Responsible citizens who own firearms understand that this decision comes with the enormous responsibility of knowing that this chunk of metal and springs can cause serious injury, if not death, to living things. Some people own firearms to harvest animals for food. Some people own firearms to defend themselves from others who intend to harm them. Some people own firearms for sport and recreation. Regardless of why people own firearms, guns absolutely MUST be safely secured from the underaged, the uniformed, and the unlawful (minors, people who do not know how to safely operate firearms, and criminals). This article is aimed at protecting our children – all our children – yet the same techniques can also be used to secure firearms from other unauthorized access.
In Texas, the law is basically stated, “It is unlawful to store, transport, or abandon an unsecured firearm in a place where children are likely to be and can obtain access to the firearm.” Children in possession of firearms have either been given one or been given access to one, knowingly or not, by an adult or have procured them illegally. No child should be allowed unsupervised access to any gun.
Where Do Kids in School Shootings Get Their Guns?
Two-thirds of students who used guns in violent acts at school got those guns from their own home or that of a relative. (United States Secret Service and Department of Education, 2004.)
- • from a shelf in the step father’s closet –Benton, KY 2018
- • from the father’s gun safe which the shooter knew the combination – Rockford, WA 2017
- • from the father’s dresser drawer after the shooter failed to obtain a rifle from the father’s gun safe – Townville, SC 2016
- • from the grandfather-figure’s house stored unloaded in a cookie tin with a box of ammunition – Lake Worth, FL 2000
- • from a shoebox in the uncle’s bedroom – Mt. Morris Township, MI 2000
- • from the grandparent’s home hanging on display on the wall after the shooters were unable to obtain rifles from a steel safe – Jonesboro, AR 1998
- • from a neighbor’s garage – West Paducah, KY 1997
If you have a gun in your household or if your child visits friends who have guns in their household (depending on the source, about 40% of American households have at least one gun) teach your child about gun safety. If you cannot do this yourself, ask your Facilitator or local range about youth programs. Enroll them in an Eddie Eagle GunSafe program. At an appropriate age based on your assessment of their maturity, let them handle a gun, shoot a gun, and learn about gun handling rules in a safe environment.
If you have guns in your household, lock them up when not physically on your body. With the exception of the gun you carry and the one you use for home self-defense, all guns should be unloaded with the firearm locked in one area and the ammunition locked in another.
Money and space should not be an excuse to not secure your gun. Many manufacturers supply locks with their firearms. Use them and keep the key with you, not hidden near the gun. Given enough time and space, children will find these hiding spots and have free access to your firearm. Many police stations also give away free locks through National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Project ChildSafe. Sporting goods stores have a variety of relatively inexpensive options for locking the mechanisms of your gun. You can purchase locks that protect the trigger from being squeezed. You can also purchase locks that prevent the firing pin from being able to contact the bullet.
If you still can’t afford these locks, take your gun apart to make it inoperable, place the parts in different labeled Ziploc bags to make reassembly easier, then store the parts and pieces in different places. If you do not know how to field strip your gun, you must learn. Clean guns are consistently reliable. Ask your local gunsmith for educational resources on this topic.
Safes come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and price points to lock up one gun or multiple guns. Wooden display cases with glass fronts, even if they can be locked, are not appropriate as security measures. Safes can be locked by a key, a combination, your fingerprint, or some other electronic access and are made from metal. They can be relatively easy to access for your home self-defense gun or a veritable Fort Knox. For individual guns, you can place a safe under your bed, in the night stand, bolted to the wall. Make sure that these smaller safes are somehow permanently attached to a heavy piece of furniture, wall or floor, so that they cannot be moved to another place where unauthorized people can then take their time to break into it.
Heavy floor or cabinet style safes should also be secured to a wall or floor so that they cannot be tipped onto a child who may be crawling on it. Keep the combinations confidential and do not write them down on a piece of paper that is hidden near the safe. Just like keys, kids will find this combination. I would recommend that you do write down all your combinations and provide this to a trusted third party or place it in a bank safe deposit box to retrieve in case of emergency.
You can also purchase safes (and individual gun locks should be on the market soon) that send messages to your cell phone every time the door has been opened. This will provide additional safety so that you can inform the police quicker in the case of unauthorized access.
The bottom line is:
- Regardless that you think your children would never touch one of your handguns without permission – “from the father’s dresser drawer” Townville, SC 2016;
- Regardless that you do not have any children in your household – “from the grandfather-figure’s house stored unloaded in a cookie tin” Lake Worth, FL 2000;
- Regardless that it may take slightly more time to get a locked gun in case of an emergency – “from the father’s gun safe which the shooter knew the combination” Rockford, WA 2017;
for your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your neighbor’s kids or any other child who may gain access to your home with or without your permission, please lock your guns securely at all times and please pass this message to others.
Sandra Kozero is an NRA certified pistol and rifle instructor, along with being an NRA Level 1 Shotgun Coach. She teaches Home Firearm Safety, Personal Protection in the Home, Refuse to Be a Victim and the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program. Sandy has been shooting with the San Antonio TX Chapter of A Girl & A Gun since 2011. She also dabbles in competitive shooting. She is not only the San Antonio Chapter Facilitator, but she also serves as an AG & AG National Regional Director.