How safe are your guns?
How safe do they need to be?
Currently, there are more guns in personal possession in the U.S. than there are people. That’s a lot of firepower. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
- Less than half of all households claim to own any firearms at all – that means that more gun owners certainly have multiple weapons within their homes
- 54% of those owners report that they do not take measures to store all of their guns safely
- 20% of those households have small children in the home
- 10% of owners indicate that they keep all of their weapons unlocked and loaded
For most people, the concept of gun safety really isn’t an issue. You’re not high-risk, you take care of your firearms and take reasonable steps to make sure that they’re secure after use. That’s probably why government intervention hasn’t really been all that necessary up to now. Federal regulations don’t add up to much and only about a dozen States have any rules regarding gun safety. Some jurisdictions also have local ordnances, but even then they’re hard to enforce.
Most of the current laws are concerned with the safe import, sale and transport of weapons by manufacturers or dealers. That makes sense. This doesn’t apply to private sellers though. Some areas require a locking device to be sold WITH the gun and then it gets more specific with others to where your guns have to be secured if they’re not actually in your physical possession. There currently aren’t any Federal laws in-place for the types or standards that locking devices have to comply to.
There’s also a gray area with regard to the 2nd Amendment and gun safety that has been challenged in court in several jurisdictions. The challenges center around the transport of weapons by individuals and where they can be used. So far there hasn’t been any significant changes enacted through these legal channels.
So why lock up your guns?
The reasons for gun storage safety are pretty straightforward and cover several different approaches – the safety of those within your home being the most important. If you have young kids or someone with addiction or mental health issues living with you, then having loaded weapons within reach may not be the best plan. Relying on the ‘Don’t Touch’ method can be risky. Properly securing guns and ammo is the #1 preventative measure for minimizing the chances of household injuries and fatalities.
Gun theft is also a big issue, as hundreds of thousands of weapons are stolen each year and make their way onto the streets. Police indicate that many of these guns end up being used in crimes including assaults, robberies and homicides.
The justification for NOT securing guns will obviously vary amongst owners. Since home defense overwhelmingly comes in as the #1 reason people own guns in the first place – that becomes a sticking point. If I have a weapon for protection, how good is it to me if it’s locked away? That’s true, but how quickly do you REALLY need to access your weapon and how often does it come up? Does it warrant leaving a locked handgun in a bedside table, a purse or the glove box of your truck? (it might)
By way of anecdote, I’ve got a close friend that had a break-in at his home a few years ago (the family wasn’t there) and it made them really paranoid, which is understandable. He purchased a handgun after that, but the problem is that he has small children in the house. Not wanting to take a chance, he installed a digital safe in a closet for the bare weapon and put spare ammo and full magazines in a lockbox close-by. He also went so far as to drill himself on how quickly he could be retrieve and load if necessary. Without overly rushing, he found that he could easily be ready-to-roll in about a minute. To his way of thinking, it wasn’t the Wild West and he could still benefit from the gun ownership along with the piece-of-mind that the safety precautions provided. Win-win all around.
Following home protection as the main reason for ownership comes hunting, sport shooting, collecting and then a variety of others including those that are work-related. Each one of these uses has different needs when it comes to potential transport or home storage. Hunters and sport shooters need to be more mobile so they’ll likely go with a lockable range backpack (not ideal for home storage) while a collector may want to display his or her gear. Even if potential theft or simply avoiding damage to your guns was your biggest motivation, you have to take steps to protect them somehow.
Luckily, there are a ton of products on the market that can fit almost every need. From simple trigger and cable locks, to a whole variety of cases, cabinets and safes, you’d be hard-pressed not to find the right solution.
That does bring us to the owners that keep their guns easily accessible and/or loaded all the time. Surveys show that (aside from home defense) the reasons indicated range from ‘It’s inconvenient to lock them up’ to ‘I forgot’, ‘ It’s no big deal’ or ‘They’re my guns and no one is going to tell me what to do with them’.
Every gun ownership and usage scenario is different and it’s really up to individuals to determine what’s right for them. No one wants to see someone in their home get hurt and no one would want to lose their guns through theft. That would be the baseline for most people. Beyond that, it’s all situational.
Luckily, we still have the freedom to choose in most parts of the country.
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“Less than half of all households claim to own any firearms at all – that means that more gun owners certainly have multiple weapons within their homes” – and I’m sure that no self-respecting gun owner, trusting our government as they do, would ever lie about having (or in the case – NOT having) a gun or guns in their house.
Stephen Littlechild says
Good point. Certainly can’t rely 100% on published stats.