How many times my friends and I said those words. Yeah, our guns are safe. We are serious gunpeople. For some of us, guns are a vital part of our work lives, as military and law enforcement professionals or firearms journalists (you know, “gun-‘riters”). But many of us harbored a dirty little secret–we didn’t own a gun safe.
I know what you’re asking. How could we NOT own a gun safe?! Don’t we have kids in the house? Isn’t it the law? Yes, in many states, it’s the law. Now I have to clarify before you think my gun-toting buddies and I were leaving loaded 1911s next to the TV remote on the den coffee table.
Gun owners, all of us, have a responsibility to keep firearms out of unauthorized hands. In my state of California, allowing a minor access to a firearm then used in a crime makes the gun owner liable for criminal and civil charges as well. And forget the legal aspect of it: who among us wants it on our conscience that a gun we own could be used to hurt an innocent human being? So why didn’t we own gun safes–because we believed we had taken all the proper steps to secure our firearms in our existing living spaces.
One outdoor writer I knew had a bedroom closet converted into a gun storage room, the stout wooden door paneled over to look like part of the wall, secured by two barely noticeable locks. Two others converted hall closets into “safe rooms.” A small walk-in closet with a solid oak door and dead bolts seemed just the thing to keep his deadly weapons out of unauthorized hands. One friend went as far as having a real steel safe door installed on his closet.
After my divorce found me in new digs, I thought I’d go them all one better: I’d make a whole ROOM into a safe area. I’d store my firearms right in my office, then get fire doors, an alarm system with motion sensors hooked up to a security company. Like my other friends, I thought I was being smart but I was stupid. Why did I come to my senses? For the same reasons you should buy a gun safe if you don’t have one already.
First, my daughter started dating. This can be devastating enough to a father. but her new social life brought with it long-haired, artistic young men who dress in the style of black trenchcoats that, in our city, I call “Columbine Chic.” Now I had a problem: if I locked myself in my office while I was working, I couldn’t keep track of the “date” occurring in the next room. Leave the door open, and a moment s distraction would leave a cache of M1A rifles open to mocha latte-splattered fingers.
Then my “bullet poof” alarm started beeping one day. Seems those motion sensors run on batteries. which can run down, and after reinstalling batteries, I mis-dialed the code. which set the clarions blaring. When I called to alarm company to explain why the alarm was ringing, the informed me the signal wasn’t even showing up there. Seems at one point recently my neighbor had a new phone line installed, and the phone company guy had accidentally disconnected my dedicated alarm phone line, It was repaired, but who knows how long it was out?
Third time’s a. well. charm. You can imagine how surprised I was to find my new home was located on the historical route of Southern California wildfires. Just about every other year, in late October. like semi-clockwork, my family has had the pleasure of packing up some of our most prized belongings and watching the wildfires pass by in the hills bare hundreds of yards away. Frightening, because I can’t get all my kids and all my guns in the car at the same time, and I’m not going to grab my Kimber Advanced Tactical rifle instead of my daughter.
Making it worse are the packs of predatory looters who start driving around our neighborhoods as soon as smoke appears on the horizon. I actually had a car full of these miscreants pull up and ask, “How soon are you clearing out?” Not today, asshole. These smash and grab thugs would strip an abandoned house like piranha stripping a clumsy heifer that stumbled into the Amazon.”
Our best plans often have huge holes in them we can’t foresee. We get tired and forget to trigger the alarm system. We leave the room to use the bathroom “for a second” and don’t think we have to lock the door behind us. An earthquake brings down the plaster walls surrounding our steel fire door.
Thinking my guns were safely stored wasn’t enough. I was going to need a gun safe, one big enough for my guns, and, for obvious geographic reasons, a fireproof one. Safes don’t sleep. Safes don’t have to go to the bathroom.
There are a number of companies manufacturing and selling high quality fireproof gun safes, from Browning to Fort Knox. After some research online (and asking what His Editorship owned), I contacted the Cannon Safe Company and made arrangements to get one of their C-30 Fireproof safes in Pacific Blue color with chrome hardware. Cannon’s massive, 700-pound safe is five feet tall, three feet wide and two feet deep. Set up to store up to 28 long guns and hand guns (more if you customize the interior), the C-Series Cannon safes have been independently tested and rated to withstand a fire of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit for one 60 minutes.
Keep in mind, in the unlikely event of a fire, the interior lining material of the safe will be reduced to steam while it’s protecting your guns, and so to prevent potential rust problems, the safe should be opened as soon as it’s not dangerous to get to, and the guns cleaned and oiled. With a Cannon safe, along with their “Zero cost lifetime replacement policy,” a representative will get to your house and open the safe for no additional charge. Last year one customer lost his whole house in one of the California wildfires. The only thing standing was his safe, which Cannon opened and he retrieved his firearms without damage.
Whichever brand of fireproof safe you decide to buy, some preparation is necessary. You need to determine the best place to put it–once it’s bolted down it’s not permanent but pretty damn near–and most importantly, make sure the path between your door and your new safe’s final resting place is completely clear. My polite delivery men shook their heads and told me how many times they arrived at a house and found the owner had cleared out the area where he wanted the new safe–but there was no way to get to it!
Also, don’t hesitate to ask the safe company if it’s their own men, or an outside delivery service who will be bringing your safe. Seeing some fly-by-night guys covered with gang tattoos casing my house while they drop off my gun safe is not my idea of security.
When Cannon’s local distributor delivered my peace of mind, they discreetly unloaded the completely covered safe and got it to my front door without prying eyes suspecting it was more than an enormous TV. They positioned it and bolted it to my floor. Bolting is absolutely necessary because even though a full load of guns might push the total weight of the safe to over a thousand pounds, thieves with a strong dolly can wheel it away without breaking a sweat.
Peace Of Mind
I set my new combination on the digital lock and loaded the safe with all the guns I had believed were safely stored under my desk. When I pushed the 1.5″ thick double steel door closed and heard the locking bolts fall into place, I finally felt like a responsible gun owner. For added security, I contacted my Allstate Insurance agent and sprang for a rider on my home insurance policy to include my most valuable firearms. This level of security doesn’t come cheap, and some of you out there may grouse about spending this money, but isn’t a collection acquired over a lifetime worth ten or twenty bucks a month to protect? And what are the lives of your friends and family worth?
I’ve had a little fun with this subject, but firearms safety is deadly serious. It should be understood no single safety device is sufficient on it’s own. A combination of safe, home alarm, discretion around suspicious neighbors, and even more suspicious looking teenagers is vital, and all must be combined with the most important safety device in your house, your brain. Be smart about firearms storage–and legal and human tragedies can be avoided.