Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Your gun safe, your privacy, and your legal rights


A recent arrest has caused raised eyebrows (and stronger reactions) among the community of gun owners.  Here's part of the tweet that started it.  Click the image for a larger view, or follow the preceding link to read the whole thing.

The second-last sentence is the critical one:  "The feds called the manufacturer of his Liberty Gun Safe and got the passcode to get into it too."

The almost universal reaction I've encountered has been, "By what right did Liberty Gun Safe roll over and play along, without informing the owner of the request and without insisting on a search warrant or court order before providing the information?"  (That assumes, of course, that such a warrant or order was not provided by the FBI.  That's not clear from the information provided.)

That's pretty much my reaction, too.  We're dealing with basic legal rights of privacy and Fourth Amendment privilege here.  (Of course, Liberty Gun Safe is hardly the only company that would probably respond to the FBI in the same way.  Corporations hate legal complications.  It's easier for them to provide the information requested and assert "a potential threat to public safety" [a phrase beloved of law enforcement] as a smokescreen to deflect legal complications.)

I suspect Liberty safe sales are going to take a hit after this.  There's already talk of a boycott on some social media outlets.  I'm in the market for a gun safe myself, and after this news I'm certainly going to think long and hard about who I trust with my money.

For those seriously concerned about it, there's a way around the problem:  simply replace your gun safe lock with one you purchased and installed yourself.  In most cases, it's not hard.  You can buy an electronic or mechanical (i.e. combination) Sargent & Greenleaf safe lock online.  Installation instructions are usually available, along with YouTube videos about the process (search YouTube using the model number of the lock you want to install).  Here's one of S&G's own videos about how to do it, and here's a third-party video about replacing a digital safe lock with a S&G combination lock.  Such a step won't stop anyone who really wants to get in and is properly equipped to do so, of course, but it'll make them work harder for it.

(I strongly recommend using a mechanical [combination] lock rather than an electronic unit.  The electronic one is easy to use, fast and convenient, but many of them can also be bypassed by someone who knows what he's doing, and in the event of a disaster such as an EMP attack, they'll be rendered unusable.  It's no good having a safe full of guns and ammo if you can no longer get into it!  As an added bonus, as far as I know, there's no passcode to bypass a mechanical lock once you've changed the combination.  If I'm wrong, please let us know in Comments.)

Meanwhile, take heed, and think about your own situation.  I take my privacy and my legal rights very seriously.  I hope you do, too.


EDITED TO ADD:  Liberty Safe claims that a search warrant was provided.


J. C. Salomon said...

Liberty Safes is claiming there was a warrant. IANAL, so I have little idea what legal obligation this put them under. And on the other hand, people report that they do not give the backup code to customers who lock themselves out; so the existence of the code is entirely due law enforcement against their own customers.

Repairs on Twitter/𝕏 are going just as one would expect:

I expect the brand name to carry the same stench as Bud Light’s.

Ralph said...

My two Snap-safe's are mechanical, and programmed with a combination by me. Only 3 people have the code, my wife, my executor, and myself. I expect that if the feds want in they will get in, one way or another.

Anonymous said...

My first question is: Why does Liberty safe have master or bypass passcodes for their customers' safes? That constitutes a rather serious potential security breach all by itself if that information should be hacked, stolen or sold by an unscrupulous employee, even if the passcode is not a "master" but unique to each safe.

Second, wth this information now "out in the wild" why would anyone want a safe with an electronic lock?

As for "bypassing" a mechanical S&G lock, it can be done only by drilling the safe - drill a hole through the door where the internal mechanism is and manually unlock it through that hole. Certified locksmiths usually charge a couple hundred dolalrs for that job because the better safes have hardened plates - and a number of other security measures on top of that - exactly to minimize the success of such an act.

After a safe is drilled, another couple hundred dollars, or more, will be required to affect the necessary repairs.

One might say "this guy got off easy" because his safe is undamaged, and were drilling required the government would do it without hesitation and he would have a damaged safe to boot.

The best preventive is if one does have a safe, don't have it at home - or at least the home safe should be a cheaper "convenience" safe with the Real Deal a higher quality safe somewhere else where no one except the individual owner knows it exists.

But, viewing this from the safe angle is misleading; it should be viewed from the government intrusion angle instead. It's clear we have no personal safety or security today.

Justin_O_Guy said...

The same desire to Chill the People who don't agree with the direction of our country and have the temerity to support the President who was clearly robbed of his re-election is what They are trying to accomplish. They want to make examples of the people who didn't DO anything to harm anyone or anything. Protests against the destruction of our country are not allowed. Raising the death of a criminal to reason for the destruction of billions of dollars worth of buildings, business inventories and murder and mayhem ,streets full of rioters during a time when staying home was the mantra was suddenly more important than bending a knee to the propaganda of the covid crowd was good. Reason is turned upside down.
The tragedy of the day George Floyd died was the cops got there before he died from the drugs. He was Gonna Die. He was complaining of difficulty breathing while he was still in the car. IDK what is still available online about the initial contact and what was said. That stuff Can and Does change.

Francis Turner said...

Here's the thing. If Liberty Safes have a master code that works for all of them and cannot be changed (which appears to be the case) they are by definition insecure.

That master code is going to leak at some point and when it does ALL liberty safes will be vulnerable to a thief that knows the code. You can assume that this code will spread like wildfire once it is known and found to work....

This is (BTW) exactly the argument used against all the UK/US etc. security agencies that want a backdoor built in to all End to End crypto. If Liberty Safes have this built in AND it cannot be changed then even the options that work for crypto software (that you can update and change the backdoor) do not apply, the only fix is to get a new lock from someone other that Liberty Safe

Anonymous said...

I know of raids where the feds were offered the combination to a safe and refused to use it, cutting the (expensive) safe open instead.
They knew that one was a reach and seemed more interested in causing problems than gathering evidence.
As far as I know, mechanical safes can only have one combination, and it usually isn't hard to change.

Did he register his safe with Liberty? Or do they have one bypass code for any safe?
Seems to me it would could help to not have a visible serial number.

Merlin said...


"I strongly recommend using a mechanical [combination] lock rather than an electronic unit"

YES, YES, one thousand times YES.

I am in the electronics business, and I can tell you the weird, screwy ways in which electronics can fail. Electronics are wonderful things, and make our lives so much easier, but when it comes live safety (and accessing your defenses in an emergency certainly qualifies), you do NOT want to be relying on it. Also, depending on your jurisdiction, law enforcement can require you to press your finger on a sensor to unlock something, but far fewer can compel you to release information in your head.

Yes, they can cut open the safe, but depending on the warrant, items found in that search may be excludible.

Glypto Dropem said...

Everyone of these stories I hear about get my anger burner just a little bit hotter.

I live my life as "a man that just wanted to be left alone." If you are not familiar with the full definition of that; it means that when they show up at Zero-Dark-Thirty to kick in your door, terrorize your family, kill your dogs, and destroy/confiscate your property, YOUR LIFE AS YOU KNEW IT IS OVER!

Act accordingly. You are already dead, take some of those fuckers with you.

Carl Bussjaeger said...

Anonymous Anonymous: "My first question is: Why does Liberty safe have master or bypass passcodes for their customers' safes?"

I once worked in a storre that sold gun safes. There was one particular model -- don't recall that brand -- that used a master combo. The owner could program in his own, but that didn't override the master.

The ONE thing that was good for was when would-be pranksters would enter their own combos, thinking they were locking the store clerks out. Flip the front panel tap in the master combo, and open it back up. (It nevrr happened on my shifts, but idiot kids would also lock themselves in the demos on occassiion.)

I resolved to never buy that model, and to check the instructions carefully for any safe I was considering.

Other safe used physical mechanical keys for emergency access. I can control a physical key on site (or off, as may be).

Bob Gibson said...

Back in '91 I was in a high-end hotel in Honolulu. The room came equipped with a snazzy electronic lock safe in which to secure my valuables as opposed to using the hotel's safe. I stood there looking at it for a moment, scratching my head, then locked it (while keeping my stuff OUTside the safe). I then unplugged the device from the wall outlet and when I plugged it back in the door popped right open.

I'm sure electronic locking devices have come some way in the last three decades, but still when it comes to securing something(s) precious it's Nope, Nope, Nope for me.

lynn said...

If someone can find your safe, they are going to get in it no matter what. It is just a matter of time. Criminals usually do not have time. The authorities have lots of time.

The deal is to have your safe in a safe place. Good luck with that.

Aesop said...

Liberty Safe was just following orders.

Yet again, the process is the punishment.

Given the government's actions regarding anyone fool enough to go to DC on J6 (look at Trump, and tell me what your chances are), folks pursued are going to start to realize that they may as well shoot the feds on sight, since they're going to be treated like Al Capone no matter what they do.

These sorts of raids will continue until they either run out of arrest targets*, or run out of FBI guys.

The Rule Of Law is dead in this country, and federal agents are now openly simply Gestapo and KGB thugs.

If you live between Canada and Mexico, you're behind the lines in enemy territory.

Conduct your affairs accordingly.

*(If they're doing this now, two years later, to this guy, what makes anyone think they'll stop with only pursuing people who were actually there??? You're now depending on the moral compass of the modern-day SS. Best wishes with that plan.)

Anonymous said...

A locksmith told me that all (almost all?) gun safe makers keep records of the combinations to their safes by serial number. Locksmiths can request these combinations by the make, model, and serial number. He said it had been so long since he opened a safe using any other method that he had almost forgotten how to do it.
Also, look at YouTube videos of methods of cracking gun safes / home safes. Some require only a powerful magnet.
John in Indy

Jay Bee said...

I know Liberty keeps all of their factory combinations on safes they send out in to the world. I can’t comment on any other manufacturer, but I imagine it’s largely the same.

Fun fact: changing the combination to your mechanical lock on a Liberty safe voids the warranty.

As noted by others above, if the feds want to get into a safe, they’ll get in. They have all the time and resources to get it done and they don’t really care about the condition of anything inside once they are done.

Aesop said...

Charlie Kirk just delivered a kill-shot to Liberty Safe:

Right to the head.
They're toast.

Anonymous said...

Health emergency dontchaknow!