Safe storage and self defense aren’t incompatible

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I recently shared to my social media accounts a story of an attempt by a local government to impose storage restrictions on gun owners in their city. The ordinance specified that firearms had to be locked up, except when they were “in use” (whatever that means).

Of course this drew the ire of many people, including the NRA. 

(Just to be clear, I am a proponent of gun owners storing their firearms securely to prevent unauthorized access. I’ve said this many times over many years, and I’ll continue to say it: the only proper places for your gun are on your person, or locked up. What I am most assuredly NOT in favor of is a law which mandates the practice!)

When I shared the article, I took issue with the NRA’s hyperbolic statement that gun storage laws “create victims”. Their position is that a securely stored firearm is useless as a defensive tool, and that point is where we part company. 

Because it’s simply not true, for a number of reasons.

Not everything needs to be shot

First, not every bump in the night (or pounding on the door) is a bad guy who requires immediate shooting. This comes from my own experience, as well as that of dissecting numerous stories of “negative outcomes” where someone has shot an innocent person simply because they allowed their imaginations to run ahead of their intellect. 

One of your many responsibilities as a gun owner is to always be sure of your target; in a defensive context, that means you need to be certain there is an actual threat — someone who poses an immediate and otherwise unavoidable danger of death to you or other innocents. Inside of your home, particularly when the lights are off, this means a pause before you go to guns. Most of the time such a pause includes grabbing a flashlight to find out who’s making all the racket. Most of the time it’s not something (or someone) that needs an extra orifice.

How fast does it need to be?

Second, with today’s technology there’s no reason a secured firearm can’t be quickly accessible. There are many fast-access lockboxes which keep a gun nearby, even under a bed, but still safe from curious kids and visitors. They’re quick and easy to open when you need it, while at the same time providing safety against unauthorized users.

Even standard safes can be had with electronic keypad locks, making access far faster than the old dial types. Since any  stored or staged firearm is, by definition, one which you need to get to, the slight additional access time shouldn’t be seen as an issue. In other words, it takes far longer to get to the quick-access lockbox than it does to open it.

Security isn’t a thing, it’s a system

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your first indication of a threat shouldn’t be your door flying off its hinges. The NRA would have you believe that this is the ultimate defensive scenario, the one which precludes safe and secure storage. Their sales pitch is that your defensive firearm needs to be immediately at hand, at a split-second’s notice, otherwise the baddies will kill you in your bed.

If that’s the whole state of your defensive preparations, you need to rethink your plans. Your entire security shouldn’t rest solely on a bullet, because not every situation is a shooting situation. It’s also not the responsible way to approach the problem.

Having a surveillance and/or early warning system should be your outermost defensive layer. Detecting a potential intruder ahead of time, through things like motion-sensing video, intrusion detectors, powerful lighting, or even a loud dog, gives you the time to formulate an appropriate response (and to summon help). It gives you the ability to determine, without ambiguity, whether the person attempting to break in (note the word ‘attempting’) is really a danger — or just your drunken neighbor who can’t figure out why his key doesn’t fit your lock.

Delaying entry should be the next layer of defense. Making it more difficult to knock a door down isn’t hard to do and isn’t terribly expensive. If you have a solid door to start with, you can make it much more difficult to breach without making your house look like a maximum security prison. Even the biggest, baddest biker dude is going to have trouble with a properly hardened door.

Keeping people away from your windows with defensive planting (think Hawthorn or rose bushes!) is another tactic. If you’re really worried, a sheet of shatter-resistant film on the window is an easy and cheap method to make the intruder’s job longer, more difficult, and noisier — all of which give you the precious time you need to retrieve your firearm if it’s truly necessary.

You don’t want to shoot anyone, especially “accidentally”

If you approach your home security in a comprehensive manner, you’ll have notice of a potential threat long before he’s standing over your bed with a butcher knife. You’ll have given yourself a window of time to respond appropriately. You’ll be able to positively identify a threat, move into a defensible position, retrieve your defensive firearm, and summon help. You’ll also dramatically reduce the potential of shooting someone who really doesn’t need to be shot. 

Like your spouse, child, or neighbor.

– Grant 

P.S.: Approaching home defense from a risk management perspective can help. My book Prepping for Life: The balanced approach to personal security and family safety shows you how to approach your personal security in a rational, responsible, holistic manner. It’s not a very macho kind of book, but that’s what readers tell me they like best about it! Available in Kindle, iBooks, and paperback formats.

 
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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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