The Biden administration this week tried to take a gun control victory lap, but stumbled badly over facts coming out of the starting blocks. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a press release ballyhooing a new Department of Justice (DOJ) rule telling firearm retailers they must provide secure firearm storage devices for sale to their customers.
It sounds good on paper, especially if someone is trying to make a political statement. That’s all it is, however. Attorney General Garland might have been better off issuing a press release stating the DOJ affirms the good work the firearm industry has been doing on its own for years when it comes to safe firearm storage.
The only thing new about this is that an anti-gun presidential administration is attempting to take credit for what is already being done.
Still the Same
The DOJ published their press release announcing the new rule for the new year, along with a Best Practices Guide for federal firearms licensees (FFLs). The rule says it codifies a Gun Control Act provision that requires all firearm retailers to certify that they do, in fact, offer some sort of secure storage option for sale at the same location from which firearms are sold.
That includes a safe, gun safe, gun case, lock box or other device that is designed to be or can be used to store a firearm and that is designed to be unlocked only by means of a key, a combination or other similar means.
NSSF notes, however, that firearm retailers have already been doing this. Firearm retailers have had to certify to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) when they apply or reapply for their federal firearm license that they make secure storage devices available for sale. This rule handed down by Attorney General Garland only implements what’s already being done. This is nothing new or Earth-shattering, despite what the Biden administration would have you think.
Firearm retailers didn’t need a law or a rule to sell secure storage devices. It’s good business. Firearm retailers offer safety products because customers want them and need them. The same goes with the safety training. The new rule wasn’t needed.
If anything, this is a tip of the cap to the work NSSF has been doing for decades to promote safe firearm storage. Since 1997, firearm manufacturers have been voluntarily providing free locking devices with each new firearm they ship from their factory. That’s a lock in the box of every new gun. Some manufacturers had already been providing free locks for decades.
Beyond all that, there’s already a law that requires what firearm retailers have been doing. The bipartisan Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), that President Joe Biden wants so desperately to scrap, includes a provision called the “Child Safety Lock Act of 2005.” That portion of the law requires firearm retailers to provide a safety locking device with each handgun they transfer.
None of that includes the voluntary programs spearheaded by the firearm industry to ensure all firearms not in use are securely stored. The firearm industry’s Project ChildSafe is one of the foundational components of the Real Solutions. Safer Communities campaign to promote voluntary efforts that provide effective answers to firearm ownership concerns.
The firearm industry openly advocates that every firearm not in use should be stored securely and out of the reach of individuals who should never possess them. That includes all unauthorized users, from unsupervised children to prohibited individuals to those who might be suffering through a mental health crisis. This has been especially important as millions have become first-time gun owners over the past two years.
Project ChildSafe partners with 15,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and five U.S. territories and has distributed over 40 million free firearm safety kits, which include a locking device. When properly installed, these locking devices render a firearm inoperable and prevent an unauthorized person from the consequences of negligence.
This program isn’t novel, but it is lifesaving. It has been recognized the Government Accountability Office and the National Safety Council’s Green Cross Awards for its efficacy. The free gun locks and safety kits program was expanded to include the Department of Veterans Affairs in conjunction with another Real Solutions component of suicide prevention. Even President Biden, when he was vice president, told NSSF we were “doing good things” with Project ChildSafe.
Education and Options
The secure storage campaign doesn’t focus on mandates or requirements, but education about the best safe storage options for gun owners throughout their lives. The storage options for a single adult living alone are much different than they are for a married couple with children. Even as children grow and families change, safe firearm storage options change, too.
Some individuals might opt for the cable-style locking device or a trigger lock accessed by a key. Others might be better served with an electronic lock box or RFID-equipped small safe. Traditional large upright safes might be a better option for others. Each firearm owner should periodically assess their own firearm storage needs and adjust as lifestyles change.
The firearm industry has been at the leading edge of this education process. Many firearm retailers will explain the differing options and help customers choose the secure storage options that work best for them. Firearm manufacturers provide a locking device in every firearm sold at retail. Combined with those distributed through Project ChildSafe, that tops over 100 million free locking devices distributed in the past 20 years. Many retailers keep these same locks on hand to distribute to customers that may need extra.
These voluntary efforts to promote safe storage of firearms in the home has been a bedrock of the work the firearm industry does to promote safe and responsible gun ownership. The DOJ Final Rule doesn’t do anything new and it doesn’t change the work the firearm industry will continue to do to be a leader in this effort.
Th DOJ’s Final Rule isn’t new. It’s a way of the Biden administration of saying they endorse the work already being done by the gun industry, without having to actually say it.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.