Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An update on firearms storage

I've had a large response to my article yesterday about gun safes and residential security containers. A number of questions have come in via e-mail, and I'll try to answer some of them here for all to read.

1. What if I can't afford $600+ for a RSC? Are there any cheaper alternatives?

Yes, there are: but they're all less secure than a proper RSC (which, in turn, is less secure than a proper safe, as I pointed out yesterday). Sentry makes three models of what they call 'gun safes', all available at Wal-Mart, holding five ($170), ten ($260 - shown below) and fourteen ($400) long guns respectively. They're made of fairly thin steel, and offer no fire protection.

Even cheaper are the 'gun cabinets' made by Stack-On, also available at Wal-Mart. They offer capacities of eight (shown below), ten and fourteen long guns, with a shelf for handguns, and also two sizes of pistol/ammo cabinets that can be bolted on top of their gun cabinets.

The smallest eight-gun Stack-On cabinet retails for about $100, if I recall correctly. These 'gun cabinets' are made of very thin sheet metal, flimsy enough to bend with a fist or foot. They offer no real protection against an attack with tools such as a hammer and screwdriver - but they're better than nothing, and will stop a casual thief who doesn't have any tools with him. (You have locked your own tools away, haven't you? If you haven't, you've just given a thief access to all he needs to break into your gun cabinet!)

Something to be aware of is that some models of gun cabinet are fitted with so-called 'axial pin tumbler locks'. These are the notorious locks that can be opened with the plastic casing of a Bic ballpoint pen! There was a huge fuss about this a few years ago. Many bicycle locks, gun cabinets, vending machines and other equipment used these locks, and they all had to be hastily updated or replaced. The video below shows how easy it is to undo such a lock in this way. In this case, it's fitted to a bicycle locking device.

If you have a gun cabinet fitted with such a lock, it isn't secure. You need to either replace the lock with a better one, or fit a padlock hasp and padlock. The latter can be bashed or cut off, of course: but it's still better security than relying on the original lock alone!

Finally, you can get some small handgun 'safes' or locking clamps (that can be mounted to a wall or inside a closet) for even less. For example, Mossberg makes this 'Loc-Box' clamp that can be bolted to a wall stud, and will accommodate a shotgun or other long gun. It costs under $40.

The cheapest Stack-On pistol case/ammo cabinet retails for about $50 locally, and can be screwed or bolted to the floor and/or a wall inside a closet. So, for a pretty low cost, you can have at least some security for your firearms. For $170-$400, you can have heavier-gauge metal, and slightly better security. For $632+ (the price of the Sam's Club RSC referenced in my earlier post) you can have a RSC holding a lot more, and offering some fire protection as well.

Bear in mind that it's worth having secure storage for more than just your firearms. You doubtless have one or more of the following: a digital camera; prized family items such as photographs; a backup hard disk for your computer; a digital music player; a reserve of cash; your checkbook and credit cards; personal records such as tax information, bank statements, etc.; and so on. Buying a secure storage container with shelves and space to hold these items, as well as your firearms, is a Good Thing. You don't want a thief making off with any of them, or a fire destroying them.

2. I live in a safe area with very little crime. Why should I bother to spend money on a RSC when it's unlikely I'll ever need it?

I'm happy for you: but crime can come calling when you least expect it. Let me give you the classic example in recent years: Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hundreds of thousands of evacuees from New Orleans and the surrounding areas were shipped to many different States - and in many of the cities and towns where they ended up, the crime rate shot up! There were many reports about it: here's one, just for information. People in these places probably never thought that such a thing could happen, but it did. If you evacuate gang-bangers and thugs, they're going to behave in their new location just as they did in their old one.

Furthermore, when economic times get tough, criminals look further afield for likely targets, because their usual stamping-grounds are played out: and your nice, quiet, safe suburb might tempt them. Betty, a friend of mine (who commented on my previous post about this) experienced such a robbery a few years ago, after years of living safely in her condo. The thieves bashed the knob and dial off her safe, and dented the lid very badly, but couldn't break in. She's very grateful that she had the safe.

Another thing: it's not just protection against crime that you need. What about keeping your firearms and valuables protected from curious children? What about natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, etc.? There are many tales of how safes have saved their contents from damage under such conditions. Consider this video clip. It's an advertisement for Liberty Safe, but the story is no less true for that.

Another Liberty customer offers this testimonial of how his RSC survived being tossed over 100 yards after a tornado destroyed his home. It, and the preceding video, certainly speak well of Liberty's products. That pleases me, because I use them! Of course, other manufacturers' RSC's might perform just as well.

Theft may be a low risk for you, but it can always arrive when you least expect it: and there are other hazards to consider. A good RSC is a worthwhile investment, IMHO.

3. I have only one gun. Why should I spend money on a RSC to protect it, when the RSC will cost more than the gun?

That's a good question. You'll recall my point in yesterday's post, concerning our moral responsibility to keep our firearms out of the hands of thieves if at all possible. I suggest that responsibility applies to even one gun. Also, see my comment in point 1 above about protecting your other valuables. You may not be able to cost-justify several hundred dollars for a RSC, but I daresay you could afford one of the cheaper alternatives, offering at least a minimal degree of protection against a casual burglar. I suggest it's morally appropriate for anyone and everyone to do so. Of course, you're free to differ.

4. I'm not morally responsible for the actions of a thief. Why should I spend my hard-earned money on a RSC, when the guilt for the theft of my guns will be on the thief's shoulders, not mine?

I agree that you're not morally responsible for the actions of a thief. However, we're talking about instruments that can potentially maim or kill. Would you leave a loaded gun lying around in the presence of young, curious, untrained children? Of course not! - or, at least, I hope not! The kids are guaranteed to want to play with it. It's part of your responsibility as a gun owner to make sure that they don't have the opportunity to injure themselves or others by doing so. That being the case, I think it's a logical extension of that responsibility to make sure that criminals can't get at them either. You won't be guilty of theft if a criminal steals your weapons: but how will you look his next victim in the eye when you learn that he used your gun(s) to threaten, rape, or maim them? How will they feel when they learn that you made it easy for him to do so, by leaving your guns lying around where he could get at them without trouble?

There's a difference between criminal and moral guilt: also between guilt through action, and guilt through inaction. I suggest that if you don't take reasonable precautions to protect dangerous tools against unauthorized access - by your children, by a thief, whatever - you will be morally guilty by omission, whereas the thief will be both morally and legally guilty by commission.

I know some will disagree with me on this point. That's fine: everyone's entitled to his or her own opinion. Based on my own moral code, I believe that it's my responsibility to do all I can to prevent my potentially dangerous tools from being misused or abused by others.

Your mileage may vary.



Anonymous said...

Good Point. Thanks for the post.

Carteach said...

Years ago I bought a large gun safe from a reputable company. It wasn't cheap, but it cost a lot less than what is stored inside of it.

I sleep better at night, and go to work each morning with more peace, knowing my firearms are locked away and safe from prying hands.

I KNOW it can be defeated... anything can. But I also know it will take a determined thief with resources and time....

One of the friends who helped me move the safe to it's present home asked, half joking, "Who needs a safe like this!" as we shoved it into place. I replied "Someone who takes responsibility for their own property".

Anonymous said...


Stack-ons may not be reliable--check to make sure it isn't this one if you buy one.

Anonymous said...

Additional tips for securing firearms: 1. Put a deadbolt on the door where they are kept. This will slow down thieves, keep children and visitors from gaining access, and provide a room to retreat to in case of an intruder. 2. Set up a low cost decoy safe that is visible upon entering your secure room. Fill it with coins, small bills, documents that are insignificant but important looking, pictures of persons other than you and your family, and one or two inoperable firearms. 3. Install recording surveillance cameras. Home Depot was recently selling online a rig with 4 high def cameras for $350. From anywhere you can access the Internet you can view your front and rear doors, driveway, etc.