Storing Firearms in the Home

Americans have the Constitutional right to own guns, but they also have the responsibility to store those guns safely and out of children's reach.

The decision to keep a firearm in the home is very serious and one that must not be made lightly. If you choose to keep a gun, you must become fully informed about the risks of firearms to your family and others who visit your home.

The way a gun is stored can be a matter of life and death for our children. Tragedies frequently occur involving unlocked firearms easily accessible to young people, either at their own homes or the home of a relative or neighbor. These tragedies might never have happened if the adults in these situations had unloaded and locked their firearms and ammunition so the children could not have such easy access to them.

About 20 states have enacted laws that mandate the safe storage of firearms and place the responsibility on the owner. They also provide for criminal and civil penalties against those who fail to do so.

A gun put in a shoe box on the top shelf of a closet is not considered safely stored. Neither is a gun placed under the mattress or somewhere else where your child "would never look for it." Children are naturally curious, and if a gun is not stored properly, there is a good chance that a child may find it and injure himself or someone else.

If you own a firearm, follow these rules:

* First and foremost, unload your gun. Make sure there isn't a single bullet left in or near the gun.
* Keep ammunition locked up in a safe or lock box. Keep the key with you, or the combination memorized.
* Store guns in a securely locked case, out of children's reach.
* Always use trigger locks or other childproof devices. Make revolvers childproof by attaching a padlock so that the cylinder cannot be locked into place.

In addition to storing the gun in a secure place, locking the weapon itself is a smart precaution. There are various types of gun locks available today:

* Trigger Lock. A 2-piece lock that clamps on either side of the trigger. When in place, it is not possible to pull the trigger back far enough to fire the gun.
* Barrel Lock. Loops a high-strength steel cable and a blocking piece of metal through the barrel of the gun.
* Smart Guns. Research is ongoing to develop guns that will only respond to the owner's identity, which is programmed through a thumb print or specially encoded rings.

Education is another important component of gun safety. All gun owners -- particularly new ones -- should take a firearm safety course to learn the safe and correct way to use your firearm.

Above all, be sure to emphasize to children that guns are not toys and should never be played with.

-- Kenneth Krause

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