A message to gun owners: don’t leave firearms in unlocked cars

MADISON, Ala. - Gun violence is an issue taking center stage for law enforcement agencies across the country. The Madison Police Department has a message for drivers saying they may hold a key to help decrease it. It's simple. Don't leave firearms in unlocked vehicles.

Some drivers have learned to lock their car doors the hard way.

"I've had people just around here take stuff out of my car. I left it unlocked. I went to the store and they took my stuff out," Kimberly Thomas said.

The driving force behind leaving it unlocked?

"You think it will never happen to me, till it happens to you," Dustin Beverly said.

"I think it's just a trusting thing for people," Thomas said.

Captain Terrell Cook with the Madison Police Department says no matter how safe you think the area is when people leave their vehicles unlocked it opens the door for crime to occur.

"In well over half of the cars that are broken into and firearms stolen, the vehicles are unlocked and there's no forced entry."

Madison Police have even taken to social media to get out their message.

They say they don't want to sound like a broken record, but just since April three guns have been reported stolen from unlocked vehicles. Two of those happened just last week.

"Number one they're a felon already, they've broken into your car so they have a propensity for crime. And number two, of course, they don't have to go through any background checks. They're getting that firearm and possibly using it themselves or trading it on the street," Captain Cook said.

So when drivers hear the sound of a door locking, they're not just protecting their car. If a gun is in the vehicle, they're protecting the entire community.

Cook says this is an issue for law enforcement agencies across the country. A recent study showed that between 300,000 and 600,000 guns are stolen from vehicles every year.