If you’re involved in a home defense shooting, make sure your gun safe is closed and locked. The prosecution can use your collection against you, painting a picture of a gun nut just waiting for some poor underprivileged kid to fall afoul of his firearms. “So, officer, it’s your testimony that you found two assault rifles in the defendant’s safe . . .” In fact, it’s best to keep your home defense gun in a separate safe from your “main” collection; you probably won’t remember to close the safe holding your home defense gun in an emergency. And while you’re at it . . .
Don’t tell your neighbors about your collection. Don’t post pictures of your safe’s contents on the Internet. And remember: never open your gun safe voluntarily (i.e. without a warrant). To which we must add one more piece of advice: make sure your wife/partner/significant other is with the program. Even if you’re due to get a sex change. Or maybe especially if you’re about to get a sex change. To wit:
Thomas Hibdon — now known as Rachel Amratiel — entered a conditional guilty plea to possession of an unregistered destructive device in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 5841. The district court1 sentenced him to 18 months’ imprisonment. Hibdon appeals the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized during the warrantless search of a gun safe.
The court papers published on leagle.com tell a tale of a marriage gone bad (I wonder why), whereupon the Mrs. opened up Pandora’s gun box.
On May 24, 2007, police responded to a 911 call about a domestic disturbance at the Hibdon residence. Officers found Ms. Hibdon and the couple’s two children at a neighbor’s house. After Ms. Hibdon said that she and her husband had a fight-which escalated when he began chasing her around the house with a sword-the officers tried to contact Hibdon who was still inside the house. They called his cell phone, home phone, and knocked repeatedly on the door. Eventually, Hibdon emerged pointing a rifle at one of the deputies. After some time, the officers disarmed him, placed him in a patrol car, and went to speak with Ms. Hibdon. Concerned about the weapons in the house, she gave the police permission to search the residence, signing a “Permission to Search” form. In the garage, officers found a large, locked gun safe. Ms. Hibdon told the officers her husband had the keys. They retrieved the keys from Hibdon who was still in a patrol car not far away. Inside the safe, the officers found 17 firearms, one of which belonged to Ms. Hibdon, and a hand grenade.
Hibdon’s challenge of the search failed. Fair use provisions prevent me from ripping the long list of case law involved. Suffice it to say, if your spouse gives the police permission to open and search your gun safe, you’re screwed. So Billy Joel that one (tell her about it) and stay on his or her good side. Alternatively, keep the keys or combo to yourself.