Yesterday, I penned a post postulating that a responsible gun owner keeps his or her guns locked up. A couple of commentators saw the pic of my gun safe (if only) and connected the wrong dots. They were not well pleased. “So, someone breaks into a home, and steals something–that’s the criminal’s fault. But if they steal a gun, then it’s the homeowner’s fault for the theft of the gun. And the criminal is no longer at fault?” commentator supton demanded. “Am I following this correctly?” My wife says sarcasm is a tearing of the flesh. Consider me stripped to the bone. There was more filleting to follow . . .

“Guns that are locked up are USELESS in the event of a home invasion,” Greg protested. “So to say that any gun owner who does not keep their collection locked up in their own home is irresponsible, Mr. Farago, is absolutely hypocritical and vapid in my opinion.”

Now that hurts. Especially as 1) I am not now nor have I ever been a Valley Girl and 2) I place a high value on emergency access to firearms and 3) I agree that it’s none of the government’s business how you store your firearms (even where it is) and 4) you don’t need The Mother of All Gun Safes to keep your guns safe (unless you do).

That last parenthetical snark reflects my belief that firearms security is a variable that demands constant attention. How and where you store your guns should change in accordance with the threat level, your abilities and your home defense plans.

If your overnight guest is a felon recently convicted of aggravated (or even slightly peevish) assault, keep your friends close and your guns closer. If you live alone on an island inside a fortress, there are worse things than simply leaving loaded guns in a number of strategic locations. Especially if the island is owned by one Dr. Moreau. If you’re a member of MIB, you’re best advised to maintain a hidden, secure storage facility.

Equally, if a member of your family is facing drug-related or mental health challenges, or becomes involved with unsavory characters, it’s time to take your firearms storage practices to the highest possible level. Including the possibility of removing some or all your guns from the home.

That’s your call. Your responsibility. Not the government’s.

On this point I will not budge. Gun owners have a moral obligation to keep their guns safe from workmen, family members, guests and uninvited guests (i.e. thieves). As our resident sit-down comic Ralph said (in an important moment of seriousness), “If someone parks his car on the street and leaves his keys in it and a joyriding teenager steals it and runs somebody over, doesn’t the owner share some of the blame?”

Yes. “To whom much is given, much will be required,” as another nice Jewish boy once said. A gun bestows upon its owner the power of life and death. Is it so much to ask that those blessed with the ability to wield this power in defense of themselves and their loved ones ensure that this power does not fall into the hands of people who would misuse it? It is not.

On a more practical level, I ascribe to the rabbi’s basic principle that a gun should either be on your person or locked-up in a gun safe. (Preferably more than one gun and both.) If you feel that a locked gun safe is an impediment to quick and foolproof emergency access—a proposition with which I heartily agree—then wear the damn gun.

Put a revolver in your pocket and an invader won’t be quite so pleased to see you. Strap something bigger and badder on your hip and tell your kids it’s hip to be aware. A home carry piece on your person won’t get stolen and you won’t leave it hanging about where small or evil hands can get ahold of it (at least not without a tussle, providing you develop ablution protocols). A home carry gun provides immediate firepower and precious time you can use to fight/run to your long gun.

Which would be in the safe. Locked? Well, I live in Rhode Island where OF COURSE all my gun safes are locked. As much as I teach my children firearms familiarity and safety, I repeat: ALL my safes are ALWAYS locked.

That’s safes plural. I recommend small handgun safes here and there; a larger, not so grand safe for quick access to a long gun; and a larger, more significant unit elsewhere for long-term storage. That’s a lot of safes. And a lot of money. The gentleman from Rhode Island turns the floor over to our esteemed colleague John Fritz:

All of [my guns] are insured, all of my handguns (save the one in carry rotation) are secured in a lock-box. All of the long guns have triger locks installed and reside in soft cases in various location around my apartment.

It’s not enough apparently but it’s the best I can do under my current circumstances. I exercise due diligence to the best of my ability but a gun safe? Not a realistic solution for me. What else can I do that I haven’t already done…

Buy a gun safe. By “proper” I mean a safe that thieves can’t prise open in minutes or simply remove from the premises. (Remove perhaps, but not simply.) Every gun owner should have at least one. That’s the one you use for guns that you don’t need RIGHT NOW. And thieves don’t need ever. If you don’t have an alarm system, when you leave your abode unattended, move you guns from their satellite locations to the mothersafe. And then back.

That’s a PITA (another good reason for home carry). And I understand financial limitations. But I also understand that there’s an extremely high likelihood that a stolen gun will be used in a crime. I’m not naive enough to think that one less stolen gun will mean one less crime. But I don’t want my gun used for evil. Nor do I want to give gun control advocates the satisfaction of saying “See? He wasn’t responsible enough to own a gun.”

If money’s too tight to mention, buy one handgun and a secure lockbox (with tether), wear the gun around the house and put it in the box (in a discreet location) when you can’t carry or when you’re sleeping.

Ah sleep. Perchance to dream. Or have nightmares. And the nightmare that plagues many if not most and perhaps even all gun owners is the BITN (Bump In The Night) scenario. You’re sleeping peacefully, there’s an almighty crash (or a gentle window break tinkling). You need your gun NOW! You fumble with the keys to your gun safe or mis-punch the combo and . . . you’re dead.

I would dearly love to know some stats on this, the sum of all fears. How many home invasions happen at night? How much time does the average homeowner have before an invader or invaders reaches their inner sanctum? How many times does a child steal a gun left on a night table at night? How many owners leave their night table gun out during the day? In the drawer?

How long does it take the average sleeping person to wake-up, get their gun from a safe, and achieve enough consciousness to accurately assess shoot/don’t shoot? How many gun owners have an alarm system? How many use it? How many use it during the day? Early evening? Does an alarm stop a home invader? Some? Most? A minority (so to speak)?

This much I know: if I lived in a state where it was OK to leave a loaded gun in close proximity while I slept, I would do so. I would ensure that my children had a firm grasp of gun safety. I would unlock the bedside gun safe at night and lock it again during the day. I would move the gun from the small safe to the larger one if I was going on vacation. And I would have an alarm system.

I don’t pretend to have the “answer” to your gun storage safety needs. That depends on a large number of variables. But this much is true: you are responsible for your guns, both when you’re with them and when you’re not. To believe anything less is dangerous for society, and for you personally. There are cases where gun owners have been shot with guns that burglars found inside the owner’s home. That kind of irony you don’t need.

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23 Responses to Gun Storage: Pop it, Lock It, Polka Dot It

  1. Making sure your guns are locked is one of the first things my father taught me about being a responsible gun owner. I don’t understand why people have a problem with this level of responsibility or feel that it somehow makes them feel “unsafe”. If you need every gun in your house unsecured and ready to go, then you must be posting from your penthouse in downtown Beirut.

    My primary carry guns live in a close proximity to my bed, nestled safely in an easily accessible safe. One more is stashed in a small safe in another area of the house. My long guns are all locked up in the closet. My kids or dinner guests can’t get them, but my wife and I can get to them quickly and easily. I don’t feel any less safe with this set up and I know that I’m being responsible by limiting access to my firearms by irresponsible parties.

  2. One thing that disconcerts me about home carry-muzzle discipline. It is my religion, “thou shalt not sweep thy loved ones.” If I throw ye olde J frame in my pocket, I am quite uncomfortable sitting at the dinner table having my little buddy pointing at a family member.

  3. Criminal are responsible for their criminal offensive actions. Everyone else is responsible for criminal defensive actions.

    Criminal are responsible for stealing guns. Gun owners are responsible for making it easy or hard for them to do so.

  4. “Buy a gun safe.”

    No. My storage solutions will not be dictated by anyone. I am not the sort of elitist who will look down upon people who’s only option is a cheap used revolver in their sock drawer. Until you get to the point of reckless indifference, I don’t really care how you store you guns. Once the gun is inside your house, you’ve secured it enough for me.

  5. If you can’t open a MiniVault style safe for your pistol or a ShotLock safe for your shotgun in a matter of a couple seconds, you need to wake up more before you have a gun in your hand anyway.

    Safes like that not only provide very good security (both by looking at the design and that both do meet the (admittedly somewhat minimal) CA requirements to be called a gun safe), keeping the gun out of the hands of both burglars and children, they still provide almost instant access when you do need them.

    Finally, you really want to have a fire & water rated safe anyway for all your important other things like car titles, passports, checkbooks, computer backups etc.

  6. I think you have this right, and would love to see as many reviews of safe storage products as possible. Since I can’t well try and smash into my own lockboxes, I’m often curious how well the smaller safes on the market would stand up to crude break-in attempts.

    • Agreed!

      I’d love to see some independent third-party tear downs on the multitude of “safes” out there – both cheap and spendy.

  7. Huh. Never thought I would see the “she had it coming” mentality proudly displayed on this site – and, mark me, no matter how you try and rationalize it to yourself, holding firearm owners responsible for the actions of criminals is exactly the same.

  8. MA laws require that guns not on the person of the owner be secured or kept under the owner’s direct control in the home, whatever that means. I obey the law even when I disagree. Whatever I’m not carrying is locked away, but easily weaponized in under two seconds — that’s timed, not estimated. I prefer smaller gun safes in disparate locations, and it’s a ten minute job to mount them to wall studs as I have. It would take a reciprocating saw to remove them, and most burglars don’t carry one of those. My long guns, except for the shotty, are range toys, so they’re key-locked when not in use. Nobody but nobody is going to gain unauthorized access to my guns unless it’s OMDB.

  9. “As our resident sit-down comic Ralph said (in an important moment of seriousness).”

    Actually, it was a rare moment of lucidity. I can appreciate your confusion. Won’t happen again.

  10. For me this thread and the last related to it has pointed out that there are many responsible and sensible gun owners out there. It, sadly, has also pointed out that the ‘no-grain-of-sense’ gun owners are out there as well. The fact that they simply won’t be told what to do for the sake of it – no matter how well logic dictates that a weapon should be treated with respect. We, however, have to let them go on representing the population of gun owners who make the news and give the rest of us reputations as hicks, tough guys and idiots that know everything.

    We live in a world where the unpredictable happens everyday, crimes and theft happen everyday and those that help it along get to say, “In my house is secure enough for me!” Let us hope and pray that they never have to discover that they have a conscience or that they WILL be held accountable for their actions whether they think so or not.

  11. Excellent article. I am of the opinion that a biometric gun safe solves the whole problem. If there’s a burglar in the house, you can quickly swipe your finger and get to the gun, assuming the gun safe is in your bedroom. I don’t like the idea of messing with a combination when you’re heart is pounding after you hear someone break in. And really, putting it in the living room or garage is useless, at least if you think you’ll need it for defense as opposed to storage if you’re a hunter.

  12. Robert,

    On this issue, you are wrong on so many levels.

    Most gun safe offer only the illusion of security. Any criminal could pry even a relatively expensive safe open in a few minutes. These two guys did it in 1:41.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBhOjWHbD6M

    Some criminals prefer to just take the whole safe with them instead, so they wrap a chain around and yank it through the wall(s) with a truck.

    I fail to see any point at all to the small handgun safes you advocate. These hardly “secure” your gun. The thief will just take the whole thing with him. And as far as tethering it to something with steel cable, well, tether it to what? If the crooks can pry open large safes or yank them out of the house, how much is a thin steel cable going to slow them down.

    Do you realize what a barrier to entry safe storage is to gun ownership? Basically, anybody who wants to buy a $100 rimfire fire to plink with, or a Hi Point for self protection just in case, must invest several times the value of the firearm to secure it!

    And what of people who rent? I’m a property manager for a rental company. Pretty sure I would have to decline the request to install a large gun safe. I doubt the floors could stand the weight, even if I wasn’t concerned about the damage done during installation. I guess people who rent don’t deserve the Second Amendment.

    If you want to convince me, show me the data. Do jurisdictions with “safe storage” laws have less gun theft and accidental homicides? I’m skeptical.

    Rob

    • Rob, You raise some excellent points. The main one being: gun safes are basically security theater. As the South Africans say, ja-nee (yes-no).

      I agree that a determined thief will Annie your ass (get you guns). Even the best gun safes are nothing more than a go-slow to someone who knows what they’re doing. If you have a really good safe, and really good guns, the thieves will simply put a gun to your head or the head of a loved one and request the key or combo or your index finger. What are you going to do, die for your guns? I don’t think so.

      Of course, they’d have to get close enough to put that gun against your head or the head of a loved one. Again, I’m all about home carry. The first rule of a gunfight and all that. You might still lose that battle, but why not put the odds in your favor?

      Returning to the main point, a good gun safe WILL stop an average, opportunistic thief. They don’t have the time or tools to git ‘er done. Besides, why not make it as hard as possible to steal your guns? Why let the perfect be the enemy of the good?

      As for the smaller safes, they’re an excellent way to keep a (spare?) gun nearby without making it easy for someone to casually swipe it. House cleaner. Friend of a child. Etc.

      Which brings us to child safety. I do NOT believe that gun safety means locking your guns away from your children. That’s part of it. But it is a part. An important part. Out of sight out of mind.

      As for the elitist argument, I did say that someone of limited financial means should consider the one gun, one good safe concept. I also pointed out that I don’t believe the government should tell people how to store their guns. But that does not stop me from admonishing gun owners to be responsible. And safe storage is critical for responsible firearms ownership. Am I wrong?

      • “Am I wrong?”

        Look, here is what gets me going on the subject. I see a lot of references to “common sense” and “everybody knows” when it comes to storage. But is it really common sense? There are situations where a safe is infeasible, and I tried to outline a few of them in my comment.

        Rob

        • I didn’t use the phrase “common sense” once. I’m not very good at channeling my inner Bloomberg.

        • “I didn’t use the phrase “common sense” once. I’m not very good at channeling my inner Bloomberg.”

          I shouldn’t have used quotations in my comment referencing common sense, and for that I apologize. I was referring more to the commentators who agreed with safe storage, but know I see the did not use the term either.

          Rob

  13. First, wow, I’ve been quoted. I’ve been honored. Secondly, my original post was more open ended, rather than aimed at you Robert. Aimed more at a larger audience, that is.

    I think I agree, more or less, with your sentiments. I think the lock on the front door of the house is sufficent–if you don’t belong in my house, then anything you do or take is illegal. Period. That said, I wouldn’t want anyone to use anything they lifted from my house for any other crime–or heck, for the criminals own gain. I’m not sure the cheapo safes that I currently have are the best tools for slowing them down–especially since they’re located next to, of all things, my workbench in the basement–but the thought is there. Eventually I’ll up the ante and see about bigger/better safes (and better hidden). But only after my inventory $$$ exceeds the safe cost…

    As for quick access safes, I’m with the “don’t lock it up at night” crowd. I have enough to do, to get out of bed, grab pants, find glasses, grab a flashlight–unless if it’s a finger print reading safe it’s gotta be adding seconds. And then, I’d probably not trust a finger print read (darn those chips before bed!). I prefer to leave my revolver in my pants pocket, right where it sits the rest of the day: If I have to get up and out in a hurry, for whatever reason, I’ve got my wallet, a reload, and car keys, all in one fell swoop. House fire or house intruder, as long as I grab my pants I’m good-to-go if I have to get out in a hurry. Otherwise, revolver is hidden and out of sight. And, since I don’t wear PJ’s, it’s hard to “forget” to secure my revolver if I head out of the house–it’s not sitting on the nightstand, or in the drawer.

    In conclusion, I’m all for “common sense” attempts to make it harder to steal our items. Good locks on the house, good gun safes. And we ought to encourage one another to obtain such items. But, and to take this into a different direction, does this rise to the level of a fifth rule: Thou shalt lock it up if not using and/or carrying? That is to say, does this issue of adequate gun storage rise the level of the four rules?

  14. Robert –
    I didn’t think your original post was unclear, but I guess that’s because I fully agree with your sentiment regarding gun storage. While they may be “security theater,” at least for those of us with an average level of income, as opposed to those who can spare no expense, I also think it’s only a part of the picture. I’m way more concerned about somebody coming around when I’m not home than I am about a home invasion.

    My guns are secured when I’m not home, I see it as my responsibility – there’s no upside to making it simple for a bad guy to get a hold of them. I also believe in keeping quiet about them – I don’t advertise to everybody “come here, there are guns!” While that isn’t perfect either, it lowers the chance from “we will definitely hit this place,” to one where they randomly pick their target.

    As time goes on, and the collection grows, I’m trying to think of other effective methods for keeping my firearms out of the wrong hands.

    Oh, and I’m still waiting to hear back from you on when you’re shipping that safe and it’s contents.

  15. Here in the UK it is a legal requirement for guns to be kept in a purpose made steel gun safe BOLTED to a wall. The police firearms officer checks every time you renew your licence. No cabinet – No licence.

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