- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - From Glocks, Sig Sauers and Remingtons to sniper and assault rifles, 944 guns that once belonged to law enforcement officers across California have been either stolen, lost or can’t be accounted for since 2010.

A new exclusive Bay Area News Group investigation (http://bayareane.ws/2907rV3 ) surveyed more than 240 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and discovered an alarming disregard for the way many officers - from police chiefs to cadets to FBI agents - safeguard their weapons.

The investigation comes a year after a bullet from a federal agent’s stolen gun killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier.

The guns have been stolen from behind car seats and inside glove boxes, swiped from gym bags, dresser drawers, tailgates, and even atop a toilet paper dispenser in a car dealership’s bathroom. Fewer than 20 percent have been recovered.

Little attention had been paid to the issue before Steinle’s highly publicized death. But at least 86 weapons were snatched from officers’ vehicles between January 2010 and last June’s smash-and-grab burglary of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger’s gun recovered after Steinle’s shooting, the newspaper reported.

Police have not determined who stole that gun, but a man in the U.S. illegally is charged in Steinle’s death.

“You just can’t leave a gun alone in a vehicle,” retired FBI Agent Jim Wedick told the Bay Area News Group. “You just can’t do it. It has to be in a compartment, or in chains an inch thick wrapped around a lead box, because, God forbid, someone gets hurt.”

In addition to Steinle’s death an Oakland muralist was also killed with a stolen gun last year.

This news organization’s investigation also uncovered that a gun stolen from a Tracy police officer in 2010 was used to kill a man in Contra Costa County four years later, and a now-retired Piedmont police chief’s stolen gun in 2012 was used in a San Francisco gang shooting that year.

State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo who is sponsoring a bill requiring officers to secure weapons left in vehicles, said the practice of leaving guns unattended must stop.

“They don’t take it as seriously as they should, and what the effects of it could be if it gets lost to the wrong hands,” Hill said.

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Information from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com

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