Car carry (courtesy
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The civilian disarmament industrial complex has taken to highlighting “irresponsible” gun owners who leave firearms in their cars — only to have them (the guns) stolen and used by criminals. Cops too! In response, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has produced a Firearms Safety in Vehicles. Among its recommendations . . .

– When finished using your firearm outside your vehicle, unload it before you re-enter your vehicle.

– Even after a long hunt or a day in the sun at the range, always check, and then double check, that guns are unloaded before placing them in a car or truck.

There’s nothing wrong with the NSSF’s general advice for safe storage of a firearm in a vehicle. Especially their warning to “Never leave firearms in an area of the vehicle where they are accessible to children or pets.”

But their advice completely ignores the fact that millions of Americans keep a loaded gun in their car for emergencies.

Magna Arm car holster (courtesy

To wit: there’s a whole industry dedicated to quick-access car/SUV/truck holsters for loaded handguns and yes rifles too. Which only a small percentage of Americans use; they generally throw their handgun in the center console or glove box when leaving their car.

What percentage of gun owner lock their guns in their glove box is unknown. But, if you put away political correctness, telling gun owners to lock their handgun in the glove box (some cars lock it via central locking) would prevent more thefts than expecting gun owners to buy, secure and use a task-specific gun safe.

This doesn’t solve the “Daddy’s running into the store for a minute kids” problem — exacerbated by the large number of retail “gun free zones.” The only answer there: don’t do it. Don’t leave your gun in a car with unsupervised children. Pets? Uh . . .

While we’re looking at practical solutions, gun owners should also be advised to forgo/remove pro-gun stickers from their car. Yes, well, the NRA would have a cow if the NSSF went down that road.

It’s easy to understand why the NSSF chose to leave the “loaded gun in the car for self-defense” thing alone. But it’s also true that any effective solution to gun thefts from vehicles should consider the truth about guns: how they’re used and stored in vehicles and what changes the average gun owner is willing to make.

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  1. I ignore GFZ stickers at stores and restaurants. They’re not legally binding here anyway. Also my car doesn’t have a locking glovebox or console, so I don’t like to leave anything of value in there. I don’t have any bumperstickers on my car, and I think putting a big ol’ NRA sticker on is certainly an invitation for thieves.
    Also, don’t forget what NSSF stands for- self-defense is not “sporting” and never should be.

    • Agree on all counts. Putting pro-gun stickers on your car can easily result in everything from your car being a preferred target for auto burglaries to police pulling you over for speeding being already on the defensive before even talking to you.

    • “Also, don’t forget what NSSF stands for- self-defense is not “sporting” and never should be.” – Oh, I don’t know about that. /sarc.

  2. The NSSF’s “safety booklet” echoes the NRA’s basic pistol course notion of leaving guns unloaded until you’re ready to use them. Great for the occasional shooter: not as useful for the self-defense oriented owner.

    • I’m an NRA instructor. A gun being held in a standby state for potential use in self-defense IS in use, it’s (hopefully) not being shot, however. There’s no conflict between self-defense and unloading guns that aren’t being used.

      • I am also an NRA instructor.

        The NRA’s 3 rules poster states: 3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

        Also, our instructor emphasized many times (for the Basic class) to never use the term “weapon”. Use pistol, handgun, or firearm.

        • I am ALSO an NRA instructor!

          …I have nothing to add to this. I just wanted to get in on the d*ck measuring contest.

        • I think maybe Rick missed the point.
          I’m fine with keeping guns unloaded until ready to use.

          The gun on my hip, in a holster, is “in use,” as is the one in my truck, and the home defense shotgun kept in an undisclosed location. So is the sprinkler system in my office. It wouldn’t make much sense to shut off the water supply until a fire breaks out.

          The 12 gauge O/U that I use to shoot trap is not “in use” until I get to the firing line at the trap range and so will remain unloaded until that time.

          I am not an NRA instructor but I play one on the internet.

        • There’s nothing wrong with the term “weapon” a firearm is a weapon, as are the bullets within it. What you call it has no meaning at all. its what you do with it that matters.

        • I’m not an NRA instructor and I do not play one on TV. However I do routinely travel in my car with a fully loaded pistol. A while back I saw some folks from California leaving an Idaho pistol range. Before they left, they all decided to get together for a safety unload weapons thingy. I just laughed.

        • Rick you are ignoring that a gun for self defense is ALWAYS in use. for example your home defense weapon should ALWAYS be loaded.

          Your pheasant or clay only hooting shotgun should be unloaded when not in the field or range, your bolt action hunting rifle should always be unladed when not hunting — your home defense, carry or auto defense gun should always be loaded.

          In my juristicion the firearm must ALWAYS be concealed and this is enforced. Unloading and reloading a gun when leaving the car INCREASES
          1) the chance it will be seen. have you ever unchambered a round (and hunted for it in the car) and removed magazine, and reversed the process while sitting in a car pulled over on a busy city street where you are exposing the gun for ten times as long compared to slipping it ino a soft case to then lock in your trunk???

          2) risk of negligent discharge. unloading and loading is one of the most common scenarios where negligent discharge occurs. doing so quickly while seated in a car is even riskier.

          Being seen increases risk of theft, increases risk of being reported as “man with a gun” and perhaps charged for not concealing, and increases risk of ND. should your rifle be unloaded before leaving range? Sure. should you unload your self defense handgun before locking it in your trunk or console whiel running into school to sign out your kid? probably NO

  3. How about severely punish those that steal. Make it not worth their time. Why is it up to law abiding people to solve the criminal problem. Who ever gets caught with a stolen gun 15 years minimum mandatory and they have to work in prison to pay for themselves…

    • Thieves should have both hands chopped off. It would solve theft quickly. We need Draconian punishments. They work.

      • Eh… they work right up until you are wrongfully convicted. Believe me, it happens – especially when Federal Prosecutors with the unlimited resources of the U.S. Government are involved.

        Most cases are determined by Legal muscle, not facts.

        • Gerb, I might have argued with you at one point in my life. Unfortunately, you are sadly correct.

          When we see biased and conflicted FBI agents and directors run what appears to be a political witch hunt, when we see cops get off on sketchy uses of force, when we see video of the cops in California destroying a medical marijuana shop, eating their products, and boasting about abusing the owner, it is clear that justice isn’t always blind. (put aside opinions of the medical marijuana shop, the behavior of the cops raiding the place was atrocious and thuggish).

          I still believe MOST cops are good people, but the bad ones have a powerful system tilting the scales of justice in their favor.

    • WA state has a bill coming up for vote that says that if someone steals your gun from your home and uses it in the commission of a crime, that you can be charged with a felony.
      Meanwhile the prosecutors will always drop any gun charges in a plea deal and the guy who broke into your home may not even be charged with a felony.
      Does that not piss you off?
      It’s like charging a rape victim because her dress was above her knee and giving the rapist a pass.

    • Are you advocating a universal registry? Cuz you might as well be. If you have to check every gun to see if it has ever been stolen before you buy it, you need a registry or have to create a record of you checking a gun.

  4. I don’t want anything on my vehicle that identifies me in any way and I don’t even like when they put a selling dealer’s sticker on the back because it gives a hint as to the area I live. I think unloading a gun when you leave it in your car is an act that draws attention that you have a gun. I’m not comfortable leaving my gun anywhere unattended.

  5. Imagine, some dumb bastard steals a loaded handgun and prepares to shoot it. Little does he know that each 9mm bullet in that Hi-Point has been intentionally charged with 10.2 grains of Titewad for just such an occasion.

    Time to sell some home rolled bullets to the gangbangers’.

    • Your idea would be fantastic if there was some way to guarantee that those purposely under/overloaded rounds would never fell into the hands of non-criminals. Needless to say, there is no way to guarantee such results.

      Speaking of under/overloading cartridges to stymie/stall your enemy: the safer option would be to distribute underloaded cartridges which would not have enough force to propel the bullet out of the barrel. Or better yet just don’t put any propellant in the casing at all. A LOT of dud rounds is a serious problem on the battle field.

  6. In my truck, I have a custom made, welded down box that will fit a rifle or two with room for pistols and magazines. In my other vehicles I have cheap lock boxes. Won’t stop someone with bolt cutters, but will stop the “smash and grab” type of thief.

  7. Our vehicles bear a more subtle tribal marking: ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ

    If somebody gets it, they’re OK.
    If somebody’s not OK, it’s very unlikely they’ll get it.

    For nearly three years I parked my motorcycle daily, thus adorned, near my then-office on Market Street in San Francisco. No vandalism involving the decal.

    • I posit that that is not a subtle or obscure message a anywhere except some place like SF or Portland. I suspect that every cop knows it and immediately understands that that is a likely armed driver. They may also get the idea that the driver is anti-government and maybe even anti-police. I prefer the thin blue line sticker. To most of the people that recognize it, I suspect suggests a law and order oriented driver or one that was a cop or is related to one. It also suggests that you will likely be compliant if pulled over. In my case it is accurate in that I am am extremely compliant and polite pull over and I am indeed an advocate of lawful behavior and order.

      • My friends in law enforcement refer to thin blue line stickers as the “I like to speed and/or drive drunk sticker”. None have them on their vehicles, as none want to be outed as law enforcement. It might be a nice gesture, but everyone knows what it means, for better or worse.

        • The real trick is to get one of the little badge/decals from your local Police Benevolent Association organization. They usually have a specific version they only give out to donors over a certain (fairly high) monetary threshold. You’ll often see them adorning the license plates of other cars. Or do like I do, research and find the design of the special badge/decal they only give out to larger donors, copy it, and put THAT on your license plate. All the benefit, none of the cost. Every time I’ve been pulled over since then the a$$hole, er officer, has asked me in some way what my link to law enforcement is. I usually spin some yarn about how my father and grandfather and brother are all in law enforcement, I support them fully, though went military myself (that part at least is true). They always treat me kindly and let me go on my way. Worth 5 minutes of internet research and 5 dollars at the print store, for sure.

  8. I don’t even like to put my favorite sports team on my car out of paranoia that some asshole fan of our rivals will do something… so I certainly won’t be advertising any potential weapons inside. YMMV

  9. I unload hunting guns before putting them in my vehicle.

    Any firearm stored for defense (not on my body) is loaded without one in the pipe.

    May not be ideal but that is how I do it.

  10. We ought to give this guns-left-in-cars issue some careful thought.

    Handguns and long-guns are distinct issues. A stolen long-gun is unlikely to turn-out to be used in a crime. Almost all our effort out to be directed at dealing with handguns.

    We ought to use the handguns-stolen-from-cars issue as an argument against GFZs. The Antis are promoting stealing guns by insisting on GFZs. They won’t change their policies but it will get the uncommitted to continue questioning the wisdom of GFZs.

    Apart from a desire to avoid carrying in a GFZ, what is the argument for leaving a gun in your car? Shouldn’t we be striving to carry all-the-time rather than just carrying a gun in the car?

    Supposing there is a justification for leaving a gun in the car, is a gun-safe bolted to the console worthwhile as a cost-vs-risk strategy? Supposing I have a $600 gun and a 50% lifetime probability of having my gun stolen from my car, wouldn’t it be worth-while investing in a $300 gun-safe?

    Clearly, for a lot of people, the cost-vs-risk calculation isn’t compelling. If my gun costs only $400 and my lifetime probability is 25%, it’s a loosing proposition to invest $300 in a gun safe. Even so, there is another calculation to consider. The gun that killed Kate Steinle was stolen from a car. Had that been from a civilian’s gun there would have been a hue and cry from the hoplophobes about irresponsible gun-owners. We were luck it was a Federal employee.

    There is some intangible value in adopting a good-practice of either carrying (vs. leaving in car) or locking the gun in a gun-safe when left in the car. If a gun owner concludes he has no viable option but to routinely leave his gun in his car perhaps he ought to consider incurring the expense of a gun-safe as his contribution to reducing aggregate risk of an incident that could make national news.

    I hasten to add that the black-market for guns has reached the saturation point already, IMO. Any criminal or teen who wants a gun can already get a gun. We could just as well sell guns in hardware stores with no ID, no NICS and no 4473; nothing would change. Nevertheless, we live in a world of perceptions more so than reality (or my opinion about reality). A 20-yo thief might steal a gun from your car, give it to his 17-yo homie, who then uses it to kill his 7-yo sister. The serial number is traced to you, John Q Gunowner; and, the Associated Press distributes the story to the MSM across the country. “But for the fact that Mr. Gunowner left his Glock in his car, little Miss Victim would be going to 2nd grade class today.” We don’t need more of this.

    • Sorry. I’m not with you.

      If someone commits a crime (or several) to get my gun, then it is on them.

      To say that gun-owners are at fault for guns being stolen is ludicrous.

      I don’t leave something in my vehicle expecting my property or vehicle to be stolen.

      You may as well blame people for the area of town they live in. (Live somewhere better).

      Shit-asses that steal are the ones to be blame for stolen property – not the rightful owner.

      • “If someone commits a crime (or several) to get my gun, then it is on them.” Generally, that’s true. But, there MIGHT be some exceptions. Say you leave your car unlocked and a younger child curiously enters your car and finds the gun. At what age do you expect the child to be free of immediate supervision? 6? 16? Yes, that’s trespass; but is a 6-yo capable of understanding trespass? Some 16-yo’s?

        “To say that gun-owners are at fault for guns being stolen is ludicrous.” I didn’t say that. But it’s not a binary proposition. It’s highly circumstantial and subjective. Where I grew up I never heard of people locking-up their guns or ammo. My dad’s magazine (dynamite) was unlocked and un-watched during the business day; never lost a case. Folks could reasonably expect children to leave guns alone and to not nose-around looking for something interesting to steal. These practices would be unconscionable where I live today because reasonable expectations are differ according to place and time.

        My major issue in this topic is the PUBLIC PERCEPTION of gun owners. Some of us just couldn’t care less whether our personal behavior promotes or undermines the image of civilian gun ownership. Personally, I think about this question and I’d rather we all work on burnishing our image. You make your own judgement.

        I emphasized that America is now so saturated with guns that nothing remains to be done that could keep guns away from criminals. This isn’t reversible. When some tragedy happens – e.g. a Kate Steinle, or a child killed by a gun left on a nightstand – that gun might be successfully traced. IF the tragedy is just 1 or 2 steps from a civilian gun-owner then any impression of carelessness WILL be used against the 2A. Likely, the Fed’s carelessness allowed “B” to steal his gun, abandoned on the pier where “C” picked-it-up and mishandled it, killing Steinle. That reflected badly on the Fed. IF a child wanders onto your property, enters your unlocked-car and finds a gun, that WILL reflect badly on civilian gun ownership. (Conversely, if no one can say how many traffickers handled a gun from a Virginia theft to Chicago where a child was killed, we can wash our hands.)

        “I don’t leave something in my vehicle expecting my property or vehicle to be stolen.” Where I grew up, that too would be my expectation. That was a different place and a different time. Where I live now, I EXPECT my window will be smashed whether-or-not I left anything in my car. (My daughter’s car was repeatedly broken into in Maryland.) Now, I don’t leave anything in my car that I’m not willing to have stolen. And, I don’t lock my car because I don’t want my window smashed.

        Incidentally, I’m fully aware of the fact that every “safe” can be broken into. I once needed to protect some property I couldn’t afford to have stolen. I decided to buy a $25,000 Tann safe; it would have taken 2 days to break into it – not practical where it was located in the Chicago loop. We can’t afford such safes for guns; out of the question. The best we could conceivably do is – after the fact – say: “I bought a safe that I thought was tough enough that – under the circumstances – I didn’t think a thief would have brought the tools needed to break into the safe in the time he would have available. Unfortunately, I underestimated.”

        If gun owners refuse to do this much then some stolen guns will reflect badly on gun-owners. It’s purely a matter of perception. There isn’t much we can do to manage perceptions. The 2 things we COULD do are:
        1. – try to do what we can so as to APPEAR to have done as much as is practical to reduce tragedies;
        2. – publicize that guns in the hands of irresponsible adults and teens is so ubiquitous that the only realistic answer is universal gun-safety education (Eddie Eagle, 4-rules).

    • Don’t suggest people take responsibility for their shit, that’s just crazy talk. There’s quite a few people who simply don’t care if their gun winds up in the hands of a criminal. A common refrain from these mental midgets is that people shouldn’t steal, therefore they shouldn’t have to secure their weapons. You have to wonder if these assholes refuse to buy an umbrella because it isn’t fair they get rained on.

  11. I live in a Gun Friendly State. NRA stickers are not a problem here.
    As Rick The Bear posted “The NRA’s 3 rules poster states: 3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.”
    In my State if transporting firearms in your vehicle they MUST be unloaded. The only exception is the one in your holster.

  12. I am also an NRA instructor. In Rhode Island, possession of a loaded long gun in a motor vehicle is a felony. A loaded long gun magazine in a motor vehicle, i’m not sure. I wouldn’t try it.

  13. When leaving my vehicle to enter a GFZ I throw the gun on the front seat, then cover it with a job application

    • They took my bag of weed, my crack pipe, an 8 ball of coke, my oxy’s,what was left of a 30 pack of Natty lite, and half drank gallon of Viaka, but the gun was never touched

  14. Places with stickers prohibiting firearms/carry aren’t legally binding in my state. And it’s not like they even enforce that policy (they’re gonna search each and every person entering a store? Pfft, yeah right), just a 50 cent feel good sticker to make the sheep feel better. I carry regardless and have never had an issue. This includes stand alone stores and shopping malls. A firearm is a lot safer from theft on my person than in a car, but the antis would rather we leave firearms in our cars and open them up to theft instead of legally allowing us to carry in stores. Idiots.

  15. My common sense would not allow me to ever leave my gun in my glove compartment. “Maybe” I would leave it in my trunk, hidden and in a locked manner with no ammo.
    My glove compartment is lockable but its a plastic door so its next to useless. I think too much of my pistol, the expense and the BS to go through reporting to police how I allowed my handgun to be stolen from my car, knowing that cars are illegally entered very often. Locking it in my trunk is almost as bad as there is an open button for the trunk in the interior of the car, unless I “lock” it.

    • You may be able to disable the trunk lock button, especially if it’s a mechanical arrangement, and not electronic.

  16. I will lock my gun in the glovebox when I have to go to court or inside a school – where I’m not only not permitted to carry, but it is a serious criminal offense if I do so.

    • Get a steel, lockable TSA approved tethered case and secure it where it is hidden; a glove box is useless, first place they check.

  17. I was certified as a marksman in 1966, Since 1972 I have pretty much carried LOADED weapon, IF possible. I have been shot, Sorry but I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6. IF you do not like, I DO not REALLY G. A. F. NO COMMENTS WANTED OR NEEDED.

  18. Normally when I find a new gun free zone (30.06 and 30.07), I don’t notice until I’m halfway through the entrance. (Maybe that means it’s not really a GFZ because the signs are not prominent)? I go ahead go in, get out as fast a possible, and never return. It’s a class C misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of $200.00.

    The last one was a mall with a couple of rough looking pan handlers outside asking for money. You know, the kind of place you really want to have a gun on you.

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