How to Safely Store a Gun

The best way to keep a gun out of a child's hands is through education, conversation, and a good lockbox.

by Clay Abney
Originally Published: 

Gun ownership is on the rise in America. The research center at the University of Chicago conducted a General Social Survey and found that since 2016, the number of American households with a firearm increased by 32%. The pandemic has only put a foot on the gas pedal. Analysts at Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control, found that in March 2020 — the start of COVID — the FBI broke a 20-year-long record for the number of background checks for gun owners.

Since March 2020, well over 12 million people became gun owners for the first time, says Nephi Cole, Director of Government Relations and State Affairs at the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Many of these newly acquired guns are heading into households that have never had one before. Many are also ending up in the hands of children. The Preventable Tragedies index, which is commissioned by Everytown and breaks down unintentional shootings by children under the age of 18, found that between January 2015 and December 2020, there were more than 2,000 unintentional shootings by children under the age of 18. Those shootings resulted in 765 deaths and 1,366 injuries.

According to Everytown, the victims ranged from a one-month-old baby to a 77-year-old man. The majority of victims were aged 14 to 17 and 0 to 5.

These shootings are preventable. Most gun control advocates would argue that legislation that gets guns off the streets is the most surefire way to halt these deaths. Of course, there is political resistance to this idea — and it does nothing for the estimated 22 million guns currently in homes with kids. For the nearly 1 in 3 families with at least one gun in the house according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, there’s a simple, and sensical thing solution that sits places responsibility on the parents. Lock them up.

“Kids will likely know if a firearm is in the house, and they will probably know the location, as well,” says Beth Alcazar, Editor-at-Large for Concealed Carry Magazine. “It’s imperative that every household member follow the universal rules and understand safe storage.” Securing a firearm to keep it out of the hands of kids is something that everyone – from boy scouts to NRA to local deer hunting clubs agrees on.

How to Safely Store a Gun

Properly securing a gun at home is one of the easiest ways to prevent accidents. While there is no Federal standard on gun storage, some state and local municipalities have regulations that you’ll want to follow.

Many firearm owners start with a gun safe, which at its core is a lockable metal or plastic box that discourages accidental access. These range in size from small plastic cases just large enough for a pistol to massive, heavy metal cabinets that are designed to hold several rifles and weigh hundreds of pounds.

If your main concern is personal defense, consider this — it doesn’t always work. There are very few true self-defense cases. When you have kids, owning a gun is probably putting your family in harm’s way, making it much more likely to have an accidental shooting than it is to protect your family. So you should reconsider getting a gun in the first place since access is an issue if you’re looking for self-defense. You can’t serve two masters: keeping a gun bedside so you have fast access to it in the middle of the night also means it’s easier for kids to access.

The best advice is to buy a small biometric safe that only works with your fingerprint instead of one that uses a key or combination. Larger lockable safes can also be a convenient way to store valuables like cash, jewelry, passports, and other important documents. But if you have the space, a dedicated space stored discreetly in a closet is also a good option.

Ammunition should never be stored loaded in the gun. Keep bullets in a box or magazine within a larger gun safe. If you don’t have that much space, consider storing ammunition and the gun in small, separate locked containers in different locations in the same or different rooms.

Beyond the safe, Cole suggests getting familiar with the trigger lock that came with the firearm. If you own a gun without a trigger lock, buy one — they’re less than $20 in most cases. These locks, which prevent access to the trigger, are easy to use and, when installed correctly, the gun simply won’t function.

Learn Safe Handling By Taking A Class

Before committing to purchasing a gun, ask the dealer about firearm training courses available in your area. According to think tank the Rand Organization, as of January 1, 2020, only six states (Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia require some sort of firearm safety training prior to purchasing. Regardless, a class is a valuable asset for any new gun owner. The NRA’s website offers a wide range of training courses along with a zip code finder to locate classes near you. Classes typically start at $100 and can range from a few hours to a full day, depending on the topic. Many classes are also virtual.

Here are a few topics covered in these classes:

  • Three rules for safe gun handling.
  • Primary causes of firearm accidents.
  • The different parts of a firearm.
  • Cleaning and storage.
  • Safe storage in the home.

Besides loading and firing, there are other common-sense measures to keeping a gun around the house. Cole offers these four rules for the safe handling of firearms:

  • Assume every firearm is loaded, always, treat it that way.
  • Never point a firearm at anything that you don’t intend to be a target.
  • Never put your finger on the trigger, or disengage the gun safeties, unless you are fully prepared to shoot the gun.
  • Never shoot the gun unless you are absolutely certain of your target, and what is behind it. You are responsible for every trigger pull, and every bullet that leaves the gun – wherever it goes.

Get the Safety Gear

Having a plan to store the gun at home is the most important step to keeping the weapon secure. Here is what you’ll want to consider buying to keep that new weapon safe.

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