Each year, millions of Americans purchase a gun for the purpose of protecting their family from danger. Home invasions and violent attacks are an all-too-common occurrence in today's day and age. Thanks to the Second Amendment of our U.S. Constitution, however, American citizens have the right to own defend themselves by owning firearms.
But parents of small children must also consider whether or not their child can access the gun. When guns are not properly secured, there's an increased risk of injury and fatality. Some lawmakers have even proclaimed the unsafe storage of firearms to be a “public health and safety issue.” So, what's the best way to childproof your guns?
Federal Laws for Childproofing Guns
There are no federal laws that require or otherwise govern the childproofing of firearms (not currently, at least). There is a federal law, however, that prohibits licensed firearm dealers from selling or otherwise transferring a handgun to another person unless that person has a secure gun storage or safety device.
State Laws for Childproofing Guns
While there are no federal laws requiring the childproofing of guns, many states have passed their own laws in an effort to reduce gun-related injury and fatality rates involving children. In total 27 states plus the District of Columbia have passed some type of child access prevention law(s) for firearms. This can range from Massachusetts, which requires all firearms to be stored in a locked place, to Florida, which imposes criminal liability when a child possesses and/or uses a firearm.
One of the easiest ways to childproof a gun is placing a lock on the trigger. Known as a trigger lock, it typically features two small pieces of metal or heavy-duty plastic that is clamped around and through the trigger guard. With the trigger guard covered, the risk of an accidental or intentional discharge by anyone other than the gun's rightful owner is minimized. Trigger locks aren't fool-proof, however, as some pistols may still fire when dropped if loaded, or the guard may be broken to gain access.
Another firearm safety device is a cable lock, which as the name suggests features a metal cable that's looped through the gun's action to prevent accidental discharge. For a semi-automatic pistol, this usually includes pulling the slide back and looping the cable lock through the grip with the magazine out.
Even if you intend to use a firearm safety device like a cable lock or trigger lock (or both), you should still consider placing your gun in either a lock box or a gun safe. Lock boxes are small containers, usually made of steel, that are opened with a key or combination lock. A gun safe is a larger container, often weighing 50 or more pounds, that offers plenty of storage space for multiple guns. Storing your guns in either a lock box or gun safe is the single most important step you can take to keep them out of the hands of children.
Perhaps the best way to childproof your weapons is to educate your children on how to handle and care for them. Only you know your child's maturity, so you are the only one who can gauge when the "right" time is, but the sooner they know that guns are not toys, the better prepared they will be to handle situations where they may be around them.
Owning a gun will give you peace of mind knowing that you can defend yourself, but it also comes with a great deal of responsibility. Whether your state requires it or not, you should take steps to safely store your guns so they are inaccessible to children.
* Image used by creative commons license, credited to Zorin Denu.