Safe Storage is Key

This article discusses a recent court case regarding a mass shooting at a high school and firearms in relation to self-harm. Content warnings apply.

Safe Storage is Key
The keypad and knob to a safe. Title that reads "Safe Storage is Key"

This article discusses a recent court case regarding a mass shooting at a high school and firearms in relation to self-harm. Content warnings apply.

In light of a recent court case addressing a tragic school shooting incident, we wanted to write an article that focuses on the importance of secure firearm storage, highlighting both the legal and moral obligations that firearm owners bear.

On February 6th, Jennifer Crumbley was found guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in a watershed legal case after her teenage son took an improperly stored firearm that his parents gifted him to school and murdered four classmates.1 She faces up to 15 years in prison. Throughout her trial, it has become clear that those deaths could have been prevented with proper safe firearm storage.

We have a legal duty to keep firearms out of the hands of unauthorized users and we also have an ethical and moral duty as well. Whether it's to keep a handgun away from a child that isn't old enough to understand proper gun safety or to keep a sporting shotgun secure from a room mate or romantic partner in crisis, all firearms must be locked up, secured, and kept unloaded when not in use.

The term “not in use” requires clarification. A hunting rifle used infrequently should be stored unloaded in a gun safe. Similarly, firearms only utilized at the gun range, such as a Ruger 10/22 or .357 revolver, should be kept unloaded and locked up when not in use.

Your home defense carbine or shotgun is 'in use' if staged for home defense and should preferably be kept 'cruiser ready' – meaning a magazine is loaded in the gun or the magazine tube of the shotgun is loaded with shells – with an empty chamber and the gun is secured in a quick access lock box or safe. You can use snap caps or dummy rounds to practice quickly accessing the firearm and loading a round after ensuring the firearm is clear of live ammunition.

A concealed pistol carried in a holster on the body is 'in use' when it's being worn and should be secured when no longer 'in use' in a gun safe or quick access safe. This would preferably be a safe or lock box that can accommodate the pistol being stored while still holstered in order to minimize administrative handling where most negligent discharges occur. In this manner, the pistol can go on the body and be removed from the body while remaining in the holster.

If a larger gun safe or finger-print activated quick access safe are out of your budget, a locking tool box, storage locker or small night stand safe with a security cable can often be had for a fraction of the cost at a local hardware store. However, not all lock boxes or gun safes are created equal and you should do your research before making a purchase. Also, make sure to measure your long gun or handgun (including any pistol optics while in the holster) to compare with the manufacturer's specifications. A locker for long guns or a small document safe for a handgun can also delay the impulse to commit suicide.

Keeping firearms secured also gives us an additional barrier in suicide prevention – 54% of firearms related deaths are suicides.2 Walk the Talk America, a non-profit founded to “bridge the gap between mental health and responsible gun ownership,”3 has an ongoing #CauseAPause campaign designed to encourage firearms owners to keep their guns securely locked up and even going as far to keep pictures of loved ones or mementos from better times stored nearby to disrupt the impulse to commit suicide.

In that same spirit, safe storage is also knowing when to get guns out of the home when “Causing a Pause” might not be enough. Even in states with draconian transfer laws mandating a FFL transfer, non-serialized parts can be given to a friend or comrade for safe keeping when in crisis. The pistol barrel from a handgun or the bolt carrier group in an AR-15 can easily be given to someone else for temporary storage if it's impractical or unlawful to have them hold onto an entire firearm.

While it's easily overlooked, safe firearms storage – both in keeping unauthorized users from accessing them and in suicide prevention – is key.

We keep us safe.