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How can firearms be secured from children, preferably without locking them away in a full size safe where they would be completely inaccessible in an emergency?

Liberty Safe

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Seeing guns and children in the same sentence makes me shiver. I'm glad guns aren't readily available in Europe. I do admit that this is a valid question; there are policemen and similar professions everywhere. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 6 '11 at 18:36
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@torbengb in America (and many parts of the world) children will be exposed to guns eventually. I'd rather mine learn proper discipline and handling in my house rather than somewhere I have no control. –  C. Ross Apr 6 '11 at 18:42
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@nGinius - Burglars and other BGs (Bad Guys) don't generally call ahead and arrange a confrontation. Things can and do "just happen". –  HedgeMage Apr 6 '11 at 19:25
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@torbengb The reason you have that peace is because people with martial training enforce it for you. In some cultures, as I am raising my child, it is every adult's responsibility to be prepared and able to enforce the peace. It is considered irresponsible (at least) to ask others to risk their lives in your defense if you are not willing to do the same. –  HedgeMage Apr 6 '11 at 19:41
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Good idea, @torbengb. Thank you. Interesting conversation, but let's try to keep it out of comments. Chat is a more appropriate venue. –  Robert Cartaino Apr 6 '11 at 20:51

6 Answers 6

up vote 15 down vote accepted

For babies and toddlers, setting it on a high shelf should be sufficient. Also, choosing a pistol with a grip safety is a great move -- little hands simply don't have the span to hold it down properly while pulling a trigger (as opposed to "thumb safeties" which are buttons or switches easily manipulated by small hands before firing). Additionally, unlike thumb safeties, trigger locks, etc. a grip safety does not increase the time it takes to bring the firearm to bear in the emergency.

While your child is very small, it is important to teach firearm safety. In homes where this is done properly and consistently, the child(ren) in the house don't need to have guns kept away from them, because guns have no mystery any more, and the child(ren) understands the consequences of mishandling, he/she/they will have no urge to use them improperly.

Here's what we did with my (now 8yo) son:

  • From birth, my son was accustomed to tactical knives, firearms, and other weaponry as part of everyday life. When he was born, we lived on the military base where my then-husband served. I'm a practicing martial artist (and now, so is he).

  • When my son was a toddler, I made a point of leaving training knives (rubber mock-ups of my tactical knives used for sparring practice) within his reach. My son was allowed to touch them and even pick them up, but only when he handled them with all the care due real blades, something in which I instructed him regularly.

  • When my son had the rules down, I began leaving my real knives out from time to time, surreptitiously observing to be sure that they were handled properly.

  • By the time he was three years old, my son could be trusted around blades of any kind. He asked before picking up a "sharp knife" (i.e. butter knives, putty knives, etc are safe without asking), and when he did use any knife he kept the blade away from his body, cut away from people, and was careful of surfaces that could be damaged. He NEVER treated a knife like a toy.

  • At four, my son began cleaning firearms with my brother and father, learning how they work, etc. He's seen them fired (and what one can do to an angry coyote).

  • At five, my son began studying martial arts.

  • I'd like him to have begun learning marksmanship by now, however my son has hypersensitive hearing, so until we are done building an outdoor range at my parents' home, he won't have the opportunity to do so.

Responsible use of weapons (be they fists, knees, feet, knives, guns, swords, or anything else) is one of the basic values my son was raised with. It is re-enforced daily by our Sensei, by me, by my extended family, and by the other adults in my son's life. That is more powerful protection than any mechanical measure ever devised.

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So your definition of "securing a gun" is a combination of "buy one that requires more strength to fire" and "teach them well and trust their judgment?" I have a lot of respect for your excellent contributions to these systems, but even the most avid gun enthusiast would shudder at this advice. –  Robert Cartaino Apr 6 '11 at 16:40
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@Robert-Cartaino: A grip safety has nothing to do with dexterity (a thumb safety does, which is why kids can easily disable it). One needs a certain hand size and strength -- the exact size depends on the size of firearm, but even my 8yo could not fire my 1911 -- in order to disengage a grip safety and pull a trigger at the same time. It would be physically impossible for a toddler to cause this weapon to discharge. –  HedgeMage Apr 6 '11 at 17:34
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+1 When children are taught how to handle firearms and are familiar with their proper use, the curiousity that can cause accidents goes away. –  Michael Apr 7 '11 at 14:37
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@Robert Cartaino: I guess a firearm is not much different from open fire. Can a kid or any other person misuse fire and cause multiple injuries and deaths? Sure, we even had that a year ago - adults (not kids at all) misused fire at a night club and toll count exceeded one hundred people. Will you secure your kid from all possible scenarios he would encounter open fire till he turns an adult? I guess not. –  sharptooth May 11 '11 at 9:56
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+1 fantastic and reasonable answer. children have to learn to live in the real world which includes guns, knives, water, rusty nails, broken glass, cars, germs, and a host of other potentially lethal objects. –  j.rightly May 11 '11 at 15:09

Some sort of trigger lock renders the gun somewhat unusable while keeping it more "accessible" than when locked away in a safe.

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Without getting into the whole "guns in the home" safety issue, a locked gun should still be made inaccessible to children so not to teach them the mistaken belief that "that gun is okay to play with" because it is, supposedly, "safe."

The trigger lock is only a last line of safety if your child suddenly learns to scale tall shelves and navigate into hidden spaces like a gecko.

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Trigger locks drastically increase the time needed to access the firearm in an emergency. –  HedgeMage Apr 6 '11 at 16:25
    
@HedgeMage: I guess that depends in how accessible the gun safe is. The authors stated that it was "completely inaccessible." I'm only offering alternatives to consider. –  Robert Cartaino Apr 6 '11 at 16:28
    
@Robert-Cartaino: Though specific models vary, most gun safes are faster to access (especially in low light) than most trigger locks. –  HedgeMage Apr 7 '11 at 23:08

I'll let you know what the foster care regulations are for the state that I live in, then adapt them to something more usable.

In order to assure perfect safety, a firearm should be protected by several layers. This include:

  1. Locking the gun in a safe
  2. Locking the ammo in a separate safe.
  3. Using a trigger lock on the gun (There are variants that require a key)

Now, if you are worried about safety, but also the time to access, you should most definitely keep the ammo stored in a different place than the gun. Storing a loaded gun just makes it far too easy to do anything. Also, perhaps some practice with getting the gun ready to use, preferably at a difficult time like at night, would be a good idea, so then you can store the gun safely while still making sure you have enough time to get the gun in an emergency.

In addition, it is crucial to teach kids about gun safety from a young age.

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I'm with you on practice, but storing the ammunition away from the firearm prevents its use in the situations where it is most needed. Burglars don't phone ahead so you have time to get your gun ready. –  HedgeMage Apr 6 '11 at 19:20
    
@Hedge: Sure, but you could place them at least somewhat differently, say, in different drawers of the same dresser, or on two different bookshelves. Even that little bit of additional protection is huge. –  PearsonArtPhoto Apr 6 '11 at 19:30
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Certainly one can mitigate the time loss by keeping the firearm and loaded magazine very near one another, but at that point it offers little protection compared to, for example, a grip safety. It is trivial for a toddler to stick a magazine into a pistol. Properly depressing a grip safety while pulling a trigger is a whole new level of difficulty. (Of course the two aren't mutually exclusive.) –  HedgeMage Apr 6 '11 at 19:45
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I would definately keep the gun unloaded at least. That places an extra step between finding the gun and firing it, reducing accidental discharges by anyone, not just children. Keeping ammo in a separate location really depends on your situation - if I had a high closet I would lock the gun in it's case and keep the ammunition on the top shelf. –  Michael Apr 7 '11 at 14:40
    
@hedgeMage: OT - Trying to shoot Burglar in your House in one of the surest Ways to get shot at yourself. He sees you are willing to use deadly force, and he will see the need to beat you it. But this concerns gun ownership in general, not safly keeping a firearm in a house with children. –  sum1stolemyname Oct 25 '11 at 8:54

If there is a firearm in the house, the best way is to teach children as early as possible how to handle it, at least at the basic level.

If you still think there's a significant risk of an accident, don't buy a firearm.

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The best advice I have heard is to teach your child how to safely use guns as early as possible. This takes away a lot of the curiosity that gets kids in trouble and teaches them how to properly and safely handle a gun if they ever come across one at, say, a friends house.

Beyond that, if you want quick access for emergency use only, then a trigger lock should be sufficient. Or a small easy to open combo safe by your bed.

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In addition to education, you should consider whether there is an alternative to a firearm for fast-response emergency situations. For example, pepper spray can be quite effective in case of home invasion, and if a child finds and uses it on him or herself or someone else, they will recover.

Alternatively, you can try to require a less-fast response: if you put a gun safe in a bedroom or other centrally located room, you're more likely to have time to open it; a burglar alarm or automatic lights can give additional warning, etc..

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"You don't need a firearm, use pepper spray" is NOT an answer to "How do I secure my firearm?" -- Flagged for moderator's attention. –  HedgeMage Apr 8 '11 at 21:00
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@HedgeMage - It's an answer to completely inaccessible in an emergency. This is only relevant if speed is an issue. You will note that I did not tell the OP they didn't need a firearm, but instead suggested ways to reduce their need to use the firearm so quickly. Your comment and flagging are inappropriate. –  Rex Kerr Apr 8 '11 at 22:23

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