Now Playing

The CHP Loses the Most Guns of Any Law-Enforcement Agency Statewide

Meanwhile, the SFPD ties for the top spot among local agencies.


Since 2010, a whopping 944 guns have been lost, stolen, or are otherwise unaccounted for by law-enforcement agencies across California. That's a lot of mislaid potential murder weapons—enough to get through the entire run of Law & Order, twice.

Among the out-and-out thefts (which account for about 20 percent of the total), California Highway Patrol does the worst job of keeping its weapons away from thieves. Forty of its guns have been stolen since 2010, according to a statewide investigation by the Bay Area News Group. Among local agencies, the SFPD has the dubious distinction of losing 10 guns to theft since 2010, tying for first—er, last—place with the Alameda Sheriff's Department. 

The Bureau of Land Management, the source of the gun that killed Kate Steinle last year after it was stolen from an agent's car, has lost three guns to theft since 2010. All the data are easily searchable in a new database compiled by the Bay Area News Group. Taken together, those six years of dumb mistakes—guns left on top of cars, guns left in gym bags—stops looking like a fluke and starts coming into focus as the epidemic it is. 

To be clear, not all 944 missing guns have necessarily fallen into the wrong hands, or anyone's hands. A full 717 are simply unaccounted for. That can sometimes be a euphemism for "assumed stolen," though. The Bay Area News Group cites an example of two assault rifles missing from the Stockton police after a police building was burglarized. "We just don't really know what happened to them," a Stockton lieutenant told the Bay Area News Group.

Why are law-enforcement officials losing so many guns? Could be that complacency is lulling officers into treating deadly weapons with the nonchalance of handling a smartphone. “They don’t take it as seriously as they should, and what the effects of it could be if it gets lost to the wrong hands,” state senator Jerry Hill told the Bay Area News Group. Case in point: Last year a San Mateo County sheriff's captain left his gun on top of a toilet paper dispenser in the bathroom of a car dealership in Dublin. He raced back, but it was gone. That gun is still missing.


Have feedback? Email us at
Email Lamar Anderson at
Follow us on Twitter
Follow Lamar Anderson at