MOORHEAD — On average, area police departments each receive about one or more stolen gun reports a month.
The numbers skewed higher for Moorhead in early December, when during a single incident someone stole three firearms in what is believed to have been a daytime burglary.
It happened Dec. 2 at a home near Minnesota State University Moorhead, where Preston Hoganson and his wife live along with a number of roommates.
Hoganson told The Forum he lost a handgun, a hunting rifle and an AR-style rifle in the theft. The Moorhead Police Department is investigating the burglary, which Hoganson believes occurred during the day when, for a brief time, no one was home.
Hoganson said the guns, which had trigger locks and were locked in their cases, were somewhat hidden, and he believes whoever took them likely had been in the house previously and knew where to look for them.
Moorhead police spokesman Capt. Deric Swenson said that from January to July of this year the department received reports of 16 stolen guns, five of which were recovered.
"It's more uncommon than common" for police to recover a stolen firearm, Swenson said, adding that not all gun thefts are from dwellings.
Sometimes, he said, people leave a gun in a vehicle's glove compartment or under a seat, and the firearm is stolen when a vehicle's doors are left unlocked and someone rummages through it.
Swenson said gun owners should always avoid leaving guns in vehicles. At home, it's wise to store firearms in a safe, he said.
Fargo police reported that so far in 2019 the department had logged 22 incidents involving the theft of a gun or ammunition.
West Fargo police said that so far in 2019 the department had received reports of nine stolen guns involving five separate cases. In 2018, West Fargo police received a total of 17 stolen gun reports involving 13 separate cases.
Nationwide, numbers show North Dakota has fewer reported gun thefts than most other states.
In 2012, the last year for which national numbers could be found, North Dakota reported 268 stolen guns, placing it 49th among the states and the District of Columbia, according to Governing.com, which compiled data from the federal government.
The same data showed that Minnesota reported 1,303 stolen guns in 2012, placing it 34th in the nation for number of guns reported stolen. Texas was first in the rankings, with 18,435 guns reported stolen in 2012.
The role that stolen guns may play in later crimes is the subject of some debate among researchers. Some articles and published reports assert the role of stolen firearms in future crimes is unclear, though one research organization, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, takes a strong stance to the contrary.
The center's website states that stolen guns are an appealing source of firearms for people who are legally prohibited from having them.
An analysis of more than 23,000 stolen firearms recovered by police between 2010 and 2016 found that the majority of the weapons recovered were connected to crimes, including more than 1,500 violent acts such as murder, kidnapping and armed robbery, according to the website.