Takeaways: AP’s investigation into missing US military guns

Jun 14, 2021, 11:23 PM | Updated: Jun 15, 2021, 9:36 am

In the first public accounting of its kind in decades, an Associated Press investigation has found that at least 1,900 U.S. military firearms were lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some resurfacing in violent crimes.

The armed services and the Pentagon are not eager for the public to know the full extent of those losses — one reason AP’s investigation took a decade to complete. Military officials say that missing firearms are a tiny fraction of their total stockpile of several million guns, and note that some weapons are recovered.

A few key takeaways from AP’s investigation:


Stolen military guns don’t just vanish. Some have been sold to street gang members, recovered on felons and used in crimes.

The AP identified eight instances in which five different stolen military firearms were used in a civilian shooting or other violent crime from 2010 through 2019. In other incidents, felons were busted possessing military pistols or assault rifles.

In one case, New York state investigators linked an Army service pistol to four separate shootings, including one in which a person was hit in the ankle. The Army didn’t even know the gun was missing from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for two years — until police in New York’s capital recovered it in 2018.


Weapons accountability is drilled into troops whether they are in the field, on patrol or in the armory. A missing weapon often triggers a concerted response to recover it.

Still, problems persist. The AP found security lapses including unlocked doors, troops sleeping on the job, a malfunctioning surveillance camera system, shoddy record keeping and break-ins that, until now, have not been publicly reported.

In some cases, corrupt armorers with access to guns and firearm parts take advantage of the military’s enormous supply chains.


The Pentagon used to share annual updates about stolen weapons with Congress, but the requirement to do so ended years ago and public accountability has slipped.

In the absence of a regular reporting requirement, the Pentagon is responsible for informing Congress of any “significant” incidents of missing weapons. That hasn’t happened since at least 2017.

While a missing portable missile such as a Stinger would result in a notification to lawmakers, a stolen machine gun would not, according to a senior Department of Defense official whom the Pentagon provided for an interview on condition the official not be named.

Starting in 1989, Congress required the Pentagon to submit annual reports on inventory losses. Although the problem of weapons loss and theft hasn’t stopped, regular reports to Congress did, apparently in the 1990s.

On Tuesday, in the wake of the AP investigation, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee she would be open to new oversight over weapons accountability.


Because some armed services have suppressed the release of basic information, AP’s total is a certain undercount.

For one, firearms theft or loss happens significantly more than the Army publicly acknowledged.

In an interview, an Army brigadier general cited records that report only a few hundred missing rifles and handguns during the 2010s. The AP obtained internal Army memos detailing 1,303 missing rifles and handguns between 2013 and 2019. Theft was the primary reason.

While Army officials released contradictory information, the Air Force refused to release any data on losses or thefts.


Hall reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Contact her at https://twitter.com/kmhall.


Email AP’s Global Investigations Team at [email protected] or https://www.ap.org/tips/. See other work at https://apnews.com/hub/ap-investigations

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

FAA warns that staffing shortage will delays flights in NYC

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that it was reducing flights in the area around New York City because of lack of staffing. Departing and arriving flights could be delayed up to two hours at John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International airports, the FAA said. The FAA said passengers should […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Son of suspect in Muslim slayings to remain in custody

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The son of an Afghan refugee suspected in the shooting deaths of four Muslim men in New Mexico will remain in custody pending trial on a charge that he allegedly provided a false address on a form when purchasing a gun last year. Shaheen Syed, 21, appeared in U.S. district court […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Dollar General faces penalties for Georgia store issues

NEW YORK (AP) — Dollar General faces nearly $1.3 million in penalties after government inspectors visited three of the chain’s stores in Georgia earlier this year and found worker-safety violations, federal regulators said Monday. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said its inspectors found obstructed exit routes, boxes of merchandise stacked unsafely and electrical panels […]
14 hours ago
Abortion rights protesters chant outside of the West Virginia Senate chambers prior to a vote on an...
Associated Press

WVa governor: Voters shouldn’t decide abortion access issue

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice scoffed Monday at a suggestion by Democratic lawmakers to let voters decide whether abortion should continue to be allowed in the state. The Republican governor said the state’s abortion law falls under the scrutiny of the Legislature and the attorney general. During a legislative special session […]
14 hours ago
FILE - Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill speaks during a news conference at the Statehouse in In...
Associated Press

Ex-Indiana attorney general joins GOP race for Walorski seat

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, whose time in office was marred by allegations that he drunkenly groped four women during a party, filed Monday to seek the Republican nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski following her death in a highway crash. Hill is among at least five candidates in a […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

How major US stock indexes fared Monday 8/15/2022

Stocks recovered from early losses and ended higher on Wall Street. Investors remain focused on the economy and upcoming reports from retailers this week. The S&P 500 rose 0.4% Monday after stumbling in early trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq also extended last week’s gains. Oil prices dropped sharply on worries about the […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Takeaways: AP’s investigation into missing US military guns