Do you know exactly where guns are stored in your home? Storing guns safely inside your house or apartment is extremely important. Guns must always be stored in a way that limits unauthorized access. Guns that are left unsecured can be prime targets for theft or unauthorized “borrowing,” and they can be hazardous if handled by someone who is not trained on gun safety concepts. You as the gun’s owner have a responsibility to keep them out of the wrong hands. It is possible that you could be held liable for bad things that happen as a result of neglecting to secure your gun. For this reason and to protect yourself from theft, it is a good idea to keep guns securely stored in your home. There are many different techniques for effectively storing guns and keeping them out of the wrong hands. A few solutions are free-standing safes, mini gun safes, and built-in gun room/closet.
Free-standing gun safes are exactly what the name implies. They stand upright on their own when placed on a level surface, and are completely enclosed on all sides except for one door, which can be opened by entering a secret combination. These safes, depending on their size and dimensions, can hold between half a dozen and several dozen guns, documents, and valuables. One of the advantages of a free-standing gun safe is that it can also be used to store documents and other valuables in addition to guns. The walls of these safes can also sometimes be insulated with a fire-resistant material, which can help protect your guns and valuables in the case of a home fire. Fire resistance ratings for these safes are normally measured in the number of minutes that the safe can withstand the temperature of a fully-involved home fire. You can expect to pay several hundred dollars for an entry-level safe that has no fire protection and thin walls. Larger safes and those with fire-resistant qualities can easily cost between $600 and $2,500 dollars, depending on size and fire resistance rating.
Most devices used to store guns, are secured with a combination rather than a key because keys can fall into the wrong hands. Combinations cannot fall into the wrong hands unless they are shared with others verbally or in writing. However, people may be able to watch over your shoulder and figure out what your combination is if they are in the same room and have the opportunity to see you open the safe. Safes can be equipped with mechanical combination locks (usually the lower-cost safes have these) or digital combination locks with a 10-digit keypad. It is normally possible to re-program these digital combination locks with a new combination. If possible, it is a good idea to change the combination on a gun safe periodically (every 90 days or every time you think that someone might have seen you open it). There are also safes on the market that have biometric scanning devices installed on the locking mechanism. These are programmed to read a finger or thumb print, which makes them potentially more secure than other types of locking mechanisms.
“Mini” gun safes are an option for those who need quick-access to one of their smaller guns, or for those who own just one single gun for home defense. These types of safes typically cost between $150 and $300 depending on the type of locking mechanism and level of security (the ones that have Biometric scanners will typically cost more). They are typically large enough to hold one full-sized pistol such as a Ruger GP100, Springfield XD9 or Glock 21. The advantage of this type of safe is that it is cheaper than a larger safe but still helps keep one gun out of the wrong hands. These safes are available in models that sit on a flat surface and also in models that can be mounted on or recessed into a wall.
If you purchase a safe for your home, you should choose the location for it very carefully. You may not want to have it out in the open, as this will advertise to all who see it that there is a gun inside; this may encourage break-ins, as thieves prefer to steal things that are easily re-sold such as guns and electronic equipment. You should locate your gun safe in the room or area where you are most likely to be during a break-in, or in the room or area where you are most likely to go to first when something bad happens. For example, if there is a central hallway away from exterior doors that you will most likely walk down if you hear a noise in the middle of the night, that may be a good place to mount a recessed mini wall safe (you can also mount this type of safe in a wall, then hang a picture in front of it if you do not want people to be aware of it). Check with your local law enforcement office and find out what types of break-ins typically happen in your community. Especially ask questions about what time of day break-ins occur. You may be surprised to find in many cases that break-ins frequently happen during the day rather than in the middle of the night. That information, combined with your knowledge of what times of day you are normally in your home, will have an impact on where you decide to place a quick-access safe. If most break-ins in your area happen at night, mounting a mini quick-access safe on your bedside table could be a good idea. If you expect that someone might try to break in while you are at work in your home office where you spend most of your day, then you should probably keep the safe in that location.
For an additional level of security, most safes have the ability to be bolted down to either a floor or a wall so that they cannot be easily stolen or moved. This is especially important when considering the purchase of a “Mini” gun safe. Since a “Mini” safe could be easily carried away to another location and then broken open, it is important to bolt these types of safes securely to a table, wall, or inside a drawer so that they cannot be stolen or moved as easily.
Another option for security is to secure your guns within a locked closet or room. Closet doors and interior-room doors within a home are typically flimsy double-wall hollow construction and will not hold up to much abuse. If someone wants to get through one of those doors, they will do so without much trouble. However, you can replace a closet door or room door with a strong, solid wood or metal door to make it harder to break in. If this door is then equipped with an electronic push-button combination deadbolt lock (these cost between $100 and $200 and can be purchased from Lowe’s or Home Depot), then you have just made yourself a built-in safe. The advantage to this technique is that if you have a lot of guns and also have a downstairs basement room that has concrete walls, you can save some money by converting a spare room to a secure “Gun Room” rather than spending $5,000 to $10,000 on multiple gun safes. The disadvantage to this technique is that you will spend about as much money on a new door and door lock as you would spend on a safe that would hold a few dozen guns, so you really would need to have a lot of guns for this to make sense financially. There is another consideration – You MUST NOT secure the closet or room door with a keyed lock (keys can be misplaced or left unsecured) and you cannot consider going this route without installing a heavy-duty exterior-style door or commercial-grade steel door. You should not consider doing this to any rooms with windows.
You may also see or hear of gun racks that can be locked or gun racks that have provisions for securing guns by attaching them with cable locks. These types of gun racks are the least secure solution other than leaving a gun lying around out in the open. They can easily be removed from walls unless they have been bolted directly into wall studs. Many of these racks are made from wood, which is easy to break or cut through. Most do not prevent a gun from being loaded or fired even when it is locked into the rack. There may be some people who feel that this is a secure enough solution for their particular situation, but in general it is not safe to store guns in a rack, even one that can be locked.
Remember that when looking at different solutions, you will typically get what you pay for – this is especially true when shopping for secure gun storage. The least expensive gun safe is also going to be smaller, weaker and easier to break into, and will offer the lowest level of protection from fire damage. Choosing a good brand name is also important, because you want to purchase a quality unit that is not going to malfunction or fail. Some examples of good quality manufacturers are (not in any particular order, and this is not all-inclusive): Sentry, Remington, American Security, Liberty, Patriot Safes, Stack-On, Winchester, Browning, and Barska. Some safe manufacturers will offer better versions of particular sizes or models than other manufacturers, and some companies may offer certain features while others do not. For example, at the time of this article’s writing, companies such as Remington, Browning and American Security are more focused on making larger safes with electronic keypad combination code access, while companies such as Barska offer products that are smaller (holding one to three pistols) and are equipped with Biometric fingerprint scanner access control.
Hopefully this information will help you make an informed decision about how and where to store guns in your home. Remember to talk with all family members about the importance of gun safety and educate them on basic concepts. Everyone should always treat every gun as if it were loaded and keep the gun pointed in a safe direction; never point a gun at any person or anything you do not want to shoot; keep your finger off the trigger; and always keep and store guns unloaded and away from ammunition if possible. Establish with all family members a procedure for what to do if they find a gun that is not locked up securely, or if they notice that a gun safe is not completely shut and locked. Normally the best steps to follow are to leave the area immediately and notify a parent or adult right away so that they can take care of the issue.