ATHENS, Ala. - Athens Police are trying to determine who broke into Bradford's Jewelry, Pawn and Guns overnight. Chief Floyd Johnson said in a release that an officer noticed one of the front windows had been broken out of the shop on South Marion Street.
Investigators believe the burglary happened between midnight and 1:50 a.m.
Business managers are trying to do inventory of the store, but they believe there were approximately 50 handguns taken in the burglary.
Athens Police investigators have asked for assistance from The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms in the case.
Customers continued to stop by the store Monday, although it was closed for the day while store managers handled the inventory and helped with the investigation. Some told WHNT News 19 off camera that they were worried something like this could happen in downtown Athens.
Michael Knight, ATF Special Agent and Public Information Officer, said it's a concern agents are taking seriously. He says 50 guns is a lot for a person, or people, to steal at one time.
"Even if it was one stolen firearm, that firearm may be used in additional crimes and those crimes of violence are a concern not only for the public safety, but also the safety of first responders," he said.
Knight said the investigation spans throughout Athens, through the region, and across the nation because of how illegal guns are trafficked.
"These firearms will often times end up in the hands of other criminal elements," he explained. "They will be used in crimes not only in this area, but also in the surrounding areas and surrounding states."
Knight warned gun buyers to watch out for anyone who may be soliciting the stolen firearms for sale.
"Be cautious," he said, "and notify law enforcement."
To find the stolen weapons, and who is responsible, officers ask anyone who noticed anything suspicious to call the Athens Police Department at 256-233-8700.
Knight said the case will remain open until those responsible, and all the stolen merchandise, is found.
Unfortunately, Knight said incidents like this are part of a larger trend.
"The number of federal firearms thefts across the country over the past six months has been increasing," he commented.