23 Ways Federal Agents Lose Their Own Weapons

23 Ways Federal Agents Lose Their Own Weapons

May 19, 2023

When most Americans make a mistake at work, it is rarely a matter of life and death. When law enforcement workers have a lapse in judgment, however, it can have serious consequences, particularly at the highest levels. 

For many federal agents, carrying a firearm is a daily requirement. And although there are strict protocols and guidelines about the safe handling and storing of the weapons, some still get lost or stolen. Every year, deadly weapons that belong to the federal government, including rifles, shotguns, and even submachine guns, end up in the wrong hands. (Here is a look at the most dangerous jobs in America.

According to audit reports from the Office of the Inspector General, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, 120 firearms have been either lost or stolen from federal agents in recent years – and only about half of them have been recovered. Some recovered firearms were determined to have been used in a crime, and many of those that remain missing may yet be. 

Whenever a federal agent’s service weapon goes missing, the circumstances surrounding the incident are logged. Using data from OIG audits of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the U.S. Marshal Service, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most common ways federal agents lose their firearms. While some instances involve some degree of carelessness, others, such as burglary and theft, are harder to avoid. 

In the years covered by OIG audits for each agency, over a dozen firearms were lost by federal agents who left them in public places, including restrooms, restaurants, subways, and hotels. Many others were simply misplaced.

Most commonly, however, a missing firearm is often the result of a theft, particularly from a car or truck. According to OIG audit reports, 40 firearms have been stolen from government vehicles, nine from personal vehicles, and another five were left in vehicles that themselves were stolen. (These are the most popular police firearms.)

These figures do not include the three handguns and one shotgun that were lost after being left on top of a trailer or a vehicle’s bumper, roof, or trunk. 

Click here to see 23 ways federal agents lose their own weapons.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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