A few days after Christmas we had some neighbors over to catch up a bit. In the beginning of the evening we talked about all kinds of things; one of these was my new Springfield Champion .45 ACP. When I mentioned my newest acquisition, my neighbor Gary said, "Oh, I would like to see that."
After I retrieved it, I gave it a quick safety check then dropped the empty magazine and racked the slide open. At this point my neighbor quickly commented to his wife, "Tammy, see how he did that." This was in response to my safe handling of the firearm. As a 1911 style semi-auto, this empty and locked open slide quickly transferred the message that the firearm was safe to handle, and as an experienced gun owner himself he verified my work before handling the gun himself.
I learned to shoot and to handle firearms safely as a teenager. My father was a police officer and also competed on the police force's pistol team. I can remember always having guns around the house. My brothers and I were all taught the safety fundamentals at an early age. I still feel that education is the best tool for keeping weapons safe.
Households that have very young children, however, need to take additional firearm storage measures, as curiosity often trumps learning and common sense. The fact that we got to handle and shoot them, removed a lot of the mystery that guns hold for those whom are less familiar or curious. Like my father before me, I have begun to introduce my two daughters to safe handling and shooting as well. It is a process and occurs with highly supervised and measured steps.
Cabinets, Safes and Locks
One way to ensure that firearms are safe is to lock them away in safes, or lockable cabinets, or install locking devices on the guns themselves. These are the preferred methods for those who have small children in the home, or the potential to have children visit.
Another equally effective way to prevent accidental discharge is to lock away the all the ammunition. (It is very clear that both the gun and ammo are needed to be able to fire.)
One common concern with people who keep guns for home security is the availability and speedy access if needed. I recently saw an advertisement about firearms and home protection that caught my eye. The ad's copy read. "When seconds count, help is only minutes away." This reality is all too true in many urban areas where police or rescue personnel cover dense populations, or in more remote locations were considerable distances are involved. Your 911 call may not be as fast as you hope, and your safety may rely on your own skills and preparations. In cases where a home intruder may be present, or a marauding wild beast, ready access and usability may outweigh more secure firearm storage. There are a number of firearm storage configurations that can provide both. Some are even designed with "bio-metric" systems that can read fingerprints. With these types of firearm storage units, the need to remember a locking code in a high stress environment is eliminated.
Burglar-Proof Firearm Storage
Defending a home is only possible if you are there, though it may be a frightening experience. Preventing the theft of firearms in an empty home is another reason to own a gun safe. Guns can be expensive things and some folks' collections can be quite extensive. I'm just getting started and my collection pales in comparison to one of my neighbors'. They have two gun safes that are each bigger than my decent sized refrigerator. Keeping your firearms protected in a burglar-proof location, like a large gun safe, which can be to big to carry or is firmly bolted in place, can offer peace of mind. Many of these firearm storage safes also provide some degree of fire protection.
Unlike a basic cabinet which may have a lock to keep children out, a true gun safe offers far more security. When I was growing up, my father (a skilled but amateur remodeler in Detroit) constructed a secret room in our basement to house his collection. Any potential burglar would have had a hard time finding it. A 500 pound gun safe may yell, "This home has guns," but the chance of a burglar actually moving it, or getting in, is pretty impossible.
My new Springfield uses the "ILS" Integrated Locking System, and a basic cable lock secures my wheel guns. Now that my collection is starting to grow, I need to find a permanent firearm storage unit for them....though they will still come out to play as needed.