According to an AP report, the U.S. Armed Forces is missing guns. While every military around the world is going to have to deal with property theft in addition to losses and attrition, it’s possible that the Armed Forces has been underreporting the number of small arms that have gone missing over the years.
In collecting public records and seeking out documents for release using the Freedom of Information Act, the AP estimates that at least 1,900 firearms have walked off military bases across the U.S. and abroad, although military reports put that number at a much lower 230 guns. Their documentation spans the bulk of the 2010s and their investigation started in 2011.
Army officials dispute the claims, stating that the records they obtained may include duplicate reports, does not account for combat losses or recoveries, and includes data from criminal investigations and incident reports. So while the number may be greater than a couple hundred, it may also fall short of 1,900 as well.
According to one internal report by the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal General, the Army thought as many as 1,303 weapons went missing between 2013 and 2019, and that’s just one branch of the military. The AP maintains that even their estimates are on the low side and the total number of lost guns could be much higher than 1,900.
“We have a very large inventory of several million of these weapons,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “We take this very seriously and we think we do a very good job. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t losses. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t mistakes made.”
The investigators obtained records from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines showing rifles, shotguns, pistols, and explosives unaccounted for. The documents listed theft as the largest suspected cause of lost inventory. “Though the numbers are small, one is too many,” said Kirby.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said she would be open to new oversight over weapons accountability at a hearing, following the report. According to some estimates, the Armed Forces owns around 4.5 million small arms.
The AP reports that at least eight of the lost or stolen guns have been linked to civilian crimes or shootings.
While the military likely has security concerns when it comes to reporting lost or stolen weapons, the AP’s findings are coming out at the same time many politicians are calling for laws to require ordinary citizens to report lost or stolen firearms. Failure to do so could result in criminal charges, per the legislation.