically tried yanking long guns off of the secured racks we have them on,” said Elmore, recalling the most recent burglary last December. “The long guns are all secured with cables, strong cables, you can’t pull ‘em out of the wall, you can’t pull the guns off ‘em without breaking something severely.
“There’s usually no more than ten or eleven guns in one section. It’s not like you defeat the cable once and you’ve got 200 long guns. Now you have to defeat 20 cables to free 200 long guns.
“We take containers with foam rubber, we put all of the handguns in these crates and put them into a series of safes that are in the back room and we lock the safes.”
Now that he has made his gun stocks secure, Elmore finds his insurance costs often outweigh the loss of inventory.
“That damage was about $24-26,000 range,” he said of the costs to repair the front of the store, “and they made off with three broken guns that realistically they might have gotten $3,000 worth.
“Actually got much much less than that,” he said.
A stolen car rammed through the side wall of the Indy Trading Post on South Madison Avenue last September as thieves stole 19 guns.
Six were recovered months later as a driver started throwing weapons out the window of a moving car during an Illinois traffic stop. His confession led to a partner.
The year before, three teenagers, two of them juveniles, were arrested for burglarizing an Anderson gun store of 50 guns, most of them intended for resale in Chicago.
Police arrested one teen and recovered two guns.
Statistics from 2016 released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) show 58 Indiana federal firearms licensees reported the thefts of 551 guns.
Those numbers put Indiana squarely in the middle of the pack when compared to gun store thefts reported in surrounding states.
Indiana firearms dealers filed 31 loss reports, listing 334 unaccounted guns that might be misplaced or lost or had disappeared in store records.
Elmore said gun store burglars, like bank, pharmacy and liquor store robbers, are finding diminishing profits for their illegal labors.
“Of course, criminals aren’t usually the highest IQ in a bucket of beans,” he said, “so they never stop and evaluate what the returns will be.”