Safe Storage Of Guns

Firearms don't hurt people sitting on a table, tucked in a drawer or in a glove compartment. Accidents happen when we are negligent in our care and storage of firearms and they are left loaded, unlocked and available to be mishandled. How we store our firearms is key. Where and how you store your firearm(s) should be addressed prior to purchasing and a plan in place.   

There are different safety and storage issues based on your primary purpose for having a firearm. The storage needs of a hunter or strictly range shooter are different than those of a single woman who owns a firearm primarily for personal and home safety. The presence of children in the home is another key factor in how you store your firearms. If personal/home defense is your primary purpose in owning a firearm, the SAFEST place for you firearm is holstered on your person. If recreational shooting and/hunting is your purpose then locked in an appropriate firearm safe or cabinet is the safest.

We will look at the storage needs and recommendations for each. First a reminder of the basic rules when handling a firearm. These apply as well when handling them for storage as well.

The Four Rules Are:

  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

FIREARM STORAGE AND THE WOMAN WITH NO CHILDREN AT HOME 

Let's start with firearm storage issues for the single or married woman with no children in the home with the primary purpose of owning a firearm is personal and/or home defense. When the purpose of owning a firearm is to protect yourself and your property (your home) having the firearm locked in a safe, unloaded and locked isn't practical when and intruder is coming through your door. The firearm needs to be accessible to you and in a practical location. Carrying your firearm on your body while you are at home is the best option. Finding the most comfortable way to holster your firearm on your body is critical. The more you carry your firearm, the more you get used to it and it becomes "part of who you are". The second option is to keep your firearm (or a second firearm if you own more than one) in a "secret" but not too complicated location that you can access quickly in the part of the home where you will need it. Take some time to consider the space where you spend most of your time in that part of the home and what storage opportunities are close by. The location should not be so complicated that it takes you too long to get to your firearm or to get into the location. It should also not require a combination that you will likely not remember during the stress of of an invasion. 
 
There are some home holster options to consider, but only in those homes where there are no children. There are holsters that attach to your bed or couch. These can be helpful as the firearm is securely stored with the trigger guard covered and in the right position to be drawn quickly. There are smaller gun safes that have a biometric lock that will open instantly by simply placing your hand on the sensor. These can also be used in a home with children. See Safes & Security products
 
If your gun of choice for home protection is a shotgun, there are obviously some storage challenges due to their size. They are harder to hide in your home and cumbersome for women to handle. Please read Shotgun Basics 
 
Important note: If you have people with children visit your home, planned or unplanned, you need to remove your gun from it's "secret" place, in any room, unload and lock it in your gun safe or cabinet.

STORING DEFENSE FIREARMS WITH CHILDREN IN THE HOME

Once again, the safest place for you firearm is on your person. Yes even with children. Many mothers carry their firearm on their body all the time. Storage of the firearm when you are not up and about or if you are unwilling to carry the firearm on your body at home, creates a unique and complicated set of issues A quick access safe is the best option. (See below for more) The biometric safes are a great choice. They will hold one handgun and can only be opened by you . You don't need to remember a combination, which you would likely forget under extreme stress. If either of these options or a combination of them both is not comfortable for you, then I would not have a loaded firearm in the house. Read Firearms and Your Children

Biometric gun safe with fingerprint technology.

If you have additional firearms, those that you do not need quickly or are for recreational shooting, they  should be locked unloaded, in a gun safe and the ammunition stored elsewhere.

SAFE STORAGE WITH CHILDREN IN THE HOME 

Store firearms so that they are inaccessible to children and other unauthorized users. There is a wide variety of safes, cases, and other security devices. While specific security measures may vary, a parent must, in every case, assess the exposure of the firearm and absolutely ensure that it is inaccessible to a child. Listed below are some safety measures to protect children and teens from accidental firearm injury and suicide as listed in the JAMA article "Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries." (6)
  • Keep the gun locked.
  • Keep the gun unloaded.
  • Store the ammunition locked.
  • Store the ammunition in a separate place from the gun.

Other safety measures are:

  • Hide the keys to the locked firearm and ammunition storage boxes.
  • If your friends or family keep a firearm, urge them to keep it locked and unloaded.
  • Only parents should know the location of the gun storage.
  • Check with your local police for advice about safe storage and gun locks.
  • When handling or cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended, not even for a moment.
  • Teach your children never to touch guns. Make sure they know that guns can be dangerous.
  • Talk with your kids about the risk of firearm injury outside the home, in places they may visit or play.

SAFES AND LOCKS    

There are many options in gun safes. Different sizes and models are available for every environment. Large safes, car safes, drawer safes, etc.. Biometric gun safes use an individual's unique fingerprint to access the weapon and ammunition inside. They cannot be opened by even the most determined child. The other advantage of biometric safes is that they offer the option of storing a weapon and ammunition together so that a firearm is ready to use at a moment's notice. There are several types of locking devices that serve to make it difficult to discharge a firearm. External locks are considered less effective than keeping firearms stored in a lockable safe since locks are more easily compromised than approved safes.

DO NOT trust "secret" hiding places or trigger locks, especially with older children. Such "secrets" tend to be uncovered when you aren't around, and many trigger locks can be taken off or otherwise defeated with a little effort. 

STORING NON-DEFENSE FIREARMS WITH CHILDREN IN THE HOME

The most important rule in a house with children is that all firearms should be stored unloaded and locked up and the ammunition be locked in a separate location. Make sure your children or the children of guests don't have access to the keys or the lock combinations. A gun safe is one good choice for locked storage. Display cases with glass windows are not, because the glass can be broken, and guns that are out of sight are less likely to attract children. another option is to may want to consider storing your recreational firearms at a gun club, or dismantle them and lock them up at home in a separate place from where you lock the ammunition. It's also smart to wait to load them after you leave home, either at the target range or the place where you hunt.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CHILDREN AND FIREARMS

Don't underestimate your child's curiosity or the strength their trigger finger. Children as young as 3 have enough strength to fire many of the handguns on today's market, especially the small, lighter-weight models marketed to women.

Unintentional shootings among children occur most often when they are unsupervised and out of school, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. Peak times are late afternoons, weekends, during summer months, and during the November and December holidays. 

It is better to gun-proof (educate) your children than try to child-proof your guns. This means teaching your children what a gun is, what it can do, and that they should never touch it without your permission.

TRIGGER AND EXTERNAL LOCKS   

There are several types of locks that serve to make it difficult to discharge a firearm. Locks are considered less effective than keeping firearms stored in a lockable safe since locks are more easily compromised than approved safes. If a locked firearm is stolen, the thief can bypass the lock at their leisure.

  

Trigger locks prevent motion of the trigger. However a trigger lock does not guarantee that the firearm cannot be discharged. Some trigger locks are integrated into the design of the weapon, requiring no external parts besides the key.

Chamber locks aim to block ammunition from being chambered, since most firearms typically cannot be discharged unless the ammunition is in the correct position.

Cable locks are a popular type of chamber lock that usually threads through the breech and ejection port of repeating-action firearms; they generally prevent full cycling of the action, especially preventing a return to "battery", with the breech fully closed. In many designs of pistol and rifle, they also prevent the proper insertion of a magazine.

California effected regulations in 2000 that forced gun locks to be approved by a firearm safety device laboratory via California Penal Code Section 12088.[10] All gun locks under this code must receive extensive tests including saw, pick, pull, and many other tests in order to be approved for the state of California.