I wear a lot of hats. Father. Ex-husband. Writer. Small-business owner. Homeowner. Gun owner. When it comes to guns, some of those hats pull me in different directions. There are arguments – strong ones – for locking up your guns at all times. There are other compelling reasons that having your guns instantly accessible. Obviously, these two positions are diametrically opposed. So where’s the tipping point?

I have a couple of shotguns (loaded, with the chamber empty so I can rack it for that satisfying “SCHICK-CHICK” sound) a couple of rifles (ditto), and several handguns (locked and loaded with a hot load in the chamber). I’m in the process of acquiring more. And occasionally, I have an extra firearm or two around for reviews and testing. That’s more than some, less than others. That’s the situation. Now here are the variables:

  • I live in a fairly safe neighborhood, but it ain’t Mayberry. We’ve had one break-in, and two or three burglaries on our property.
  • I have a 13-year-old daughter, who’s experienced with a rifle, and has a working familiarity with handguns, although she prefers shooting rifles.
  • There have been home invasions in the area.
  • I frequently work late hours as a musician, putting me in service entrances and poorly-lit alleys in the wee hours of the morning.
  • I travel a good bit, and I have to leave some of my guns at home.
  • When I’m on the road, I need to be able to protect myself. To complicate matters, I drive a vehicle with almost no lockable storage (Jeep Wrangler).

From a legal/liability point of view, locking up my guns in a safe makes perfect sense. Keeping them away from a child is the responsible thing to do. Ditto for her friends.

Since my daughter currently lives with her mom, most of the time, this isn’t an issue. But when she visits (and has friends over) it is.

RF advocates walking around your home with a handgun strapped to your waist. I’m not quite there. But I like the idea of guns in different rooms of the house, so there’s always one nearby.

Keeping guns accessible seems like a wise idea, but that runs contrary to the safety aspect of having them secured from any visiting kids. Not to mention the risk of theft, should my house be burgled while I’m out.

So…what it comes down to for me, is when there’s nobody there but me, having the guns available sounds like the best (but yet not ideal) plan. When my daughter’s in town, I need to secure the weapons (more because of her friends than her – she’s already a responsible gun ‘owner’ and respects guns for the tools that they are. I trust her. I don’t trust her friends, not because they’ve given me any reason not to, but just as a matter of safety. And it only takes one accident to ruin and/or end lives).

So that brings me back to the question of the day: What do you think? Should you always have your guns locked up? How do you handle this problem? Is there an acceptable middle ground?

32 Responses to TTAG Question of the Day: Do You Lock Up Your Guns?

  1. As a CA CCW holder I always have a gun with me..where ever I go. At home the carry gun is stored in favor of my nightstand gun. Same caliber as my carry gun .45 ACP, just a different make/model. We have no children and therefore do not fear the little ones getting into them. Additionally, there maybe one or two strategically placed in the house as all my time is not spent in the bedroom.

    I read an article about a man with a CCW that left his gun in the car and then encountered a situation in which he needed to have it. Quick thinking on his part gave him an out and a chance to live another day. As our economy continues it’s death spiral crime will rise and the criminals will be looking to sweeten their pot. It is wise to carry. As for your vehicle not having a lock-box for a your weapon, figure out a way to bolt one in. It may just save your life. You daughter is old enough and should have been trained well enough to know not to touch guns nor tell anyone about therm in your home. Trust and safety are always the first considerations.

  2. I have no kids and live alone, but I’m still of the opinion that a gun should either be on your person or in a safe. In my apartment I have a large main safe in the closet for the long guns and some of the handguns. Then each room has a quick access safe containing a single handgun and a flashlight. Anyplace in the house I’m within 8 feet of a readily accessible handgun, but I like knowing I’m the only one they’re readily accessible to.

  3. Sorry, my home looks like a mercenary’s armory. Then again, no kids and two guard dogs roam inside. A little PTSD goes a long way!

    • Blue Dawn is coming…that or the zombies! Access in any room and the ability to roam and re-arm, priceless.

  4. This is a constant source of internal debate for me. I frequently carry around the house, though.

    As for the car, there are a number of easy solutions. Here’s a cheap one:

    http://www.midwesthuntersoutlet.com/item.aspx?PID=173597&w=PQ%2BJDyOLrQE%3D

    They frequently come with a steel cable so you can attach it to a seat mount and stow it underneath. Perfect? No, but what is? But it does give you a secure way to always have a gat with you when you’re going mobile.

  5. I’ve got a strangely formal and potentially controversial system.

    I keep all of mine locked up in a secured safe except for the ones I’m using (for defense), which is usually around two. My place has one point of entry and 2 locked security doors between the outside world and my safe, which makes two secure zones of retreat. I never leave a gun lay between me and a door toward the outside, so essentially I only let them lay on a retreat path. I never leave a gun unlocked where I’m not the first one who can grab it, including in my car.

    This may be controversial but most locked down arms suitable for defensive purposes (i.e. not target arms) stay loaded, condition 3 or equivalent. Condition 3 or equivalent guns which are locked down are kept in holsters, fully unloaded guns are kept naked as a personal flag.

    The guns I’m actively using stay condition 1 or equivalent. When I have people over all guns are either locked down or I’m wearing them concealed.

    Not saying all of this is “required” or even “recommended” but it’s what I am comfortable with.

    -D

  6. The v-line safes are awesome. Check these out… all are mechanical. Have tried 2-3 various bio-metric (fingerprint readers) and the were inconsistant. Have 3 of the v-lines around. They work very well. 3 pressed butons in order that I pre-set, door pops, and I am armed. http://www.vlineind.com/html/products.html

  7. This is a tough one for me as well.

    All of the rifles are secured at all times unless being actively used in a safe that is locked in a strong room. Shotguns and most handguns (read: the handguns I would actually shoot) are not stored in the main safe in my house. However, they are all secured in quick access safes in various locations around the house.

    House carry scares the other natives (i.e. the wife and kid, mostly just the wife) and so is frowned upon in my establishment. So I do other things which I like to call “stallers”. So let’s split this into categories and discuss them separately.

    First is my neighborhood. I chose to move to a rural neighborhood with extremely low crime rates for a reason. Even though I live less than 30 minutes from three large cities and an hour from a major city (one where guns are outlawed) crime is especially rare here, for example we have had exactly one carjacking in the last 15 years and the person who got jacked was pretty much asking for it. Murder happens, but is rare and always between people who know each other. And the local po po is bored and always itching to bust someone (a good combo if you keep your nose clean). But that isn’t enough. I have also made a strong effort to become friends with every one of my neighbors. I can’t be home all the time, but someone is always home in the hood and if that someone is a friend they are more likely to look out for me, my family, and my stuff because they are expecting me to return the favor. If you can see my house from your property, or you live on my street, you are my friend (well except for one house that keeps going through renters that no one likes).

    Next is my property. I keep my property with defense in mind. For example, even though I have lots of ladders, they are all secured in my shed which is a small fortress itself. Nothing is left lying around my yard that could be used to help facilitate gaining entry to my home, all masonry is cemented in place, sticks are removed and burned asap, no tools are left outside, and my vehicles are always locked when in the driveway with alarms activated. Further, through the careful planting and nurturing of strong trees along the outskirts of my property, there is only one entry way a vehicle can navigate and it is gravel by design. Gravel makes a lot more noise than asphalt or concrete, therefore alerting me the second someone pulls into my driveway. Around my house there are motion sensing floodlights covering every angle of approach. My property is around an acre and is at the crest of a hill with my house at the top. And last but not least, my property lies on a dead end street where I can see (and therefore shoot) a good ways down the street toward the entrance.

    My points of entry are also all reinforced. All of my exterior doors have been replaced with sturdy, solid, metal doors and reinforced with extra locks, a kick in prevention bar, and sturdier framing. They also all have a security “screen door” that locks. Not a standard screen door, they are designed to be secure http://reviews.homedepot.com/1999/100572753/808-series-36-in-x-80-in-black-protector-security-door-reviews/reviews.htm and I feel do a decent job at it. All of my widows that are anywhere near ground level were chosen for security when I had the house built. But not feeling that was enough, I bought a clear plastic appliqué (sort of like the screen shields you can get for smart phones) and applied it to all my windows, making them much harder to break. And though my basement has an exterior door, it has no windows because basement windows are the most common entry point for people intending to do bad.

    My “staff” is well trained. The wife and son know to keep the windows with reasonable access shut and locked always, along with the doors unless someone is outside. My dog, a large German shepherd gets paid in food to make us aware of any unusual activity on the property, a job she does very well. She is also not afraid to bite first and ask questions later, as a poor Jehovah’s witness doorknocker recently discovered when trying to be a little to forward with my wife about coming in and indoctrinating.

    Inside the house we have intercoms, loaded guns in various locations locked in quick access safes available to the wife and I, and other hidden defense measures I won’t be discussing. If there is ever someone at the door I do not know, I always answer it armed, and always ask their intentions before ever unlocking anything. My wife is more accepting than I, something I am working on and the above mentioned Jehovah witness helped in that teaching.

    If for whatever reason I still don’t feel safe, I will house carry. But that only happened the week following 9/11 and a few random times when we noticed a heavier than usual police presence (if they are looking for something, at probably is looking to escape them and a house makes a great hideaway).

    Also, and this is very important, I don’t do anything illegal, I don’t hang out with people I suspect are engaged in bad stuff, I try to keep a low profile for myself and my home, and I do not use facebook or twitter or anything similar. Most home invasions happen because someone in the home is involved with the wrong crowd for whatever reason.

    My plan is to add security cameras in the near future that I can monitor on my smartphone, after that I would like to make my house a smart house by adding a computer system to the house itself with some security monitoring hardware. If you think this is paranoid, my dream house is an off the grid moated castle on a walled compound with a minefield around that.

    Is it expensive to do some of these things, yes. Not as bad if you have the knowhow to do the labor yourself. But some of it is just attitude changes.

    If someone is determined to come and get me and/or my family they will be able to get in, nothing I can do can fully stop that (even if I get my dream house). The point is stalling long enough for me to get armed enough to mount a lethal defense once they are in. My favorite assault rifle and my SVD both have fully loaded magazines in the safe, including steel core rounds for the SVD that will make for a nasty surprise to anyone trying to breach my strongroom door where the safe is.

  8. I have a 2 year old son. All of my guns, except one, are in the safe. My carry gun is either on me at all times when I’m awake, or in the nightstand while I’m asleep. First thing I do when I get up is put on the gun, and that’s the last thing I take off before I go to sleep.

  9. We have the alarms set when we are home and we have no children. Our long arms are kept loaded in safes(3), as are any handguns that we don’t have handy. Anyone who breaks in will have to climb at least one flight of stairs to get to us. When we are sleeping they will have to climb to the 3rd floor. We each have a nightime loaded handgun, a spare loaded magazine and flashlight at the bedside.
    The main safe on the first floor (bolted to the foundation) holds all the spare ammunition, and all of the long guns except the two “long houseguns”. Those are pistol caliber carbines which use the same magazines as the nighttime handguns. Those are kept in 2 small safes bolted to the floor of bedroom closets. 3 spare loaded magazines are kept with each as well as a 100 rounds of boxed ammunition for each. There are also 2 spare flashlights and a cheap cellphone in each safe.
    When we get home, the carry guns go into the bedroom safe and we pull out our house handguns which stay with us as we move about the house. In the morning we return the house handguns to the bedroom safe and don the carry guns.
    In the car, I have a vault built into the console for when I have to enter somewhere I cannot carry. My wife has a small vault under her seat that is bolted to the car’s floor.

    • “In the car, I have a vault built into the console for when I have to enter somewhere I cannot carry. My wife has a small vault under her seat that is bolted to the car’s floor.”

      Can you give any more info on those car vaults?

      TIA!

  10. Franzen Armloc 2 secure handgun case, available from Midway. Bolts to bedframe or other places. When not at home, secures via mechanical 3-dig code plus key lock. At night, you can set it so that one digit flip opens. Built-in night light to make this even easier to do. Got young kids, and the rule is “first, do no harm.”

  11. My pistols are loaded and ready for use at all times. However, I keep the guns out of sight.

    If the grandkids are visiting, the guns are locked up.

    Our dogs are large and vocal about anyone approaching the house from any direction. The dogs are not attack dogs, they are advance warning.

    The dogs give more than enough warning for me to armor up should it become necessary.

    • Very wise having multiple dogs. During my childhood, on two incidents when we had one dog, one was stabbed and on another occasion one was sprayed in the face with ammonia. In my experience, when the bad guys see two dogs, they just travel on to the easier target.

  12. Now that’s an impressive safe, for a second I felt like I was at home. You don’t have to home carry the gun strapped to your waist, you can use a shoulder holster. I mix it up at home I’ll use two shoulder holsters or two side holsters or one of each. I like two guns at a time for home carry because I don’t have to worry about changing mags, even thou I keep the extra mags on me anyway. I will eventually have some sort of safe in every single room in my house and that will make things much easier.

  13. All guns are unloaded and locked up in the main cabinet except the one in my pocket. I always have one on me. 3 loaded guns in safes throughout the house that can be opened with click, click, click (unless the batteries fail).

  14. I’ve got two kids in high school, both of whom are gun safe, but their friends probably aren’t. So we’re pretty careful about storage.

    I carry concealed ALL the time, so always have a pistol at hand – and concealed means concealed. Nobody outside the family would ever guess. We also have several loaded pistols and spare magazines in quick access handgun safes with mechanical locks in my office, my wife’s office, and the bedroom. The handgun safes themselves are bolted to built in furniture and heavy file cabinets. In the bedroom we have a shotgun in a quick access wall mount safe.

    The rest of the collection is in a walk in safe, in a secured room which has effective doors and locks, alarm, etc.

  15. I always have my PX4 9mm on me or within arms reach @ home. We keep a .22 pistol above the fridge(my 2.5 yr old can’t get up there…yet) because my wife is most comfortable shooting that. When I leave the house my PX4 goes in the safe with all my rifles & shotguns, my PT709 takes the place of the PX4 when I leave the house.

  16. Until all the crooks and kids are safely locked away, I’ll lock up my guns, except the ones I’m carrying.

  17. No kids, just me. I keep a shotgun loaded with 000buck beside my bed and a ruger p94 loaded with cor-bon 135gn in a kitchen drawer, I’ve got an unloaded ar-15 outside the safe with a magazine hidden close by. I feel pretty safe with that, though at times I will load up another shotgun and place near other doorways and have been known to keep the ar ready to go as well. If the dog barks I grab whichever gun is handy and investigate. I prefer rifles/carbines or shotguns for defense when practical, even for inside-the-home encounters — if I ever have to shoot somebody, I want to be accurate and hit them with as much energy as possible, end of story.

  18. OK, that’s a complex question, but I tend to think this way. “Every Gun in your home must be in your immiediate control”. My particular solution is this all my guns except for personal defense are locked up unloaded with the ammo stored separatly. For Home and Personal defense there is one loaded pistol in a speed safe on the nightstand, always there and ready. There is a second unloaded in the “safe room”. This one is in a soft locking case with extra full magazines. The case gets locked if we have anyone but my wife and myself in the house, but is otherwise unlocked. The third is a pocket sized “safe action” pistol and is hidden in a cabinet in the family room (where we spend the most time). It is always loaded and kept in a pocket holster. If we have company, it goes into my pocket and stays there until everyone goes home. I hope this helps.

  19. Wow…you people are crazy! 🙂 Okay, really though… I tend to identify with Brad, being sort of a “proactive pacifist” myself.

    Having young kids at home, I’m incredibly paranoid about them and their friends playing around and accidentally shooting someone. For that reason, I don’t (yet) own a handgun; way too easy for a kid to pick up and mishandle (or for even an experienced adult to mishandle).

    The 2 rifles I own are kept unloaded with the actions locked…but ammunition is nearby, and I keep the key around my neck at all times. I’ve practiced getting from the farthest end of the house to the gun shelf, unlocking the 30-30, and loading: less than 2 minutes, worst case scenario (even allowing for things like stray toys & laundry hampers or a stumble in the dark; it’s not a very big house). I also keep doors/windows extra secure and always locked (a bit like Andrew Snyder). Maybe not ideal for instant armed defense, in a worst-case scenario…but my worst-case scenario is a kid that’s just clever enough to get into trouble and accidentally kill somebody. Err on the side of safety. And odds are that if anybody does manage to break into the house, I’ll be ready by the time they get in.

  20. Guns are not allowed in prisons because in a prison as a correctional officer you are outnumbered 10 to 1. Anything that can be used can be used against you. And if an inmate gets a hold of a gun it means trouble for the entire prison and can bring many unwanted consequences like hostage taking, death of correctional officers

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