Not all gun thieves are created equal.
Most of the time, what we see is someone who broke into a place–either a store or a private residence–and steal guns for either their own use or to traffic onto the black market, thus arming criminals.
But gun thefts aren’t always that cut and dried. Sometimes, the theft can look very different, such as this case in Montana.
Reyes fell under suspicion in January 2022 after his house guest reported the theft of several guns, according to court documents. She told Flathead County Sheriff’s Office deputies that she brought the firearms with her when she moved into Reyes’ home in 2021.
Reyes allegedly offered to clean the guns and store them in his garage. She moved out in May of that year, but did not ask after the weapons until December, court documents said. Reyes allegedly told her he lost them.
The plea deal, filed in district court, listed the stolen guns as a Rough Rider 22, Ruger Charger 22 and a Remington 700 BDL 7 mm.
What he actually did, though, was sell them to someone else for $3,000, which seems like a lot for those three firearms, but whatever.
So what Reyes did is gun theft, plain as day.
What’s not so plain is why the judge gave him suspended sentences and a $525 fine.
Oh, I get that there was no breaking and entering involved here, but gun theft is gun theft. It should be treated as a serious matter, even if the guns aren’t then sold to a criminal. That’s a separate crime, after all.
The part that’s especially troubling for me is that suicide is a problem in Montana, especially those carried out with a firearm. We here tend to tell people that if it’s possible, hand your guns to a friend for safekeeping until you’re through your crisis.
How are we going to sell that idea if people have to be worried about their buddy not being all that good of a friend in the first place and selling their firearms? It’s not like there’s a lack of paranoia in the gun community anyway–though, admittedly, that’s only true if you figure it’s still paranoia if they are out to get you–and this isn’t going to fill anyone with comforting thoughts.
Honestly, this case in Montana disgusts me.
Yes, the woman could have asked for her guns sooner, but that still doesn’t excuse Reyes selling property he knew didn’t belong to him. It damn sure doesn’t excuse the judge basically giving him a pass.
I know he was still convicted, but the punishment is basically a slap on the wrist, regardless of the ramifications to the state. Even if Reyes learned his lesson–and he still claims to be innocent, so I’m skeptical–it may well reduce people doing the safe thing when they’re having a mental health crisis.
This shouldn’t have happened, but the fact that it did and the judge went so lightly on Reyes is something no gun owner should tolerate. No decent person should tolerate it. Gun thieves deserve to be punished. Reyes wasn’t and there’s nothing we can do about it now except figure out how to keep it from happening again.