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05 For Gun Owners With Children


This article is from the Firearms Safety & Children FAQ, by Patrick Casey (pcasey@interart.com) and John Gunshenan (jpg@bbn.com) with numerous contributions by others.

05 For Gun Owners With Children

In the home, nothing can or need be left to chance. There is no reason or
excuse for exposing children to danger from firearms in the home. Obviating
this danger by discipline and readily available safety measures is the
first responsibility of the gun owner with children. This can be done, even
if you keep or carry a loaded firearm readily available for defense. The
few terrible circumstances of children killed or injured with a parent's
gun betray unconscionable and utterly avoidable safety violations, failures
of discipline and responsibility. If you have children, and if you choose
to own firearms, you have an obligation to teach your children about gun

There are lots of approaches that don't work, such as:

-- Hide it (they'll find it)
-- Get a gun that's too hard for a child to operate (they'll use
tools or full-body leverage to operate it)
-- Get a gun with a magazine safety & keep the magazine on you
(God help you if they ever get hold of a magazine)
-- Fancy gadgets such as plastic rods, rubber bands, pinch-to-open
trigger guards, etc. On the one hand, you can still make some
things "go bang" with many of these, and most manufacturers do
not intend their products to be used on loaded firearms. On the
other, over-reliance on these devices tends to underestimate
the ability of children to find keys, use tools, etc. (see
Lyn Bates' excellent article "Keeping the Piece" below)
-- Always keep the gun on your person (and hope you never dream about
having a gun fight)

Trigger locks can be of some help. They are inexpensive, easy to install,
and provide some level of safety. They are much better than relying on
"hiding" your weapon or doing nothing at all, but don't rely on them
exclusively. You don't want to use them on loaded weapons, and most of them
don't prevent weapons from being loaded. If you rely on them exclusively,
what will happen when your child finds the key? Also bear in mind that keys
are too hard to manipulate in the dark, or under stress. But trigger locks
can be effective with small children, and in conjunction with other safety

Similarly, a lockbox or gun cabinet can be helpful; just beware of relying
on them exclusively. They can be opened by a 12-year-old using simple,
household tools (again, see "Keeping the Piece" below).

The most secure way to store firearms is no doubt a safe. Borrowing
liberally from Henry Schaffer's excellent summary "Gunsafes" (for the full
text of "Gunsafes", see the rec.guns FAQ), gun safes are made of fairly
heavy gauge steel, with special attention paid to hinges, multi-point
locking devices, pry-resistance, hard-to-defeat locks, and weight. The low
end of the safe category will weigh a few hundred pounds and will cost
perhaps $600 - $1,000 depending on how it is outfitted. The casual burglar
with a crowbar -- or an inquisitive child -- is unlikely to be able to
penetrate this type of safe. At the same time, a safe is virtually
impossible to access quickly, under stress, and in the dark.

A $600, 250+ pound safe may be pretty close to childproof, but many people
can't afford them. The next step down from safes is a "gun cabinet," with
prices starting at about $100. Again, using Henry's overview, these are
metal cabinets, built about as strongly as an office file or stationary
cabinet, with a key lock which latches the door. They can be opened with a
crowbar/prybar, or with an ordinary drill, but this type of entry would
show obvious damage. In this case you would be counting on a child's
reluctance to damage the cabinet as a deterrent. However a break-and-enter
burglar who is after the VCR, jewelry (and who probably carries a crowbar)
will not be deterred by this and will probably get the cabinet open in a
very few minutes. In this same category should be included the neighborhood
teenager-gone-bad type of criminal. Like safes, they are difficult to
access quickly, under stress, and in the dark.

Both safes and cabinets have the drawback that you can't open them in a
hurry, under stress, in the dark. Better in that respect are lockboxes.
There are several good ones on the market with fast-access, push-button,
combination locks that are reasonably child-resistant and easy to
manipulate in the dark (again, see "Keeping the Piece" below). However, in
our opinion, there is only so far you can go with "childproofing the gun."
Even better is "gunproofing your children."


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