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Public Information Officer Mark Frazer holds a seized 20 gauge shotgun next to a cart of other seized firearms in the lobby of the property evidence room at the Police Services Center on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Chattanooga Police have seized an unusually large number of guns in only a few weeks.
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Public Information Officer Mark Frazer holds a seized handgun next to a cart of other seized firearms in the lobby of the property evidence room at the Police Services Center on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Chattanooga Police have seized an unusually large number of guns in only a few weeks.

RECOVERED FIREARMS TRACED TO CHATTANOOGA

These firearms were recovered by law enforcement agencies all over the country and traced back to Chattanooga.

2014: 804

2013: 774

2012: 698

2011: 605

2010: 552

2009: 631

Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

GUNS SEIZED BY CHATTANOOGA POLICE

2015: 580 as of Oct. 16

2014: 702

2013: 697

2012: 609

Source: Chattanooga Police Department

 

When Chattanooga police searched the property where two car burglary suspects fled on Oct. 15, they found a small armory hidden out back.

After arresting two suspects, officers discovered two assault rifles, multiple firearms and an abundance of ammunition in a stolen trailer at 2503 Jenkins Road.

The bust bumped the number of firearms police recovered during the first half of October to 39 — slightly higher than normal for a 16-day stretch. In 2014, police seized an average of two guns a day. So far this year, police have taken 580 guns off the streets — guns officers say would otherwise likely have been used to commit crimes.

"We know that one weapon has shot multiple people in the past," said Sgt. Michael Wenger, who supervises the homicide unit. "Taking one weapon off the street could save multiple lives."

He said police are seeing an increase in the number of guns stolen from cars and trucks after Tennessee politicians passed a law in July 2014 that allows people who legally possess guns to keep loaded weapons in their vehicles without a state-issued handgun carry permit.

"The criminals know," Wenger said. "It doesn't take long for them to figure out there are more guns in cars and target them."

Every year during the last five years, Chattanooga police have seized more guns than the previous year, with numbers rising from 552 seized guns in 2010 to 702 in 2014.

Once in police hands, each gun is run through federal databases to check whether it is stolen, said Julie Ladd, police property technician. But police can only determine that a gun is stolen if the rightful owner reported it stolen and recorded the gun's serial number.

"I've had guns in here that were reported stolen in the 1970s," she said. "Your gun, if you have your number, can find its way home. But not if you don't have your number."

Even if guns obtained illegally aren't used in a crime, they can still be dangerous because they are often poorly maintained, said Officer Mark Frazer.

"Somebody buys dope with this, someone shoots at somebody and tosses it in the bushes and someone else finds it — that's how they end up in conditions like this," he said, handling several guns in CPD's property room. "Which is one of the things that makes them so dangerous. You don't know when you'll have a malfunction with one of these, you don't know when one is just going to go off for unknown reasons."

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Seized firearms are displayed on a cart in the lobby of the property evidence room at the Police Services Center on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Chattanooga Police have seized an unusually large number of guns in only a few weeks.

Illegally obtained guns played a role in the shooting of a 13-year-old boy in Harrison on Sunday, investigators from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.

A family member accidentally shot the boy in the face while the family was posing for photos with weapons obtained illegally, officials said.

The boy was shot at 6828 Buck Trail Drive around 8 p.m. Sunday, sheriff's spokesman Matt Lea said in a release. He is expected to survive and is cooperating with investigators.

Lea couldn't say how many weapons were found at the home, with what weapon the boy was shot, who shot him or how many family members were participating in the photo shoot on Wednesday because the investigation into what happened is still ongoing. He also could not say whether the case will result in criminal charges.

There have been at least 102 shootings in Chattanooga this year, according to Times Free Press records. Of the city's 25 homicides, 18 people were shot.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com with tips or story ideas.

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