Safe Gun Storage Can Prevent Tragic Accidents

Posted on Jul 21 2010 - 10:46pm by Holly Robinson

About ten days ago, a nine-year-old Los Angeles boy, looking for something to do, rummaged through a closet in his home. He found something he thought would be fun to play with — a gun. The gun was loaded, and the boy wound up accidentally shooting and killing his two-year-old brother. According to a National Rifle Association brochure on gun safety, around half of all U.S. households contain at least one gun. Guns, whether loaded or unloaded, do not belong within the reach of children. Ammunition, likewise, should be stored out of reach. Children can be quite creative about finding ways to get items that have been stored on high shelves or locked drawers thought to be out of their reach. Consequently, the safest place to store a firearm, whether it is a hand gun, a shotgun, or a hunting gun, is outside the home, in a locked, secure facility. Tragic gun accidents illustrate one of the best uses of self storage — to keep dangerous items out of the hands of children.

Whether you own hunting rifles or simply enjoy shooting at targets on a range, there is no need to keep guns in the home. A California Department of Justice publication on firearm safety, for example, recommends storing guns that are not going to be used for self defense in a secure location away from the home. Most self storage facilities offer 24 hours a day, seven days a week access to units. Most importantly, self storage facilities are extremely secure, offering locked gates and doors that can only be accessed by the unit owner, using an individual code. Some facilities even offer biometric technology — a facility that only allows people with certain fingerprints to enter may be a good choice for parents who are worried that teenagers might copy their keys or memorize their storage unit access codes.

If you own guns, the National Rifle Association advises that you take a class in how to handle them safely. But even if all the members of a household know how to handle guns safely, that does not make it safe to store guns in your home in a location that is accessible to children — at some point, you may entertain visiting children or teens who are not members of your household and who do not know how to handle guns safely. A child or teen who knows how to handle a gun may be tempted to show off that knowledge to a visiting friend — don’t take that chance.

In some localities, storing guns safely is more than an ethical responsibility, it is the law. If you own a gun, be sure that you find out the laws regarding gun storage in your area. In California, for example, you may be found guilty of a crime if you keep a loaded firearm in your home and a child under the age of 18 finds and uses it to cause an injury or death, unless you kept the firearm under lock and key. You can also be charged with a crime if a child obtains your weapon and carries it to a public place, even if no harm is done. Laws regarding storing firearms in self storage vary. Your self storage manager can advise you regarding your local facility’s policy on gun storage and any pertinent laws. 

When you store your gun, whether you use a locked gun safe at home or a locked self storage unit, follow the following guidelines:

  • Unload the gun before storing it. You should never store a loaded gun.
  • Store ammunition for a gun in a locked location that is separate from the location where the gun is stored.
  • If you store your gun or ammunition in a gun safe, use one that has been approved by your state Department of Justice for gun storage. Many gun safety organizations recommend that you not only lock the gun inside a secure storage device, but also install a safety locking mechanism on the gun itself. Do not allow the presence of a safety lock on a gun, or your belief that the gun is not loaded (even if you just unloaded it yourself) to give you a false sense of security, however. Even an unloaded gun with the safety lock on should not be handed to a child who does not know how to handle a gun, or left where a child could access it.
  • Never store a gun in a visible location.
  • Do not store a gun in a bedside table, under your mattress or pillow, or on a closet shelf.
  • Do not store a gun among other valuables such as jewelry, unless it is locked in a secure container.

Sources used:

Adams, John. “Toddler killed by brother in tragic gun accident.” NBC Los Angeles. July 11, 2010.

“Boy kills 2-year-old brother in what police call an accidental shooting.” The Los Angeles Times blog. July 10, 2010.

California Office of the Attorney General. “Tips for gun owners.”

Mason, Edward. “SJC upholds law requiring safe gun storage.” The Boston Herald. March 11, 2010.

National Rifle Association. “Parents’ guide to gun safety.”