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Gun Owner Vehicle Tagging Hoax

Outline
Circulating warning claims that criminal gangs are tagging gun owner vehicles with dots, check marks or coloured stickers so that guns can be later stolen.

Rifle

© Depositphotos.com/Elnur_



Brief Analysis
The message is a hoax. Both the NSSA and the NRA have dismissed the warning as untrue. Police have also labelled the report as false. Sending on this bogus information will help nobody.

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Example

Gun Owner Vehicle Tagging Hoax

NOTICE TO ALL GUN OWNERS!!!!

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Tagging a Gun Owner's Vehicle

If you own a gun and therefore go to gun ranges or gun shops, you might want to read the attached and keep this in mind…..and share the word with your friends/family.

TAGGING GUN OWNERS VEHICLES PSA WARNING
Gun lovers public service announcement: While I was in a Texas gun store today, my car was tagged on the wheel in the parking lot. The gangs do this on wheels or bumpers at gun stores, shooting ranges, gun shows etc. Later when you are parked at a restaurant, hotel, or other location that’s less well guarded or under video surveillance, other gang members spot the marker and break into the car for a quick gun grab. This is so RAMPANT in San Antonio where we were for a National shoot this summer, the Sheriff of Bexar County came out to brief the 400 participants of our competition. Too bad three teams had already been victimized the first day. This is the first I’ve heard of this in Texas.

Please pass this info along to your 2nd amendment list. Daily check your car, truck or motor home for unusual painted dots, marks, check marks or other strange looking symbols that are not normal to your type vehicle. It could prevent you from being a victim of robbery, or even save your life if you catch the thief in the act.

This next comment from a Gun Site instructor:

I don’t know how widespread this is becoming, but the info regarding the NSCA Nationals in San Antonio is correct, as all of us who compete in sporting clays know. Competitors there were having their vehicles marked with a small adhesive dot on the rear license plate or rear bumper, then followed for miles and having their vehicles quickly and efficiently broken in to when parked for lunch etc.

Some crews were working the parking lot at the Nationals itself. 27 high end shotguns were taken there recently. They know when 1400 shooters with high $$ competition guns are in town.

BTW I shot with a young man who was trying out a new gun at the Nationals. He and his father lost all their guns and equipment while making a quick stop for lunch at a BBQ place in Corpus Christi the month before.

Detailed Analysis
This would-be warning to gun enthusiasts has been circulating via email, blog posts, and social media outlets since at least 2011. The message claims that criminal gangs are tagging vehicles parked at gun shows, shooting ranges and gun stores by placing various painted dots, check marks, symbols or coloured stickers on tyres or bumpers. Supposedly, other gang members will later spot the tags when the owners are parked at less well guarded locations and steal any guns left in the vehicles. The message claims that such crimes have been so rampant in San Antonio that the Sheriff of Bexar County was compelled to visit and warn participants at a recent national shooting meeting in the area.




However, the claims in the warning are untrue. Both the police and various gun related organizations have dismissed the claims as false.

The National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) has published a response to the rumours on its website which notes, in part:

Rumors have been circulating recently about gun thefts from vehicles around the country and at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio in particular. Because we take very seriously the security of our members and patrons, as well as their property, we would like to address these rumors and offer some suggestions regarding better securing your firearms, whether you’re shooting at our club or elsewhere.

As has always been the case, gun thefts from vehicles and homes are a problem around the country, and San Antonio is no different – neither better nor worse. Some rumors suggest that San Antonio is experiencing an “epidemic” of gun thefts from vehicles at gun clubs or from vehicles of traveling shooters at restaurants or other businesses. We have no reason to believe this problem is greater than in the past or than in other cities. As the largest gun club in the San Antonio area, and one of the largest in the country, we believe we at the National Shooting Complex are in a position to be aware of such an alarming trend, and it is simply not the case.

Many reports indicate that gangs are targeting the NSC parking lot, marking tires or placing stickers on license plates so they can later be identified by thieves. At a shoot last June, we and a commissioned officer investigated reports of marked vehicles and found no validity. There was no pattern or consistency among the marks that were identified to us, and we found that all the questionable marks reported to us were left there by manufacturers, tire services, or rental car companies. In fact, most marks were so worn or well covered that they could not have occurred in the parking lot.

We have read that because gun thefts from vehicles are so “rampant” in San Antonio that a police chief met with the 400 shooters at that event to warn them about the problem. That did not happen.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) also dismisses the claims as a rumour, noting in a January 2012 report:

Long before Al Gore “created” the Internet, gun owners were busy perfecting grassroots networking.  Today, gun owners have an almost unlimited number of ways to spread information crucial to our community. And, while the Internet is certainly an indispensible tool for protecting our rights, an unfortunate side effect has been the fast and easy spread of rumors.

The latest of these, appearing on Internet message boards and in emails, warns of a growing trend of gangsters marking the license plates or wheels of vehicles parked at shooting clubs, gun stores, ranges and gun shows. According to the rumor, the thieves later spot or follow the marked vehicles and break into them to steal guns while their owners are elsewhere.

The reports go on to claim that the tactic has reached “epidemic” proportions in San Antonio, Texas, and specifically, at the National Skeet Shooting Association and National Sporting Clays Association’s National Shooting Complex.  Naturally, the NSC investigated the matter thoroughly. They concluded that the rumor is false on several counts.

Furthermore, columnist David Sikes of Corpus Christi news outlet Caller.com explains:

The bogus warning reports these colorful marks or stickers have been found on rear bumpers and license plates, along with wheels and tires.

I contacted the Bexar County Sheriff's Office, the San Antonio Police Department, the Corpus Christi Police Department and Royce Graff, director of the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio.

By all accounts, nothing in the email is accurate. No truth whatsoever, according to Matthew Porter at the San Antonio P.D. and Martin Meachum at the sheriff's office.

Of course, gun owners who see this hoax warning and subsequently examine their vehicles may sometimes find previously unnoticed dots, stickers or unexplained markings. But, as the NSSA report notes, these marks are likely to be left by vehicle manufacturers, tyre fitters or rental car companies and have no hidden or sinister meaning whatsoever.  For example, coloured marks may be placed on tires to assist in match mounting tyres and wheels during servicing.

Thus, the message has no validity as a warning and it should not be forwarded. Sending on such misinformation will do nothing whatsoever to help gun owners protect their property.

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Last updated: March 26, 2013
First published: March 26, 2013
Research: David White, Brett Christensen
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
NSC Responds To Gun Theft Rumors
Rumor Alert: The Vehicle Gun Theft 'Epidemic'
Debunking a hoax aimed at gun owners
Match Mounting to Enhance Tire & Wheel Uniformity