Self-Defense Tip: Don’t Trust Your Gun Safe


“In January 2003 in Vancouver, Washington, the ten year old daughter of a Clark County Deputy Sheriff was accidently shot and killed by her brother who had his father’s department-issued handgun,” security analyst Marc Weber Tobias writes at “As a result, the Sheriff’s Department instigated a new policy that all department-issued weapons had to be secured in gun safes. Detective Ed Owens, the father of Eddie Ryan, was issued a safe which was placed in the closet of his master bedroom. One of his service weapons was locked in the safe on the evening of September 14, 2010 . . .

Detective Owens had four children one of whom was three years old at the time of the shooting. At approximately 9:55 P.M. he and his wife were in the garage of the home when they heard what could have been a gun shot. Seconds later, their eleven year old daughter came downstairs and complained that Ryan had slammed the door to the bedroom and that her ear hurt. Kristie, Ed’s wife ran upstairs and found Ryan on the floor with a gunshot wound. Four hours later, he died in the emergency room.

While it was clear that one of the children had managed to open the Stack-On safe, the forensic investigation conducted by the local police department failed to perform critical tests at the scene and so it could not be determined whether this was an accidental shooting or Ryan was shot by one of his siblings.

I remember the case well. [Click here for TTAG’s post on the tragedy.] It was not at all clear if the safe had been locked when young Eddie retrieved the Detective’s handgun. Owens lied to investigators, trying to pin the shooting on his 11-year-0ld. The lack of initial investigative rigor suggests a coverup from the git-go.

In short, the “cause” of the tragic ND is not, as this article suggests, the safe itself. It is, in all likelihood, as Chris Dumm stated at the time, the officer’s negligence combined with his children’s safety training. Or the lack thereof.

Gun safes are not about bad guys. If criminals want your firearms, criminals will get your firearms. If they really really want them and you’ve got a really really good safe, they can get you to open your safe and give them your guns. Done.

The point of a gun safe is to prevent “casual” theft; people who see your gun or guns and think “Ooooh! Shiny!” Including and especially children.

Remember: your children are clever. And they have lots and lots of time. Time to observe your safety protocols (i.e. find out where you put the key or watch you dial in your combo). Time to get your gun.

Nottom line: when it comes to gun safety, gun safes aren’t safe. The only “real” gun safety lies between you and your loved one’s ears. Educate your kids on gun safety as soon as they can talk, with NERF guns if necessary. Teach them the four rules and demo a firearm’s destructive capability.

Anything less is extremely dangerous for all concerned.

[Click here for a technical analysis of Stack-On, Bulldog and GunVault safes]