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Safe storage of a firearm
is every gun owner’s responsibility, regardless of federal, state, or local regulations. Even in the absence of laws, common sense should tell the law abiding citizen an unsecured gun is a dangerous proposition, especially if it should fall into the wrong hands. In states that don’t have specific laws related to securing the safety of a firearm, there are almost always laws on the books for some sort of criminal negligence that can be levied against the gun owner. For gun owners who do not take responsible measures for securing their weapons, there is the possibility of a civil suit that can be brought against them in the event someone is serious injured or killed while using their firearm. It doesn’t matter if your children are all grown, if it’s just you and your spouse in the home, or if you are taking a trip to the store; your responsibility for ensuring your firearm is safely secured when left unattended is a duty you have to yourself, the safety of others, and the community.
The question of
safe firearm storage
can be a confusing topic. If the firearm is stored in a safe that is difficult to retrieve during an emergency, it could actually hinder you in carrying out your personal protection strategy. On the other hand, if the safe can be easily accessed or is portable, a thief or criminal may be able to gain access or remove your safe from your home; allowing them to break into it at a more convenient time. The balance between the two scenarios is up to the gun owner to determine and no two gun owners will have the same opinion.
There are a multitude of gun safes available on the market today. As a gun owner, you have to take into consideration not one, but two styles of safes:
A safe for home use and a safe for traveling
. Many gun owners have more than one firearm, therefore, a home safe is prudent for firearms that are not being used. When traveling, there will be occasions where you cannot have a firearm on your person, such as on school grounds, at a Federal Court house, or at the airport. No matter which storage method you choose, there are a variety of locking mechanisms you have to choose from-some of which are relatively easy to access while others may hinder access during an emergency. Finally, there may be additional local laws you may need to follow in order to remain compliant with your state’s requirements, such as a trigger lock or separate storage for ammunition-be sure to check with an attorney in your area for complete details.
All storage devices are designed to prevent unauthorized access to your valuables, whether it be jewelry, cash, guns, or important documents. Each device is fitted with a locking mechanism that can be very simply to operate, difficult to use, or can actually fail when something goes wrong, such as when the electricity is off or the batteries are drained.
Storage devices such as padlocks, lockable drawers on a night stand, or a potable safe can offer a certain level of security depending on the construction of the lock and the device in which they are attached. One drawback to a keyed lock is the potential for noise as you attempt to unlock the devise to retrieve your gun.
Many safes come with a combination lock, which can be a simple triple-rotary-tumbler to a complex set of mechanisms with multiple deadbolts designed for high-security protection. Combination locks are easy for most persons to understand and use because they have typically used them before in the past. One drawback to combination locks is that its easy to forget the combination during a high-stress situation, such as when an intruder is in your home. Another consideration should include a low or no light situation where it would be impossible to see the numbers to unlock the safe.
In order to counter the noise of keys and to overcome the slowness of a combination lock, a Simplex lock is designed for quick access and is relatively easy to operate. These locking devices have a number of push buttons which must be pushed in a specific order to open the device. Simplex locks overcome the limitation of keyed and combination locks as they can be easily opened in the dark, are relatively quiet, and operate simply by touch. One drawback to the device is a fail safe which prevents unauthorized access to the device after an incorrect entry attempt has occurred.
This prevents the device from opening until a special clearance code is entered which may prevent quick access during an emergency. In their simplest form, Simplex locks are mechanical in nature while the more expensive models can feature an electronic locking system which requires a set of charged batteries at all times. The battery operated devices allow users to open them in complete silence as the buttons are replaced with finger pads which are tapped in a particular order.
Similar to the electronic version of the Simplex lock, the biometric locking mechanism relies on a computer-controlled fingertip reader that stores the owner’s fingerprints in memory, making it impossible for anyone but the owner to open the safe. Unfortunately, like the electronic Simplex locks, biometric devices require batteries which can run out of power and require a keyed entry and a reset code. Biometrics is a cutting edge technology which may not be as reliable as one would expect as a variety of conditions may impede the proper reading of the owners fingerprint. A major drawback is that only the owner of the safe can open it--if a spouse is alone at home there's no way for them to access the device.
A Comparison of Locking Mechanisms
Easy to use, require access with a key, can be sufficient on portable safes.
Must have the key in order to open, may be hard to open in the dark, keys can make noise when you’re trying to remain quiet, portable safes can be carried away.
Easy to use, commonly used for light-end security models.
Combination can be easily forgotten under high-stress situations, cannot be seen in the dark, are difficult to manage and manipulate quickly.
Easy to use, can be opened in the dark, fairly quiet operation.
Owner can be locked-out when the failsafe feature is activated, may require batteries that can lose power.
Easy to operate, can be opened in the dark, are quiet to operate.
Batteries may lose power, fingerprints may not be read properly, unit may lock-out owner until reset. Only a registered set of fingerprints can open the safe.
Types of Safes and Storage Devices
There is a distinct difference between a storage device and a safe.
A storage device typically holds the gun for transportation between locations; it can generally be secured with a padlock. A safe is used to secure the gun from unauthorized access when not in use.
A gun case is commonly used for transportation and storage inside the safe. The case is usually made of a synthetic material that has been custom molded to fit the gun and its accessories; the most common example is the gun case you left the store when transporting the firearm home. Gun cases are particularly useful when traveling by air, common carrier, or in an automobile (provided the case can be securely locked using a padlock or other built-in locking mechanism). Federal law requires guns transported across state lines to be in a locked container. At home, a gun case can protect the firearm from dust and moisture.
Lockboxes are designed to prevent unauthorized access to your gun while at the same time, allowing you easy access when needed. These type of storage devices are made of metal or steel and typically have an integrated locking mechanism designed to withstand nominal attempts should someone try to break into them. In a travel situation, many pistol lockboxes have a steel cable that can be attached to the frame of a car, the car seat, or some other permanent anchor. Lockboxes can be easily transferred from the automobile to a motel room without arising suspicion.
: A gun safe offers the highest level of protection in the home. Safes can range from those that sit on a shelf with mounting brackets to full-size models with reinforced steel or bank-style locking bolts inside the doors which, when locked, are secured inside the frame of the safe. Like any item, choosing a home safe is a personal decision. A lower-end, full-size safe with an integrated locking mechanism can be a very effective deterrent; especially if there are several guns, rifles, and ammunition weighing it down. The sheer size of the safe, along with its weight, makes it nearly impossible for a thief to remove the safe from the premises. However, if you are away from home for extended periods of time, a lower-end safe may not be a good option if the thief has the time to break into the safe without removing or from the home.
Larger, more “industrial grade” safes are so heavy they simply cannot be moved without a handcart or other furniture moving device. These safes feature heavy duty locking bolts, custom interior design options, and a host of other accessories. A thief cannot ever imagine moving a safe of this size let alone break into its reinforced steel doors. Safes of this caliber are often rated for temperature levels in case of a fire, allowing you to store valuable items, such as important papers, a separate document safe or perhaps a little cash on hand for emergencies.
One of the major drawbacks to an actual, full-size gun safe is their appearance-they are what they are-a gun safe which is likely storing, guns and perhaps other valuables. Gun safes are typically located in a low traffic room, such as a separate office, den, or basement, making them difficult to reach during a break-in. Depending on the model and the space available to the home owner, some full-size gun safes can fit in the bedroom closet making access to firearms easy and convenient in the middle of the night. If the safe is stored in the bedroom or the bedroom closet, consideration to the locking mechanism is important, especially during low-light or no-light situations.
The Difference between Long and Short Term Gun Storage
gun storage is typically the practice of securing unused firearms in a safe until they are ready to be used, such as in the case of hunting rifles, shotguns, and extra handguns not used for daily carry. Long term storage protects the firearms from unauthorized access, fire, excessive dust and in some cases, excessive moisture and humidity. Long term storage is generally thought to be less accessible, more secure, and not relied upon for in-home personal storage of a personal protection firearm.
storage in the home or in the automobile is typically the practice of securing a personal protection firearm in a location that is not accessible by an unauthorized user while at the same time is reasonably accessible to the gun owner. A typical example might be when you arrive at home, secure your house, and are settling down for the evening. You might want to place your firearm in a smaller, personal security safe, in a locked drawer of the night stand, or simply in the end-table drawer next to the couch. Although we do not recommend leaving a loaded weapon anywhere an unauthorized user can access easily, this is a personal decision the gun owner will need to balance while in the safety of his own home.
ALWAYS be mindful of toddlers, children, teenagers, and unauthorized adults when storing a gun in your home. While you may believe your toddler would never be curious about your gun, or your teenager would never be next school shooter, or your house guest would never rob a bank-it is up to you, the gun owner, to remain diligent, aware, and mindful of safe gun storage practices. If you're retired, keep in mind the unexpected visit from your children who may have your grandchildren with them--keep them safe as well.