Officers are not immune to theft; in fact, they are prime targets for firearms acquisition. There have already been numerous reports of off-duty cops being robbed of firearms, some even at gunpoint.

Aside from using firearms to commit crimes, criminals obtain them to sell on the black market, where more people with dangerous backgrounds will have easy access to firearms.

Between 2019 and 2020, the number of stolen guns, particularly in vehicles, in the United States increased alarmingly, with some of these cases involving firearms owned by off-duty officers, NBC News reported.

Meanwhile, according to data from Everytown for Gun Safety, “the number of guns reported stolen from individuals increased by nearly 60% between 2006 and 2016,” a staggering increase that poses a tremendous risk to public safety.

“Criminals are opportunists,” Everytown president John Feinblatt said back in May. “They’ll go where they think that they can capture guns and flood the black market with little or less risk.”

Last week, an off-duty NYPD officer in the Bronx had his gun stolen from him as soon as he stepped out of his vehicle. According to news reports, the suspect has taken the cop’s weapon and wallet, including his NYPD identification card.

Thankfully, the officer was unharmed, but the incident has once again highlighted the importance of vigilance among off-duty officers.

Here are three ways to secure your firearms off duty.

Invest in secure and reliable gun safes, racks, and lockers at home. You can never be too careful, even as an off-duty officer. Storing your firearms, especially at home, is a responsibility you must uphold. Your gun-storage system, however, depends on what guns you own, your living situation, and the money you’re willing to invest.

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A quick access biometric handgun desk safe by Barska.

As an officer, you might want to buy one of those thick, steel gun cabinets that you can place in a room where it is not immediately obvious to house robbers but keeps a safe distance in case of an emergency. Biometric control access is hot in the market right now, where you won’t hassle yourself with keeping keys or memorizing a four-pin code.

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An extra large biometric rifle safe by Barska.

Additional security measures you can add at home would be security cameras. With this, in case of the worst-case scenario happens—that is, your firearms were stolen at home—you can easily track down the burglars and prevent them from using the weapon for crimes and/or selling to the black market.

Install an electronic release locking system in your patrol vehicles. Duty weapons, particularly shotguns and rifles, are traditionally stored in the trunk “to avoid liability and theft,” which can be inconvenient in dire situations and an easy target for gun thieves. That’s why having an electric release locking system in these vehicles would be preferable nowadays.

These electronically locked, pushed-button release gun mounts are now available from various manufacturers. If you have SUV-issued units, they can be installed on floorboards, transport cages, trunk lids, and/or storage spaces. In addition, some models allow you to securely mount a shotgun or rifle in the passenger seat, allowing officers to have their guns within arm’s reach while remaining protected from unauthorized access. This is a welcome change from haphazardly storing firearms in the back. But this locking system is only ideal if you’re hovering over your driver’s seat.

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Blac-Rac Universal Mount Weapon Electronic Gun Rack By Setina.

Off-duty officers should NEVER leave firearms inside their patrol cars overnight or unattended, especially with visible body armor wrapped around them, practically entices thieves. Thus, storing it inside your home remains preferable—no matter how high-tech your hard-mounted gun safe is. Plus, criminals can steal cars if they can’t pry those gun cases open on the spot.

If you have kids, teach them a thing or two about gun safety. While guns are definitely lethal tools, they would remain harmless if untouched by the unwitted. Passing gun safety wisdom to your kids would prevent them from exploring their curiosity. I cannot greatly emphasize how important this is—to let them know the responsibility and deadly repercussions of playing around with firearms.

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It is critical to remember that gun safety is not a product that can be bought but rather a behavior that goes hand in hand with discipline. Officers must be on the lookout for potential criminals even when not on duty, especially when carrying firearms around their waists.

As previously stated, there has been an alarming increase in gun theft in recent years, and while authorities are on the hunt for these criminals, prevention is strongly advised. Guns are dangerous weapons, but in the hands of a good guy, they can save lives—don’t give them to the bad guys.