Bill would up penalties for gun theft from FFLs, set mandatory minimums

A Republican lawmaker on Thursday introduced a measure that could have gun thieves spending more time behind bars.

The proposal, the Federal Firearms Licensee Protection Act of 2017, would enhance the penalties for those who steal guns from FFLs as well as make it a federal crime to steal firearms from gun clubs and shooting ranges that rent firearms.

Introduced by Oklahoma Congressman Steve Russell, a statement released by his office cites a 48 percent increase in firearms burglaries from FFLs over the past five years, with 7,758 guns taken in 2016 alone, as reason for the legislation.

While it is not detailed what penalty increases and mandatory minimums Russell’s bill seeks, current federal gun laws allow for up to 10 years in prison imprisonment for conspiracy to steal firearms from licensed gun dealers or theft of firearms from licensed gun dealers.

While in some cases gun store heists result in lengthy prison time– a teen who stole 39 guns in 2014 with the intention of selling them to rioters in Ferguson, Missouri was given a sentence of more than 20 years– often, criminals convicted of robbing or burglarizing FFLs are sentenced to far less than the maximum.

Last year, a trio of felons prohibited from firearms possession burglarized a Virginia gun shop, stealing 56 firearms. The men received sentences ranging from six to 60 months following plea deals although 30 guns remained missing at sentencing.

Last month, a Florida man who broke into two different shops, making away with over 100 guns, was sentenced to 30 months.

“This legislation would send a strong message to criminals to think twice before attempting to burglarize or rob FFLs,” said Russell in a release. “The theft of firearms is a serious threat to public safety. Deterrence of firearm theft will prevent firearms from falling into criminal hands.”

Entered as H.R. 3790, the bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.