Reader Dave Goetzinger writes:
I’ve been investigating firearms safety products since 2015. My findings have turned out to be useful to gun owners, so I established HandgunSafeResearch.com to share the results. I never anticipated that I would be approached for consultant work as a result.
Usually I limit myself to working with people in the industry, if I agree to do consulting at all. But I’ve answered questions for others as well, including an attorney for California’s anti-gun Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In the interest of confidentiality, I’ll refer to the Law Center individual I dealt with a “Pat.” To maintain a degree of confidentiality, I won’t go into most of Pat’s questions. But one matter Pat raised pertains directly to the breakdown in communication between the gun-owning world and the non-gun owning world. I want to address the issue for people on all sides of gun ownership.
Gun store thefts in California have caused some gun-control advocates to ask what might be done to enhance firearms storage requirements for gun dealers in the state. Pat wanted my opinion regarding a portion of California Penal Code Section 26890 which addresses how gun dealers are required to secure inventory. The statute describes three methods of securing inventory, and dealers are required to use at least one.
The method Pat was curious about is in subsection (2) of the law that requires that retailers…
(2) Secure the firearm with a hardened steel rod or cable of at least one-eighth inch in diameter through the trigger guard of the firearm. The steel rod or cable shall be secured with a hardened steel lock that has a shackle. The lock and shackle shall be protected or shielded from the use of a boltcutter and the rod or cable shall be anchored in a manner that prevents the removal of the firearm from the premises.
Precisely what the locks are to be fastened to is unspecified. Pat’s question: Would the above method of securing firearms be enhanced by the use of trigger locks?
Pat didn’t even know what a trigger lock was. I suggested that some introductory educational material was in order. Pat dismissed my concern, forcing me to explain that a trigger lock clamps to both sides of a gun’s trigger guard which prevents passing a cable or rod through it. Pat then conceded that some educational material might, in fact, be useful, so I put together a simple video on the subject.
The video was a hurried effort, and didn’t address the wide variety of gun locks on the market. After a few weeks, I deleted the video from my Vimeo channel and started working on a series of videos to introduce the subject more thoroughly. Gun locks Part1 looks at padlock-styled locks. Gun locks Part 2 focuses on trigger locks, and Gun locks Part 3 covers miscellaneous gun lock designs.
My first discovery on handling a significant number of gun locks is that they are all Chinese and Taiwanese-made products. My second discovery was that most gun locks rely on cheap wafer locks for their security.
For readers who know nothing about locks, simple wafer locks are probably the easiest locks in the world to pick. Videos highlighting the vulnerability of this type of lock abound online, and anyone with any degree of mechanical aptitude and Internet access can open the locks I opened.
I opened these things using brass paper fasteners, screwdrivers, and coffee stirrers—despite California’s Department of Justice (DOJ) having approved the locks. Which brings us back to safe-storage laws, and their authors.
California’s concept of the firearms safety device (FSD) is an early byproduct of safe-storage law efforts, an area of ongoing concern for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The requirement that guns sold by licensed dealers in California need to be accompanied by a California DOJ-approved FSD went into effect at the beginning of 2002. At the time, the Roster of Approved Firearms Safety Devices numbered slightly over 40 items.
Today the roster has over 1,300 items including gun cabinets, gun locks, handgun safes, and more. There are more approved gun-safety products on the market in California than there are approved firearms for sale in that state.
While the roster of approved FSDs continues to grow, the approval process has not been significantly updated since 2002. So I’m not surprised that most DOJ-approved gun locks on the market are weak. But I’ve wondered why lawmakers are so utterly inept when addressing the practical details of gun safety.
Then “Pat” came along and clarified the problem with one simple question.
Proposed legislation on gun safety often comes from people who know almost nothing about guns.
Some of these activists would like to legislate guns out of people’s hands and quite a few of them simply have no idea what they’re talking about. Add to the mix those attorney-activists who are dishonest about their real intentions behind proposing bills, and you end up with inept half-measures like California’s laws regarding so-called firearms safety devices.
Maybe you’re thinking, “OK, Pat didn’t know what a trigger lock was. So what?” Keep in mind that the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence presents itself as having the knowledge to address gun violence and gun safety and they have the ears of anti-gun California legislators. These people claim to know what they’re talking about.
People who dislike guns tend not to learn about them. Attorneys like “Pat” will never buy a gun or learn to shoot one. For them, the business of fitting a gun with a lock remains an exercise of the imagination. That’s hardly a solid foundation for gun safety law.