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 guns and when 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 that need to be considered based on your primary purpose for having a firearm. The storage needs of a hunter or range shooter are different than those of a single woman who owns a firearm primarily for personal and home defense. The presence of children in the home is another key factor in the decisions you make on how you store your firearms. If personal/home defense is your primary purpose for owning a firearm, the SAFEST place for you firearm is holstered on your person. If you have children in the home, a quick access safe is something to consider. 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.
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 an 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 and located 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 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.
The safest place for your firearm is on your person. Yes even with children. Many mothers carry their firearm on their body all the time. This keeps the gun under your control all of the time and out of the hands of inquisitive children.
Storage of the firearm when you are not up and about or if you are unwilling to carry the firearm on your body while at home creates a complicated set of issues. You desire to keep the gun out of the hands of your children while needing access to it quickly, should you need it. A quick access safe is the best option. Something within reach and that allows you to open it quickly if you need it. Biometric safes are a great choice. These only require your fingerprint to open allowing you very quick access. They can only be opened by you or those you provide a fingerprint for. No need to remember a combination, which you would likely forget under extreme stress. Liberty Safe has large, full-size safes that can also be used to store jewelry, important paperwork or family treasures. 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.
Learn more about having a gun in a home with children in my article: Firearms And Your Children
If you have additional firearms, those that you do not need quickly or those recreational shooting, they should be locked unloaded, in a gun safe and the ammunition stored elsewhere. Laws may vary from state to state. It is your responsibility to know the laws on the storage of guns in the home in your state.
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)
There are so many options for 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 firearm 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 gun 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 less effective than keeping firearms stored in a lockable safe as 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.
The most important rule in a house with children is that all firearms are stored unloaded and locked with the ammunition 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 consider storing your recreational firearms at a gun club. You can 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.
Don’t underestimate your child’s curiosity or the strength of 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 best to gun-proof (educate) your children than to rely on child-proofing 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.
There are several types of locks that serve to make it difficult to discharge a firearm. Locks are considered less effective because locks are easily compromised. If a locked firearm is stolen, the thief can bypass the lock at their leisure.
Trigger locks prevent motion of the trigger. A trigger lock does not guarantee that the firearm cannot be discharged. Some trigger locks are integrated into the design of the gun, requiring no external parts besides the key.
Chamber locks block ammunition from being chambered. Most firearms cannot be discharged unless the ammunition is in the correct position.
Cable locks thread 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.
Laws may vary from state to state. It is your responsibility to know the laws on the storage of guns in the home in your state.