Unsecured AR-15 rifle reported stolen from U.S. Rep. Ellmers' home

akenney@newsobserver.comOctober 22, 2013 

— U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers’ husband reported an AR-15 rifle stolen from the family’s home in Dunn last week, according to a police report.

The weapon had been left leaning against a gun locker in an unlocked garage on Kingsway Drive, the report said.

The rifle, a gun case and a GPS, with a cumulative value of $1,100, were reported stolen, according to Chief J.D. Pope. Police think the theft happened on the night of Oct. 15.

“According to the report, they had been out target shooting and brought the gun back and leaned it against the gun safe,” Pope said. “ … The garage door was left unsecured, according to the report.”

The case remains under investigation and likely will be treated as a burglary, he said. Ellmers’ husband, Brent Ellmers, was listed as the victim, Pope said.

The family was unharmed but shaken, said Thomas Doheny, communications director for Ellmers. Doheny confirmed that “several items were stolen” from the congresswoman’s home but said in an email that he couldn’t disclose further information yet.

The weapon belonged to Ellmers’ college-aged son, he confirmed. Ellmers was in Washington, D.C., at the time of the theft.

“Gun safety is of the utmost importance in their household, which is exactly why she’s so upset and doesn't understand how this happened,” Doheny said.

The police report did not indicate whether there was any ammunition in or near the gun or whether there was a lock on it. And unless the gun has been stolen by a minor, it appears unlikely that the reportedly unsecured status of the gun would open its owners to any charge under state or federal gun laws.

“Our investigator has probably looked into that, but we’ve not discussed that yet,” Pope said.

North Carolina’s gun-storage laws apply only when a minor gains unlawful access to a gun and discharges it, according to Charlotte attorney Thomas Faulk. There are no federal laws requiring gun owners to lock or to prevent minors access to their weapons, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for gun-control measures.

“A lot of people think there should be a particular statute on the subject, simply saying failure to secure a weapon is in itself a crime, regardless of whether anything bad happens,” said Faulk, who wrote the book Firearms Law of North Carolina.

“Having a firearm is a right, but it comes with a responsibility,” he said, speaking of the law in general. However, Mitch Hyatt, a manager of Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, noted that there was room for interpretation.

“Maybe there was a gun lock (typically a steel cable) on it that locked the gun from use but didn’t prevent it from being stolen,” he said. “If someone had it, they wouldn’t be able to operate it without cutting the lock off.”

Ellmers is a political conservative aligned with the tea party. In the 2012 election, she was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups.

The police report says there had been no other break-ins in the residential subdivision where Ellmers and her family live, according to The Associated Press. The serial number of the stolen rifle has been added to a national database used by law enforcement to track firearms.

Dunn police have named no suspects, Pope said.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service