Securing Your Firearms

I separate firearms safety rules into two categories: gun handling and general firearms safety. The gun handling rules are simply the rules that keep us and others safe when we are handling a firearm. Students who are learning new material have a lot of information to absorb and, when people become overwhelmed, they can make mistakes. I have my students focus on these two rules:

  • Keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.

Then there are the multiple rules in the category of general firearms safety, which help keep us and others safe when firearms are in our area. They include not drinking or doing drugs, knowing how to operate the firearm, and knowing your target and what is beyond it. These rules are important for everyone to follow for our safety and the safety of others. In my opinion, the rule in this category that is highest on the priority list is:

Keep your firearm secure so it is inaccessible to unauthorized access!

Who Should Not Access Our Firearms

disabled gun

Children are naturally curious and a firearm can be very tempting to them. Photo taken with a disabled gun for safety reasons. Photo: author

The first group is children. Children are curious by nature and do not have the ability to understand the dangers surrounding firearms. Young children cannot even comprehend serious injury or death and should not be given access to firearms. I am not saying children should not be allowed to enjoy shooting, as some of my fondest memories growing up involve firearms, and I am passing that on to my children. I am speaking of access when not in a controlled setting. Some parents have told me they use the mechanical safety as the way to prevent their young children from being able to fire a gun if they do get access. This is foolish and in my eyes negligent. I am not at all shy about sharing my opinion with them.

Older children, such as pre-teens and teens, are little balls of emotion caused by the hormonal changes they are going through. It is a confusing and stressful time. Parents have told me they trust their teenager and “know” s/he would never do anything with the firearms. I again think this is foolish. I personally know a few families with teenagers who committed suicide who thought the same of their child.

Another group we must prevent accessing our firearms is friends and family who have substance abuse or mental health issues. At one time we might have trusted some of these people with our firearms, and it may be difficult for us to think that we no longer should. I know of a few cases where people with these issues have been given access to firearms and robbed people for drug money, shot themselves, or shot someone else. A famous example is the spree killer from Sandy Hook Elementary School, whose mother gave him access to her safe.

Next we have criminals. We in the firearms community like to talk about the fact that criminals have guns and it is not the gun that shoots someone. True, but we must remember where criminals get their guns. They get them from those of us who do not secure our firearms properly. A petty thief who is breaking into cars and stealing radios will be very tempted by the pistol he finds “hidden” in a center console, under a seat, or in a glove box. Although this criminal may not be violent himself, he is looking to make money. Getting rid of a gun on the streets would be easy and a nice payday for him. This gun can now end up in the hands of someone who does have violent intentions, or it may inspire our car burglar to try for bigger targets. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to make sure our firearm does not get into the hands of criminals.

The last group of people we want to keep our firearms away from is “anyone who does not know the rules for safe gun handling.” This could be anyone, and unless you have firsthand knowledge can be hard to judge. I have seen people with domestic staff in their homes and firearms simply lying out on tables. You do not know if the person dusting these tables knows anything about firearms or if they are mature enough to be around them. Someone who is ignorant of the rules of safe gun handling picking up this firearm could be extremely dangerous. Even worse are people who think they know but act recklessly to show off.

How To Prevent Unauthorized Access

Let’s discuss the options for preventing these people from accessing our firearms. I am not a fan of trigger locks or the locks that come with firearms when you purchase them. These locks only help keep our firearms safe from children and people who don’t know the rules. A criminal or person with substance abuse or mental health issues will not be deterred by these devices and can simply take the firearm to another location to remove the lock at their leisure.

There are three types of safes that every responsible gun owner should have:

  • 1. Long-Term Storage
  • 2. Ready Access
  • 3. Vehicle

Long-Term Storage Safe

A long-term storage safe is the large safe that you keep the majority of your firearms in. This safe can vary from a simple security cabinet to a large fire safe or even a specially built room. The safe itself can be tailored to your needs and budget, but two things are musts.

First, this safe should have a combination lock rather than a key lock. A key lock may work if someone breaks into your home while you are away and have the keys with you. But a child or person with mental health or addiction problems who is ether a family member or friend just needs to find the key. With a key lock, a person can get into your safe and steal a firearm and you may not even know it until you go to retrieve that gun. Most of the safes available with key locks are less expensive, security-cabinet style safes. If you do get one of these safes due to budget, consider getting a small key safe that has a combination lock similar to what a realtor would use. These are available at most home improvement stores and can be secured to a wall with the key locked inside. You then must use a combination to get the key.

The second major detail is to secure the safe to something. This sounds crazy when talking about a large heavy fire safe, but if you were able to get it there, someone else will be able to get it out. A quality safe will have this option covered, with holes in the bottom. Make sure the safe is secured to something solid (not just a plywood sub floor), and if you do not know how to do this, hire a professional.

Ready-Access Safe

Gun Vault ready access safe

GVB 1000 from GunVault is author’s personal recommendation for a ready-access safe to secure a defensive handgun. Photo: courtesy GunVault

Next are ready-access safes, which we keep our defensive firearms in and which can be opened very quickly when the need arises. These safes store only one or a few firearms and are not nearly as sturdy as a large fire safe. I am a firm believer in carrying in the home, and my ready-access safe contains my firearm only when I can’t carry it, such as when I am asleep. Some people have told me that when sleeping, they simply leave the gun on the nightstand next to them. In my opinion, this is not wise. I can point to a story from a friend of a friend who had a bad dream and fired several rounds into his closet. This person has been around firearms for many years, including professionally. We should need to obtain a good level of consciousness prior to being able to grab a firearm.

It also could cause a problem because if an intruder got into your bedroom without waking you, you could have a physical fight over a loaded firearm or, even worse, he could take it before you woke up.

A ready-access safe must be intuitive to open and able to be opened quickly and efficiently, even in the dark. This type of safe can usually hold one to two defensive pistols, but some manufacturers now make models that will hold a rifle or shotgun.

This is the only type of safe that I personally recommend a specific make and model (for defensive handguns): the GunVault GVB 1000, in their “mini vault” line of safes. It has a pad made to place your hand on and only 4 buttons. Simply press those buttons in the order/combination that you set and a spring-loaded door drops, giving you access. This specific model includes an A/C charging pack and battery backup. Many people who got the model that only uses batteries have told me the batteries did not last long and were hard to change. This safe also has a keyed backup in case the electronics fail. As with larger safes, I do not recommend a key as the primary method of entry, but it’s good as a backup. Store the keys in your larger safe or give the key to a trusted family member or friend. Don’t put it in a drawer where it can easily be found and defeat the purpose of the safe.

A ready-access safe also needs to be secured in some way, so an intruder is not given a convenient box to carry your firearm away. One of my family members moved and had not yet secured her safe. Within 72 hours, her safe was gone, along with her defensive firearm. It’s easy to secure these safes with a few bolts or by purchasing a security cable. Wrap the cable around something that can’t easily be removed, such as a bedframe, which would have to be taken apart in order to remove the cable. Although these cables are not foolproof, they do discourage someone from just walking off with your safe and gun.

Vehicle Storage

vehicle lock box for a gun

Author’s vehicle lock box attached to frame of seat in his truck. Photo: author

Last is the type of safe that is probably the most overlooked when securing a defensive firearm. In some places, including certain government buildings, you cannot legally carry a firearm and must leave it in your vehicle. But you must secure it properly. I have seen videos of people from large organizations showing how to secure a firearm in a glove box or center console. The locks on these are very simple and can easily be defeated by a screwdriver.

Vehicle lock boxes are available from several manufacturers and are simple metal lock boxes that can hold your defensive pistol and usually a few small accessories. I have used mine when going to martial arts classes and placed my handgun, a spare mag, and my knife in it. The box itself is not easily pried open, but again it is important to secure it to something. This is the only safe that I recommend a key lock for. You will not be storing the firearm in it for long periods of time and, when you do, you will take the keys with you.

Most of these come prepackaged with a security cable that you can attach to your seat frame. Although this is not foolproof and someone could cut through the cable, a law enforcement friend told me that in his over 15 years’ experience, he has never taken a report of this happening and does not know of one. But he has taken multiple reports of people having their safe stolen when they did not have it secured. Secure it to a solid piece that the cable cannot slip off of.

Summary

Any safe can be defeated with enough time. Less expensive security cabinets, ready-access safes, and vehicle lock boxes can be very tempting if they are not secured properly. If it is easy to remove, a thief can take it somewhere else and have all the time they want to open it.

Securing your firearm so it is not accessible to unauthorized access is one of the key responsibilities of owning a firearm. The majority of the time, criminals get their firearms from law-abiding gun owners who did not take the proper steps to secure it. Children, persons with substance abuse or mental health issues, and anyone who is ignorant of the rules of safe gun handling can all be dangerous to themselves and others if they come across a firearm. Securing firearms properly makes us all safer.

Discussion
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16 Responses to “Securing Your Firearms”
  1. Robert Duncan

    Although a firearm aficionado, I’ve always taught safety first. Who should teach it? As soon as a child is old enough to practice firearm safety falls on the shoulders of a good knowledgeable parent or trusted friend who knows a lot about safety and “practice makes perfect”. After all, it’s the next generation of kids who must continue to fight for 2nd Amendment rights. The Feinstein’s, Boxer’s and Obama’s don’t care and remain actively against their oaths of office…decades ago this would be called treason.

    Reply
  2. Jim

    Outstanding comprehensive article! Thanks Jarrod for emphasizing the level of responsibility required of gun owners. Protecting our defensive firearms from unauthorized access is one important way to defend our rights to own them!

    Reply
  3. Robert Duncan

    Taking steps into my own hands. Consiquenses are less important than implacations or reality of my children at risk. Ive strongly persuaded my money be put to this cuase and by memory failure pucuring and fraud watched this and many more ommission threaten me and my charactor. Thats not a battle i wish to fight any longer, my new reality is self responsibilty, my request is to continue to be educated and trained to be a responsible parent and citizen.

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      I am for too trying to sound intelergent about someting so deep in the resources of my mind I am riting fastr than I can think about it but must get my idea ritten down so someone can critise me for my style. Yet I don’t think I need to go to skool and get edumakated.

      Reply
  4. Bill Tally

    Excellent article. Reminds me of an incident the other day where a bunch of us had finished playing golf and were sitting around drinking beer after our rounds. One fellow pulled out his concealed carry weapon and without unloading it, passed it around to curious others. Some had little experience with handling a weapon and proceeded to point it without consideration to safety. I protested and at one point nearly dove under a table!

    Reply
    • EDWARD COFFMAN

      Excellant article on responsibility. Bill, had I been you I would have taken the fellows gun, unloaded it, and then reminded everyone that even ONE BEER is irresponsible when armed. Rule #5 of firearm safety: Don’t drink and carry!.

      Reply
  5. rob

    I find fault with one point

    MOST guns use d in crimes are NOT stolen. They are bought from the blackmarket. Thos e guns are made elsewhere and smuggled into the USA(see Nat geo channel “Ghost guns”+ fed confiscating guns found in cargo holds of planes–not a few guns–LOTS of guns)

    Reply
  6. Albert Mercer

    Well written and comprehensive article. My problem is what to do with your gun when you co to the Post Office or any Federal Building. I was planning on using a Trunk safe and cable to safeguard my firearm while in the building, but I found it is illegal to even have a firearm on Federal property, including in the trunk while in the parking lot, which makes this more difficult. I currently try to find street parking . I don’t know how far from the parking lot the Govt considers Federal Property. In any case If I cannot find on street parking, I either cannot go to the P.O. or drive home, drop off my firearm, and go to the P.O.

    Reply
  7. 35 year gunsmith

    While you have presented your opinions as fact (an error all too common when authors present information that is not empirically supported as fact), a very different opinion and point of view is that early exposure and properly supervised instruction in firearms safety and use leads to much fewer injuries or deaths from children. Children are curious even more so about the “forbidden fruit”, and less likely to play with firearms when they are educated. Having learned to shoot at 5, then teaching both of my children beginning at age 5, we have never experienced a safety issue. My children are FAR more safe with firearms than 99% of the students I teach as a mutli-certified firearms instructor. Don’t get me wrong, there is no access to firearms by anyone in my household without my supervision. I just wanted to make the point that there is evidence out there that education is better protection than making the item a “forbidden fruit” scenario. Sorry, I have always had issues with people presenting any topic that is solely their opinion as fact. Good authors present hypotheses and facts from which the audience may draw their own conclusions.

    Reply
  8. Ronf789

    I was surprised when I returned home from a 5 day trip to find bad guys had made a hole in a stucco wall into the master bedroom which did not have a motion alarm sensor (per ADT recommendation). I had 2 gun safes, a Liberty Centurion and a Sentry (from Lowes). They laid the Sentry down on its back and pried it open. they left the 2 rifles and shotgun and took other stuff from the safe. They did not try to break into the Liberty safe. Lessons learned: Install motion detectors in your bedrooms (they can be bypassed when you set the alarm and are home), don’t rely on cheap safes, and bad guys don’t want to walk around a neighborhood carrying rifles and shotguns.

    Reply
  9. Richard Manfredi

    How do I get rid of the annoying pop out of ,”f,Facebook, twitter, G+ , Pinterest , instagram”? The delete , or move off screen triangle lasts for three seconds , before the shit returns . If no delete , no subscribe

    Reply
  10. John F Nice, Jr

    I really enjoyed this article. I have been looking at a number of ways to secure my pistol in the car. I have some concerns with the lockbox-cable combo. Most of those cables can be quickly overcome with a small, cheap bolt cutter. Any other suggestions?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi John. On the surface the cable route seems easy to defeat but keep in mind the typical vehicle break-in doesn’t involve the use of bolt cutters and that is what would be needed to break the cable. Granted, if the thief knows about the vault/cable and that’s what they want they will most likely have the right tools, however, the only people who should know about your gun are those who absolutely have to know (spouse, partner, etc). All that said, if you’re looking for more security than the cable lock provides then the next level would be a permanent mounting option. Depending on your vehicle you could go with something large such as a TruckVault product or if your vehicle has a console then maybe something from Console Vault. If you have the space under a seat and some mechanical ability you can mount a traditional quick access safe by securing it to the vehicle floorboard.
      Thanks
      Deryck-PDN

      Reply
  11. Michael

    Mr. Jarrod
    Very good information here! I am a newbie and I am soaking up all the good information I can about safety.
    Thank you

    Reply