As the holiday season continues and homes begin to fill with family and friends, it’s important to keep our homes safe — and that includes practicing safe firearm storage to prevent family fire.
With so many changes and additional precautions to stay healthy this year, there's one thing we can’t forget when it comes to our safety: ensuring we and our loved ones store guns safely and securely! That's how we can help end "family fire," which is a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun from the home. Unintentional shootings, suicide, and intentional shootings are all forms of family fire. These tragedies can be prevented by a clear solution: safe firearm storage.
Family fire is a major contributor to America's gun violence epidemic:
- Every day, eight children and teens are unintentionally injured or killed as a result of family fire.
- A 2021 study of child access to firearms found that 33% of gun-owning parents who thought their child could not access a household firearm had a child who reported they could.
- Every day, 65 Americans — including 17 veterans — die from firearm suicide. Among youth, 3 out of 4 gun suicides involve a gun that was stored loaded and unlocked.
- 76% of school shootings are facilitated by kids having access to unsecured and/or unsupervised guns at home.
Research proves safe firearm storage prevents family fire tragedies:
- If just 50% of households with children switched from keeping their guns unlocked to storing all firearms locked, more than 200 youth suicides and unintentional deaths could be prevented each year.
- Studies suggest that storing firearms locked and unloaded can be an effective measure to prevent impulsive suicidal acts.
- Gun owners who keep their firearms locked up or unloaded are at least 60% less likely to die from gun suicide than gun owners who store their firearms unlocked and/or loaded.
1. Always practice safe storage, especially with kids at home and guests in town
Now and always, store your guns unloaded, locked, separately from ammunition, and inaccessible to children and other at-risk individuals.
Holidays tend to bring more children into the home, and we all know kids are naturally curious — especially when it comes to things that they have been told not to handle. (In fact, it’s likely that young kids are already searching the top shelves of closets for any hidden gifts.) The fact is kids find everything — and that includes firearms we thought we'd "hidden."
Parents who don’t personally own firearms should still have conversations with their children about what to do if they come across a gun in the home of a friend or family member. And although teaching children about gun safety has value, parents cannot rely on safety training alone if they want to ensure that their kids do not handle guns unsupervised. The practices of keeping your firearm unloaded and locked are associated with significantly decreased risks of family fire.
It’s also important to consider that access to guns increases the odds of a fatal suicide attempt. Most of the guns used in suicides come from the victim’s or a family member’s home. When someone is in crisis, having barriers in place that delays access to a lethal method can prevent a person from ending their life. Firearms are a highly lethal method, meaning that the odds of survival are very low. This is why the risk of suicide is three times greater for someone living in a house with loaded firearms than among those in homes with unloaded firearms.
If you have aging family members, the Alzheimer's Association has resources — such as their Home Safety Checklist and a Firearm Safety One-Pager — that offer helpful suggestions for anyone preparing to have a conversation about firearm storage options.
2. Find the best safe storage solutions for you and your home
From gun locks to safes, there’s a range of effective solutions best suited for both gun and home.
Find what firearm storage choices are best for you and your needs! Trigger locks and cable locks prevent a firearm from being fired until the device is unlocked and removed from the firearm. Lock boxes, carrying cases, and safes can help protect firearms from damage. Some safes offer biometric technology, which only recognizes and opens with your unique fingerprint. Biometric technology also allows for quick access. If you're traveling by air, the Transportation Security Administration has specific firearm guidelines for transporting guns and ammunition through airports and on commercial aircraft.
"Before getting married, I used to keep a gun in the nightstand, in the kitchen drawer, and even one underneath my couch. With kids in the house, it’s different. You never know what a kid might want to show off to their friends, which is why I knew I needed a safe. Not only to keep my kid safe, but also to keep my husband, guests at our house, and myself safe."— Shavon "Shay" DeBarr, retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant
#ServiceNeverStops for many of our veterans.— EndFamilyFire (@EndFamilyFire) November 4, 2021
Listen to retired Marine Shay DeBarr explain why she stores her guns securely in her home.
Learn more about #safestorage practices at https://t.co/UDf0QV6XwZ. pic.twitter.com/xgUBmeRa8I
Here are more tips on what to take into consideration when exploring safe storage options, and this helpful resource by our friends at Bullet Points Project describes various examples of safe storage devices for semi-automatic pistols or a typical handgun. Learn more about safe firearm storage options.
3. Don’t be afraid to remind your loved ones to practice safe storage as well
Check in with one another and ask "is there an unlocked gun in your home?" to help normalize the question.
Given the record number of guns sold in the U.S. this year, it is more important than ever to talk to friends and family members about gun safety. These conversations have the power to prevent incidents of family fire and save lives. Don’t hesitate to have tough conversations about access to unlocked and/or loaded guns in the home, especially if you think that someone is at risk of harming themselves.
And remember, while conversations around gun safety can sometimes take a political and divisive turn, they don’t have to! Consider beginning the conversation by asking your loved ones what storage methods they practice. Read about how one hunter, farmer, and father approaches this conversation to ensure that others in his community are aware of family fire and the importance of safe gun storage.
Knowing that all the firearms in the house are stored safely will ease your mind, allowing you and your family to sit back and enjoy the holiday season whether spending it together or apart this year.
3. Explore off-site safe storage options
Gun owners can temporarily store the firearm outside the home, which is a great option to allow the gun owner to keep control while also responsibly managing the risk.
As the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center explains, off-site storage is useful in scenarios like if a member of the household is feeling suicidal, there is domestic tension, children are visiting, or the home is being listed for sale or being rented. One survey showed that more than 90% of law enforcement officials recommend not having a gun in the home when someone is in crisis.
Safe firearm storage sites often include gun shops and law enforcement agencies. Some shooting ranges will allow you to keep your gun at the range for a fee. Call your local shooting range and ask if this is an option. If you no longer want a gun in the home, contact local law enforcement to learn how to legally and safely dispose of your unwanted weapon.
And conveniently, many states have created resources and maps that identify locations for off-site safe storage to help residents find legal, temporary storage for their firearms outside their homes. You can use these resources for Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Washington, and Wisconsin or research options in your state.
4. Continue the conversation about safe firearm storage after the holidays
Don't just ask about safe storage today. Ask tomorrow, too. And the next day!
Families grow and circumstances will continue to change, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions of our schedules and routines. Ensuring safe storage and keeping our homes and families safe is a constant check-in process. Having regular conversations about gun safety with those close to you reduces the chance of family fire incidents.