Gun Locks, Gun Laws and Ignorance: A California Story

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 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.


  1. avatar John S says:

    To go along with the lock requirement, there is no requirement to use such a thing, nor any way to enforce it if there were a use-requirement.

    And for handgun transport, and ‘assault weapon’ transport, the requirement is for a completely-enclosing locked case. Those worthless trigger locks have no role beyond a ‘check-off’ item for the transferring FFL.

  2. avatar strych9 says:

    A singular quibble.

    Cheaper wafer locks are easy to pick but even easier would be a warded lock. I’ve never seen a gun lock that uses wards but you can pick up a set of “warded picks” in a lot of places and they work just like a key. A set of five to seven will open virtually any warded lock you run across. Simply insert the pick and twist. If it binds go to the next one until you get the one that twists 90 degrees. The lock opens and you’re done.

    30 seconds to defeat pretty much any warded lock on the planet and as simple as turning a key. Absolutely zero knowledge of locks or picking required.

    1. avatar Casey says:

      To drive this point home, I recently bought a locking “gun” cabinet (Stack On) that had a keypad lock on it. But in case of electronic failure, you can pop the keypad off and… warded lock behind it.

      For non-lock-geeks, I’d compare the level of security to those latches on fence gates. It’s TECHNICALLY secured, but you can defeat it with pretty much anything solid that fits in the hole. Traveling hook. Paperclip. Allen wrench. Bent pen-cap.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        I knew there was about a 100% chance that someone had stuffed a warded lock into a “gun safety device” at some point. I just hadn’t seen/heard of it.

      2. avatar Hannibal says:

        The good news is that most gun store burglaries are smash and grabs where the thieves are not going to be picking any locks, even wafers or warded ones. They will, however, probably bring strong cutters so they don’t have to if they’re smart.

    2. avatar Don Russell says:

      it’s about dumb, lazy pos’s who leave loaded guns laying around where young kids can get them. Anyone too lazy to just CCW a 1 lb pocket pistol around their homes, should either put their guns into a vault (opening only to their fingerprint) or have their guns shoved up their asses and the magazine emptied.

      1. avatar Jomo says:

        You sound like the sort of person who believes that a gun registry is ‘for our protection’. Safe storage laws are security theater aimed at raising the bar of ownership so that poorer people can’t have guns. Period. Full stop. People who propose these laws know full well that those folk who had unsecure guns before will still have them after the law get’s passed, but it’s one more added burden to the law abiding who do their best to comply. It’s one more law they can use to hang you if you defend yourself with a gun. Shall not be infringed! Period.

      2. avatar Rattlerjake says:

        You’re an idiot! I raised three children and NEVER had a single incident with them handling guns without permission.
        It’s called parental supervision and TRAINING! Children are curious and even more so when they are told about something but not properly trained. Adults are no different – just try putting a DO NOT TOUCH, WET PAINT sign on something in public and watch how many “adults” will touch it anyways! There are many, many instances where “children” have protected themselves and family by shooting a home intruder, and this cannot happen if they are taugh not to touch a gun! You are caught up in the fear of guns syndrome!!!!!!!

  3. avatar Pantera Vazquez says:

    I don’t know what I’m talking about………but follow my commands………for I know better.

  4. avatar IYearn4nARnCali says:

    Ooooh, what to write when most things that have been stated are very well trod ground for gun rights proponents?

    How about, these groups of “concerned” citizens, ngo’s, politicians, lawyers, et al, be forced to comply with undertaking a mandated period of education and training about what they care so much about denying the rest of the population of California BEFORE they get to pass another stupid half measure that ONLY infringes our collective right to be armed in the manner consistent with OUR free will?

    Or we could continue with the rampancy of gun control in this state, which IS our future, until firearms are only museum pieces that we get to visit in California’s soon to be opened Museum of Outdated Rights?

    I know little about subjects outside of my educational focus, yet I do not advocate for infringing the rights of others because of my own ignorance. Why can’t these aforementioned groups do the same? Because they MUST make the world into the milquetoast lie that America NEVER was or should ever become a reality. Their currency is ignorance and fear backed by dirty money which buys bendable politicians to craft laws that screw all of us.

    I applaud Dave’s work and effort, but I lambast all those who stand on their ignorance as if it was a strength, and actively work to make the rest of this state’s people VULNERABLE, by laying blame for violence at their feet, while passing laws NEVER DESIGNED to address the problems they claim to.

    1. avatar DaveW says:

      There is a standardized oath of office for ALL public servants contained in the Constitution of the State of California.
      That oath says,

      * California Constitution – CONS
      ARTICLE XX MISCELLANEOUS SUBJECTS [SEC. 1 – SEC. 23] ( Article 20 adopted 1879. )
      SEC. 3.
      Members of the Legislature, and all public officers and employees, executive, legislative, and judicial, except such inferior officers and employees as may be by law exempted, shall, before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation:

      “I, ___________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

      “And I do further swear (or affirm) that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that now advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means; that within the five years immediately preceding the taking of this oath (or affirmation) I have not been a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means except as follows:

      _____ (If no affiliations, write in the words “No Exceptions”) _____
      and that during such time as I hold the office of _____ (name of office) _____

      I will not advocate nor become a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means.”

      And no other oath, declaration, or test, shall be required as a qualification for any public office or employment.

      “Public officer and employee” includes every officer and employee of the State, including the University of California, every county, city, city and county, district, and authority, including any department, division, bureau, board, commission, agency, or instrumentality of any of the foregoing.
      (Sec. 3 amended Nov. 4, 1952, by Prop. 6. Res.Ch. 69, 1951.)
      Any public servant who fails to live up to their oath is guilty of violating said oath and should be removed from office!

      No public servant (federal, state, or any other) should be allowed to make any rule or regulation which affects a constitutional right of the people without the full participation of the populace in accordance with the US Constitution. The politicians were required by law to follow the amendment process in order to pass the 18th Amendment to deny the masses the right to consume alcohol, which is not among the rights of the people. It took a second amendment, 21st Amendment, to repeal Prohibition.

      Why, I ask does the government seek to pass gun controls, bans, or restrictions on an individual right without following the same required constitutional process? It has nothing to do with public safety. That is the same justification used for Prohibition.

      Just as with prohibition, I predict that “civil disobedience” will run rampant across the nation. Just as with Prohibition, criminal elements will continue to break the laws regarding firearms as well as all other laws. It has been the same in the UK, Australia, and so on.

      1. avatar Big Bill says:

        “Why, I ask does the government seek to pass gun controls, bans, or restrictions on an individual right without following the same required constitutional process?”

        It’s simple: Because the voters let them.

  5. avatar Geoff PR says:

    “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.”

    Those that can, do.

    Those that don’t know how instruct others on crafting legislation….

  6. avatar California Richard says:

    Keep our enemies stupid. The more they know, the better equiped they will be to oppose us. If you want to change them, then they need to change at a fundamental level not a shallow “understanding of nomenclature” level.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      I agree completely. No good will come from educating our enemies. They will use such knowledge to cause us harm.

  7. avatar TommyJay says:

    In Nov. 2015 I bought my first handgun in CA. The law said I either had to have a CA certified safe or use cable locks. Since I planned to own a few handguns I went the safe route.

    At the time, a CA certified safe meant that it either had to meet numerous physical specifications or it had to be listed on CA-DOJ cert list. I didn’t learn of the list until after I had spent a few hours trying to match the specs with actual safes on the market. It was then that I learned that many safes on the cert list, including the one I bought, don’t meet the specs.

    Perhaps the person that created the list didn’t understand that steel gage numbers get smaller with thicker steel sheet.

  8. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    “””yet I do not advocate for infringing the rights of others because of my own ignorance. Why can’t these aforementioned groups do the same?””””
    Cowboy Action
    3 Gun
    Long Range

    We know about ourselves and the disciplines we pursue, but no almost nothing about what drives the individual Anti-gun types.

    That knowledge is what we, as POTG, need in order to be more effective in stopping BS legislation.

    Know their thinking, know them, know their weaknesses.

    1. avatar California Richard says:

      Thats the thing…. they can never reveal their intentions, because it would shut down their cause. Their intentions are myopic and insane, however, THEY are not so insane that they don’t realize they sound insane. I can say “I have a gun because an armed populace is the ultimate check against government tyranny, and I’m doing my part. I don’t want to hurt anybody, but I’m ready to defend myself and my family,” and not sound insane. They have to reword what I say, and what they mean, in order to flip the paradigm and make them sound sane and me insane. Add a whole lot of public ignorance, and you have a voting block ready to go the way of California and support their cause.

      The truth is their weakness, and they know it and fear it.

      1. avatar TrappedInCommiefornia says:

        The funny thing is, not too long ago, if you had said your purpose for owning a gun was to protect against government tyranny most liberals would have thought you were the insane one. Now, with President Trump in the white house, they might view that a bit differently. Seems a little ironic, doesn’t it…

    2. avatar Robert Farago says:

      That’s a big part of our mission here at The Truth About Guns: expose the “rationale” behind civilian disarmament.

      If I had to say what drives anti-gunners, I’d say it’s elitism. They really do believe the state has the right indeed the obligation to tell people how to live their lives. They are, in a word, fascists.

    3. avatar Big Bill says:

      “We know about ourselves and the disciplines we pursue, but no almost nothing about what drives the individual Anti-gun types.”

      Not true at all. They have given their game away many times.
      Not just in words;
      Pelosi: “If I could’ve gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them — Mr. and Mrs. America turn ’em all in — I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren’t here.”
      Hillary: Speaking of ARs, not “assault rifles”: “We’ve got to keep weapons of war off our streets, as well as blocking suspected terrorists from buying guns,”

      We know all to well what their goals are. California knows outright bans won’t fly (yet), so instead they institute a list of “acceptable” guns, then they keep changing what’s “acceptable,” with the obvious goal of having no guns on the “acceptable” list. Not content with that, they also limit how you can buy ammo, knowing that a gun without ammo is merely a club.

      No, we know what drives them: An overwhelming desire to control others because they know what’s best for the great unwashed (which most Dems don’t understand means them, too).

      1. avatar Jon in CO says:

        Not to be trivial, but that wasn’t Pelosi, that was Diane Feinstein. On a national TV interview.

  9. avatar BLAMMO says:

    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.

    Thank you Captain Obvious!!

    1. avatar Big Bill says:

      Obvious to us, not to them.
      They really think they know all about it.

  10. avatar Nanashi says:

    Wouldn’t that first AR lock still leave a thief with a single shot rifle even if he couldn’t bypass it?

    1. avatar Steve says:

      No, the top part fills the chamber.

  11. avatar John S says:

    To go with the lack of practical utility of trigger locks, there is no requirement to use the things (and no way to enforce such a thing if it were ever passed – San Francisco has a law that appears to require locking up most guns).

    Further, trigger locks are not acceptable for transport of guns. Handguns and ‘assault weapons’ must be in completely enclosing locked cases.

    The locks sold with guns are no more than an annoying ‘check-off item’ for the transferring FFL.

    As to safes, Federal law – 18 USC 922(z), the Child Safety Lock Act of 2005 – should allow safes for handguns – but BATF does NOT; there is no way to document a safe for the BATF, because that Fine Agency will not accept the CA ‘safe affidavit’ and BATF has not developed one of its own.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Los Angeles has a similar ordinance. Both basically provide that unless a firearm is on your person, it must be unloaded and locked up–which seems a basic slap in the face to Heller, but the Supremes didn’t take the case after the Ninth found it to be constitutional. There is no excuse for noncompliance, e.g., you live alone and have no visitors. If someone breaks in, and the police come and find unsecured firearms, there will be an arrest (or at least a citation).

  12. avatar Ranger Rick says:

    “That’s hardly a solid foundation for gun safety law.”

    Yeah that might be true, but they “care” and “caring” about a problem is more important than actually solving a problem.

  13. avatar Southern Cross says:

    Laws made in haste by those ignorant of the subject matter? Sums up the NSW Firearms Regulations perfectly.

    And don’t forget to add knee-jerk reactions to perceived threats.

  14. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘Gun Locks, Gun Laws and Ignorance: A California Story’

    Judging by the title I expected this to be a story about the Merced Pitchfork Massacre.

  15. avatar Mark N. says:

    If LCAV discovers that gun locks are security theater, they will sponsor a bill to require anyone owning a gun to own a full size Liberty safe, even if all one owns is a Hi Point. Since such a law would make it impossible for poor people to own guns, I am surprised that they haven’t thought of it yet. They are trying however to increase the security requirements for gun stores–not for the purpose, necessarily, of making it harder for BGs to do smash and grabs, but to force small LGSs out of business, just like San Francisco ordinances forced the lone remaining store in town out of business a few years back. There are called “reasonable, commonsense gun safety regulations” that “do not violate the Second Amendment.” Sure, buddy.

  16. avatar Bob Watson says:

    If you really listen to the anti-civil rights bigots their intentions are clearly evident. Any restriction, regardless of efficacy, on the free exercise of our 2nd amendment rights is their goal. More red tape, more draconian criminal penalties for violating pointless laws, more classes of prohibited persons and more demonization of gun owners is the point. This strategy worked to reduce gun ownership in Chicago, Washington DC and New York city. They are trying to implement it in California and other liberal dominated states. They understand that before they can eliminate gun ownership they must reduce it.

  17. avatar Dan in CO says:

    Sorry, you lost me at “a California story”.

  18. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    To Dan Zimmerman
    Please do not help the “prison guards” to make better locks. This is in effect what you are doing. The “well educated” communists you interact with only want to learn better ways to take away our civil-rights.

    Find other ways to politely converse with them.

  19. avatar Docduracoat says:

    I keep a loaded gun in the downstairs desk Drawer
    I keep another loaded gun in my upstairs closet on the high shelf
    I keep a loaded Steyr Aug in the gun safe
    My kids (age 10, 14, and 17) have always known where they are, and starting at age 10 how to use them
    Before age 10 they knew not to touch them and not to let anyone
    else touch them without Mom or Dad being there
    I am certain that I am in violation of several gun laws here in Florida
    I also think that I am a responsible parent and my kids are able
    to shoot anyone who needs shooting even if I am not home

  20. avatar SurfGW says:

    By this article’s logic we should have no car keys because someone can Hotwire a car.

    1. avatar Big Bill says:

      And, ‘back in the day®’ that was the case, but no longer.
      Today, the ignition interlock obviates that method of theft.
      Back then, it was the preferred method, but today it’s the lock puller that does the trick. The funny thing is, it’s faster than jumping the ignition. One step forward, two steps back.

  21. avatar Darkman says:

    Gun locks turn firearms into rocks and clubs. Never owned one never will.

  22. avatar Cyberat says:

    You want to prevent theft from gun stores ?
    Pull the firing pin assembly from every gun stored or on display, put the pins in a safe, re-assemble after sale.
    Keep the assemblies labeled with a sticker so you can quickly recall them.

  23. avatar David says:

    If I may suggest going forward, for persons and organizations outside the industry, require them to furnish proof of having taken an NRA safety class prior to working with them. This will 1.) cut down on stupid questions. 2.) give them context for your answers. and 3.) remove some of their irrational fear and ignorance.

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