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Dysart Willis

ATF, North Carolina police seek gun theft suspects

Last year, more than a thousand firearms were stolen from North Carolina and South Carolina gun stores. That was more than twice as many as were stolen the year before. Police say the region's thefts and robberies of gun stores led the nation.

In an apparent effort to curtail the growing trend, federal law enforcement officials are offering a reward for information that leads to the arrests of two men believed to have robbed a Gaston County firearms shop.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering $5,000 for tips in the burglary of a Cherryville pawn shop. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the official gun industry trade association, says it is offering an additional $5,000 in the case.

Law enforcement officials say they seek two male suspects who stole 13 guns. The ATF released a photo of a white sedan believed to have been used in the burglary.

Among the guns stolen, police said, were 10 handguns, two rifles and a shotgun.

As you might know, there are a number of federal gun laws, including one that states that stealing guns from a firearms licensee is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison. There are also federal laws against possessing or discharging a gun in a school zone, as well as statutes prohibiting the possession or manufacturing of a machine gun, silencer, sawed-off shotgun, sawed-off rifle or any firearm that has an altered or obliterated serial number.

It is also against federal law for felons to have in their possession firearms. Conviction on the charge can mean up to a decade in prison. However, if the person charged has "three or more prior convictions for a felony crime of violence (e.g. burglary, robbery, assault, possession of offensive weapons) and/or drug trafficking felony," they face a minimum sentence of 15 years with no parole.

Clearly, these are charges that must be addressed with the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney experienced in federal criminal cases.