Gun ownership is a sacred right, and with the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms comes the responsibility to safely and responsibly store those guns. This article addresses various means of securing firearms to prevent theft and/or misuse by children. Of these options, I would recommend a gun safe above all else, for the reasons discussed below. While this information is intended to help firearm owners make informed and responsible decisions, readers are cautioned that each city or state may impose their own specific gun storage and liability laws, and it is the responsibility of gun owners to know and understand these laws. With that said, lets address various ways of storing guns, and the pros and cons of each approach:
1. A Large Gun Safe
Pros: Likely the best option to prevent theft and unauthorized access.
Cons: The most expensive option, requires the most space.
A large gun safe, weighing upwards of 500 lbs and anchored to the floor, is likely the most secure way to store gun. These safes, which cost upwards of $1,000, are designed to stop a common burglar and to give even a skilled safe cracker a tough challenge. Such safes often store 20 or more long guns and dozens of hand guns, along with ammunition and accessories. These safes are fire resistant, offering up to 2 hours of protection in a 1300+ degree fire. A variety of locks are available, ranging from high quality combination dial locks, key locks, fingerprint (biometric), or a combination of these options.
As a friend told me when I bought my first large gun safe “buy a bigger safe than you think you need, as you *will* want more guns in the future.” The extra space also allows you to store other valuable items such as jewelry and passports. In my case, I bought a smaller safe to go inside my larger safe, and store my ammunition inside this smaller safe. Given the excellent fire rating of my larger safe, this is not necessary, but gives me extra peace of mind.
As far as keeping a gun available for home defense use while home, but protected from theft while away, a gun safe can be quite useful here: For example, one could keep their home defense gun in the safe, with the gun stored in a safe yet ready to use fashion. When you are home, the safe can be unlocked, and when you leave, the safe can be locked. Depending upon where in the home the safe is positioned, the gun can be accessible in a matter of seconds, yet protected from theft while the home is unoccupied. It is important to note that this approach is best suited for homes without small children or other people who would misuse the gun.
2. A Small Gun Safe
Pros: Lower costs and space requirements than a large gun safe, can be hidden for extra security.
Cons: Easier for a thief to steal the entire safe and break it open at their convenience, often a lower fire rating, less space, won’t fit shotguns and rifles, often a less secure lock.
A small gun safe has similar benefits to a large gun safe and easier to hide due to its smaller size, but at the cost of security and storage space. Bolting down a small safe is a must, as thieves will just take the entire safe so that they can break into it at their convenience. Less space is available for the storage of ammunition and other accessories.
A small gun safe is better suited for a handgun than a rifle or shotgun, which will usually not fit at all.
Smaller gun safes can be had for around $200, with general purpose safes available for well under $100. I would recommend a safe designed for the storage of firearms and ammunition, but any safe certainly beats having no safe.
3. A Gun Cabinet
Pros: Some are less expensive than a “gun safe”, some are quite ascetically pleasing.
Cons: Less secure than a gun safe.
Gun cabinets are similar in size to gun safes, but are generally less secure. They are more akin to furniture, and are often crafted of fine wood and glass to display guns. Most will have a locking feature, but due to the wood and glass they remain less secure than a gun safe. I would recommend a gun safe rather than a gun cabinet.
4. A Trigger Lock
Pros: Prevents the gun from being fired by a small child who picks up the gun.
Cons: Can take too long to remove when the gun is needed for self defense, won’t stop a person determined to use the gun.
A trigger lock is a device that prevents the gun from being fired. It can take the form of a plastic and metal lock that fits around the trigger to prevent it from being pulled, to a large padlock that locks the action open, to a cable lock that does the same thing. Many guns now come with a trigger lock.
I generally dislike trigger locks as a means of storing a gun. It is true that they will likely stop small children from firing the gun, but an older child or adult can use bolt cutters, a drill, or other tools to defeat a trigger lock in a relative short period of time. Equally concerning for me is the way some trigger locks can take too long to open, leaving a home owner vulnerable during a home invasion. A final, albeit lesser concern, is that trigger locks which hold the (spring loaded) action open might possibly cause excessive wear on these springs over time.
5. Stored in a Broken Down State
Pros: Prevents a child who doesn’t know how to assemble the gun or who doesn’t have all the pieces from firing the gun.
Cons: Leaves the gun owner unable to use the gun in an emergency, a person who knows how to assemble the gun and has the pieces could still assemble and misuse the gun, or just steal the pieces.
A gun that is broken down (dismantled) ceases to be a useful gun during a home invasion. The owner would be better off trying to club the home invader with the barrel as they call 9-1-1 than trying to reassemble it, load it, and then fire it. For that reason I dislike this storage option.
Breaking down and storing a gun certainly prevents it from being fired, but only until it is reassembled. A broken down gun can still be stolen, assembled, and used by a knowledgeable child or a criminal. Should home invaders break and subdue the home owner, they could also reassemble the gun and then use it against its own owner.
6. A “Hiding Spot”
Pros: Least expensive option
Cons: Least secure option
Hiding a gun in what seems like a good hiding spot is often asking for theft or misuse. Experienced burglars and home invaders learn the areas of a home in which people tend to hide valuables and guns. Children also seem to have a knack for finding hidden things. I would recommend a large gun safe, or even a hidden and bolted down small gun safe instead.
Another concern, regardless of where you store your firearms, is humidity.
Hopefully this article will help you select a safe and responsible means of storing your gun. Also, please remember that each city or state may impose their own specific gun storage and liability laws, and it is the responsibility of gun owners to know and understand these laws.
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