Gun Storage Advice Misses Key Reasons Why People Have Guns

Glock Model 21" by Michael @ NW Lens is marked with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED.

Gun storage is an important topic. I’m a believer in storing your firearms securely, though I oppose any law seeking to mandate such a thing.

I see proper storage of firearms as key in reducing both gun thefts and suicides, particularly suicides by those other than the gun owner.


Suicides are an issue. A big one, and it’s a key reason why we’re seeing a lot of kids die by gunshot–so-called gun deaths, as the media likes to frame them. As such, no one should be surprised to see the media talk about them.

A piece at the Chicago Sun-Times argues that we have the tools to deal with this.

Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among U.S. children and teens following a huge, decade-long rise.

Analyses published on Oct. 5 by a research team in Boston found an 87% increase in firearm-involved fatalities among Americans under the age of 18 from 2011 to 2021.

Such an increase is obviously very concerning. But as scholars of adolescent health and firearm violence, we know there are many evidence-based steps that elected officials, health care professionals, community leaders, school administrators and parents can implement to help reverse this trend.

Reducing young people’s access to unsecured and loaded firearms can prevent firearm-involved deaths across all intents — including suicide, homicide and unintentional shootings.

Gun-owning parents can help by storing all firearms in a secure manner — such as in a locked gun safe or with a trigger or cable lock— and unloaded, so they are not accessible to children or teens within the household.

Data shows that only one-third of firearm-owning households with teens in the U.S. currently store all their firearms unloaded and locked.

In addition, parents should consider storing a firearm away from the home, such as in a gun shop or shooting range, or temporarily transferring ownership to a family member if they have a teen experiencing a mental health crisis.


Now, there’s more here and much of it isn’t terrible from a standpoint of addressing teenage suicide. However, these bits here are troubling to me.

First, this fixation on firearms being both locked and unloaded is a big issue.

People buy guns for self-defense. Not everyone, but that’s one of the big reasons why they get them. Many are more than willing to store them either unloaded or unlocked, but doing both might well result in the gun not being useful during a home invasion.

Basically, if I’m not going to carry on an empty chamber–and I happen to think you’re dumb if you do–because I won’t have the chance to rack the slide during a violent encounter, then just how do you think I’m going to be OK with all that plus having to unlock the gun?

Locking a loaded firearm should be perfectly acceptable, particularly if you don’t leave the combination or key around willy-nilly. Someone interested in taking their own life isn’t going to be able to fire what they can’t access no matter how loaded it is.

It should be noted that the study cited for those numbers doesn’t seem to tally how many households have loaded weapons secured, just for the record. That’s because they defined “safe” gun storage as unloaded and locked up and weren’t really looking for the percentages of people who secure their weapons in various ways.


Yet that’s an important number as well and yes, that actually is safe gun storage.

Then we have the suggestion of storing firearms off the premises when one’s child is having a mental health issue.

I’ll be honest, it’s not a terrible idea. It’s also problematic in many states due to universal background check laws. If I live in a universal background state and my kid is expressing suicidal thoughts at 9 p.m., I can’t lawfully hand my guns over to my friend for storage until a gun store opens in the morning. That might be too late.

Yet it should be remembered that if one has a gun for self-defense, you’re advocating for them to ignore that reason for another, even as many teens do a pretty good job of hiding how they’re doing from their parents. Still, many parents are willing to go that route for their kids, figuring that the risk of their child taking their own life is greater than that of a home invasion, but the author would still do well to at least acknowledge the issues here instead of acting like they don’t exist.

And that’s really the big problem here. Too few of these advocates even try to balance the reason people bought guns with the ideas and suggestions for reducing suicides. They push gun storage solutions that are untenable for people who are looking at self-defense needs, essentially presenting things as an either/or situation rather than acknowledging that some gun storage solutions are going to work just fine, even if they’re less than perfect.


Gun storage is a good idea, but don’t push it when you don’t understand people’s needs in the first place.

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