Owning a firearm is not only a right, or a freedom, but a responsibility. Weapons safety goes hand in hand with responsible gun ownership, and a major portion of gun safety, is safe storage. Having a way to safely store firearms is a must have for any gun owner. Not only does safe storage prevent accidents, but it restricts access to weapons by unauthorized users of any type. This includes thieves who at best will sell your weapons, and at worst use them to harm someone else.
With gun ownership being at an all time high in the United States an industry has sprung up around gun ownership. A large portion of this industry is dedicated to the safe and responsible storage of firearms. This allows us to have a lot of different options and choices to storing firearms.
Safe Storage Laws
Certain states do require the safe storage of firearms and by law require a locking device to secure the weapon when not in use. This list may not be exhaustive, so make sure you check your local laws and regulations!
Guns in California do require safe storage in most situations. These are a number of different laws, but it is best summed up on the CA DOJ website:
You may be guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony if you keep a loaded firearm within any premises that are under your custody or control and a child under 18 years of age obtains and uses it, resulting in injury or death, or carries it to a public place, unless you stored the firearm in a locked container or locked the firearm with a locking device to temporarily keep it from functioning.
CA DOJ Regulations
The CA DOJ does not regulate or promote any gun safes, but they have released standards in which they define a gun safe. A gun safe should have all of these features to be considered a safe storage option. Safes within these regulations are approved for safe storage in California. (From the CA DOJ Website)
- Shall be able to fully contain firearms and provide for their secure storage;
- Shall have a locking system consisting of at minimum a mechanical or electronic combination lock. The mechanical or electronic combination lock utilized by the safe shall have at least 10,000 possible combinations consisting of a minimum three numbers, letters, or symbols. The lock shall be protected by a case-hardened (Rc 60+) drill-resistant steel plate, or drill-resistant material of equivalent strength;
- Boltwork shall consist of a minimum of three steel locking bolts of at least ½ inch thickness that intrude from the door of the safe into the body of the safe or from the body of the safe into the door of the safe, which are operated by a separate handle and secured by the lock;
- Shall be capable of repeated use. The exterior walls shall be constructed of a minimum 12-gauge thick steel for a single-walled safe, or the sum of the steel walls shall add up to at least .100 inches for safes with two walls. Doors shall be constructed of a minimum of two layers of 12-gauge steel, or one layer of 7-gauge steel compound construction;
- Door hinges shall be protected to prevent the removal of the door. Protective features include, but are not limited to: hinges not exposed to the outside, interlocking door designs, dead bars, jeweler’s lugs and active or inactive locking bolts.
These standards are actually quite spot on when it comes to desirable features in a safe. The vast majority of states, counties, and cities that enact safe storage laws follow the established DOJ guidelines.
Massachusetts list the following as their safe storage laws:
The law requires guns to be stored in a specific manner. All guns, when not in use, with the exception of primitive firearms, must be stored or kept “secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device,” to prevent unauthorized use. Penalties are assessed even if no underage person obtains access.
Connecticut’s law regarding safe storage:
Section 29-37i defines a misdemeanor crime: “No person shall store or keep any loaded firearm on any premises under his control if he knows or reasonably should know that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor unless such person (1) keeps the firearm in a securely locked box or other container or in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure or (2) carries the firearm on his person or within such close proximity thereto that he can readily retrieve and use it as if he carried it on his person. For the purposes of this section, “minor” means any person under the age of sixteen years.”
These days safes genuinely come in three different locking styles. These styles have different purposes and different levels of access. The different lock mechanisms include,
Lock and Key
The traditional lock and key method is the most basic style of locking mechanism. The lock and key method is commonly found on all safes as a backup. However, when it’s the primary method it is on smaller, or budget priced safes. Lock and key safes are very easy to use and secure. The main issue is if the key is lost, then the safe is impossible to access. Opening one of these safes can be quite rapid if the key is placed in an easy to find area, and the safe is easy to access. A lock and key safe are very simple and very reliable.
The most common locking mechanism is combination locks. These come in two distinct methods, the older spinning wheel, and the more modern electric, push button combination lock. Each has some advantages and disadvantages.
The spinning dial style’s main disadvantage is how slow it is to use, and how hard it use in low light situations, and how slow it is to use under stress. The spinning dial is perfect if the guns in the safe are not depended on for home defense. While the dial itself may be slow and difficult at times, it is notoriously reliable and hard to break. There a reason the design is over a century old.
The electronic combination locks use a touch-tone keypad that is similar to a phone or keyboard style number pad. This allows a simple and rapid access to your safe. A four digit combo is very easy to enter and the safe cannot accessed rapidly. An electronic safe like this does require batteries or an electrical outlet. Often these safes will have a backup key option as well.
Biometric technology has skyrocketed in the last ten years. With the advent of new and better technology, we’ve also seen the prices shrink. These biometric safes run on fingerprints and allow the user too often store dozens of prints to allow or restrict access. Biometric technology is still somewhat new and these sensors are sensitive to disturbance. This requires them to stay clean and be wiped down after every use. A good biometric safe grants the user instant access to their weapon if needed in an emergency, as long as the sensor is clean and in good working order. Biometric safes do require an electrical source and often have a key backup option.
This is a major consideration when purchasing a gun safe. The best thing to do is always buy big. This is especially true for new gun owners whose collections could expand. Plan for how many guns you may own, not how many guns you do own. On the flip side of the coin someone who only plans to say own a handgun for home defense and concealed carry may only need something small enough for their one weapon. Be realistic in your expectations, and think ahead.
Long guns refer to rifles and shotguns and supposed AR and AK pistols. These weapons require a large standing safe that is often quite heavy and imposing. These safes can allow for storage of anywhere from 5 long guns to 20 long guns, and even more. Be aware, however, the makers of these safes often use smaller rifles to measure the room in a safe and do not take into account magazines, optics or slings. A five gun safe may only fit three modern sporting rifles.
Most large long gun safes have a section dedicated to storing handguns, however if you own handguns exclusively you have no need to purchase such a tall safe. A small handgun safe can be easily stolen. It can surely keep your kids out, but if a thief can pick it up and walk away with it you may have a problem. There are a number of medium sized safes out there that can be bolted to the ground and are substantially heavy, like the Stack On GCB 900.
Gun cabinets are often a rustic and ornamental way to store firearms. They are often made from fine woods and appear to be beautiful, often fitted with a glass door to allow the viewing of your weapons. These gun cabinets can keep children out most of the time, but thieves or determined restricted users are another story. The glass is easily broken, and the entire cabinet is relatively easy to destroy. If you are planning to keep a gun cabinet I would suggest locking away the ammo, deactivating the weapons, or keeping it in an easy to lock room.
Sometimes, depending on where you live, means locking up your guns can keep you from getting locked up.
While some may disagree laws forcing someone to lock your weapon up is wrong, I doubt many will disagree that locking a weapon, not in your control is responsible. A good safe is both an investment and investment protection.