Over 500 guns stolen from cars in Jacksonville this year

Sheriff says illegal guns are major problem in violent crime in city

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A mass shooting over the weekend that left three dead, including an 11-month-old baby, has many community leaders saying enough is enough.

Among them are Jacksonville’s mayor and sheriff, who said there’s an overwhelming number of illegal and stolen guns on the streets that are part of the crime problem.

RELATED: Jacksonville a massive gun-smuggling gateway

Sheriff Mike Williams said that, unfortunately, part of the problem is lawful gun owners not being responsible.

So far this year, 5,848 vehicle burglaries have been reported to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

In those, 503 guns were stolen, which is on track to be higher than years past if the trend continues.

In the majority of those cases, the vehicles were left unlocked, police said.

Williams said criminals often steal guns, then sell them illegally to people with bad intentions, and many of those weapons end up being used in violent crimes, including murders.

“I think working to enforce the gun laws that are on the books is important, and we've been doing that out here for a long time,” Williams said. “We put a special emphasis on investigations involving having a convicted felon with a firearm.”

Undercover video News4Jax obtained shows just how easy it is to buy a gun on Jacksonville’s streets.

In the video, a State Attorney’s Office investigator bought several high-powered weapons for cash -- no questions asked. The market for illegal and stolen guns is hot, police say, and the they are working hard with prosecutors to cut down on the problem.

“We have a very robust and proactive approach to that here,” Williams said. “But, again, it is a challenge, no doubt about it.”

Some gun-safety activists said the laws themselves can change for the better, including requiring background checks for all firearm purchases and providing an alert for police when someone tries to buy a weapon and is rejected.

“We can actually reduce the number that are out there by about 50 percent with those background checks,” said Chryl Anderson with the Florida Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “To make sure we do keep guns out of dangerous hands, background checks are one of the great ways to do this.”

Both Anderson and Williams said gun owners can help cut down on the problem by locking their weapons up and being responsible, including locking their doors and not leaving their weapons in plain view in their homes and vehicles.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.