Light Over Heat #8: What is Safe Storage of Firearms?

As with gun safety, safe storage of firearms is something that people on all sides of the Great Gun Debates in America agree is important. But the way some gun violence prevention organizations, like Brady United Against Gun Violence in the “End Family Fire” initiative, define “safe storage” is not acceptable to many responsible gun owners.

A recent editorial in the American Journal of Public Health included gun educator Rob Pincus and the definition it proposes is more adequate to the reality of how responsible gun owners want to store (and stage) their firearms at home.

As I discuss in this week’s Episode 8 of “Light Over Heat,” the sort of dialogue and collaboration that yielded this editorial may be a good path to promoting light over heat on the issue of guns.

Background to this week’s episode is that I appeared on the Red, Blue and Brady podcast last summer to talk about new gun owners and Gun Culture 2.0 and the hosts were very professional. One of the hosts, J.J. Janflone, said if I was ever in DC I should come by the Brady offices, so when I was there in January I took her up on her offer.

I had a very interesting and productive conversation with several Brady staff, in particular about the “End Family Fire” initiative and the issue of safe storage of firearms. They define “family fire” as “a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun in the home that results in death or injury.

Although we disagree about the correct definition of safe storage, the goal of reducing “family fire” via safe storage is something many can agree on. And that’s a start.

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  1. Nice job, David. I downloaded the AJPH paper and sent it to a couple of legislators I worked with along with, of course, your lecture here. As a lifelong gun nut and member of my shooting club’s board, I say mahalo nui loa!

    When trouble is brewing, seconds, or even fractions thereof, count. I just finished my Intermediate Handgun Skills Workshop on Saturday. In one drill, I averaged 1.8 seconds from a casual, hands at side posture to putting two rounds on target. Unfortunately, that’s the best this 68 year old could do.

    For someone who keeps a firearm in the home for self defense, seconds count and the longer it takes to stage a firearm the less time one has to evaluate and counter the threat. Thus, more mistakes can be made. I agree with David and others that keeping a firearm locked, unloaded and ammo separately means critical seconds or minutes may be lost when that time is not available. So a storage device that keeps a firearm staged but secure (I think Rob may have said this in a Youtube recently) makes sense. A lockbox with a biometric lock or electronic punch key system works pretty darn fast.


    • Thanks for your interest and input, as always, Khal. I regret to say I am not familiar with the specifics of the NM safe storage legislation. Was it along the lines of stored unloaded with ammo separate, or something else? If the latter, what were the major objections? (Sorry if you’ve already told me this in separate communications.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I sent you comments last week. If I have the bill, I can email it to you. It boiled down to minors having firearms access. Some of the urban legislators wanted minors never to have firearm access unless supervised. Rural folks reminded them that the hunting age, after hunter safety class, is early teens and the intent, if not the actual language, was counter to existing law and practice.


  2. “a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun in the home that results in death or injury.“

    Just like the gun grabbers to conflate two wildly different issues and blame a single cause. What’s wild is how fractally wrong this actually is.

    The two main issues mixed into “family fire” are “unintentional death or injury” and “intentional death or injury. But like Billy Mays says, “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!”

    Unintentional injury or death can be kids getting ahold of dad’s gun and hurting themselves or others. Or it can be dad messing around with his own gun and hurting himself or others. Only the first could be reduced by safe storage.

    Intentional injury or death is either suicide or homicide. Homicide in this sense would be domestic violence. Unless the suicide or DV is by an unauthorized user of the firearm, which is actually very rare, safe storage is worthless. Suicide is a white, male, over 30 problem. Half of all suicides from all causes are white males over 30. The suicide rates for teens is miniscule by comparison. Suicide by gun even less common. Homicide in the home is correlated with other criminal behavior. The gun grabbers like to point out that people who commit domestic violence will commit other crimes. I think they’ve got it exactly backwards. Criminals who victimize others will likely victimize their families as well. Again, “safe storage” is absolutely worthless in addressing these issues.

    Whenever someone proposes an action that clearly does not remedy the stated harm it’s fair to ask what they are actually attempting. Basically, “stupid or liar?” Are they stupid and think that their remedy will work? Or are they lying and have ulterior motives.

    Safes and gun storage devices are expensive, unwieldy, and make it hard to access and use firearms in an emergency. Those who have little money can easily be priced out of the self defense market by forcing them to purchase yet one more piece of “required” equipment. By making it some sort of “standard” that all guns are locked up in a safe, they’re setting the stage for it to become a legal requirement, if not an actual statutory law requiring it as California has done, then at least in liability law where gun ownership joins transportation of explosives as a strict liability.

    I’m convinced that the gun grabbers are trying to set up the legal situation such that if you own a gun you’re legally liable for anything that happens with that gun no matter the intervening actions of others. Strict liability means that if someone steals your gun, you are liable for the crimes he commits. Never mind that the person committed a crime, both in stealing the gun and by using it illegally, you’re still on the hook financially.

    Hey, you have the RIGHT to own a gun. But you’d better be rich enough to pay for a bunker to put it in and a lawyer if anyone still manages to steal it and hurt themselves or others.


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