As a responsible gun owner, you want to ensure you are following the local, state and federal regulations for possessing, and storing, firearms. Steelhead Outdoors recommends storing unloaded firearms securely locked away in a high- quality gun safe.
But perhaps you don’t have children at home, or you think unsafe/unlawful usage of your firearms “will never happen to me.” But it can happen. Juveniles could visit your home for an event or family gathering and suddenly stray to where you store your firearms. Or someone visiting your home to help with a task is curious and begins unauthorized handling of your guns. For this reason, several states and municipalities have passed what are known as “safe storage” laws. While safe storage laws vary by location, they generally refer to regulations requiring gun owners to store their weapons unloaded, in locked containers, or disable them with trigger locks to prevent tragedies and save lives.
What are the Federal and State Laws for Safe Gun Storage?
Though federal law has required federal firearms licensees to sell every handgun with a secure gun storage or safety device since 2005, surveys have discovered not all buyers use these mechanisms at home or in their vehicles, and federal law does not require them to do so. Therefore, lawmaking and enforcement has historically fallen to the states.
As of now, only a few states actually legislate safe storage of firearms with locking devices. Massachusetts requires all guns are locked or safely stored at all times and in all circumstances when they are not in use.* Connecticut recently updated its safe storage law to require gun owners in homes with children to unload their firearms and store them in locked containers.** Other states, like California and New York, have laws on the books that require safe storage of firearms under certain circumstances – for instance, if someone living in the home is a prohibited purchaser under state or federal law.
However, more states are looking into safe gun storage laws. Oregon is one, and Colorado just passed their “Safe Storage of Firearms” bill that will make unlawful storage of a firearm a class 2 misdemeanor.
Don’t just look to the state level when seeking information on gun storage laws. Municipalities can also enact regulations. For example, even though California does not require owners to safely store every firearm in their home, San Francisco requires owners to store every handgun in their home in a locked container or disable it with a trigger lock (a plastic or metal device that fits over the gun’s trigger and trigger guard to prevent the gun from being fired) when in a residence. New York City and Albany also go above and beyond state law in this realm as well, requiring firearm owners to safely store or render inoperable a firearm outside of his or her immediate control. ***
There’s also another law in the books – the child access prevention (CAP) laws, which is designed to keep guns out of the hands of those who are most vulnerable to misusing them: children and teens. Some states will distinguish between households with and without children when determining what constitutes safe storage. Unlike general safe storage laws, which have only been adopted by a handful of states and municipalities, currently 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of child access prevention legislation to date.
And these CAP laws are all different across each state – some with heftier fines to pay if broken. We encourage you to review the CAP laws for your state.
For example, in Minnesota, it is against the law to store or leave a loaded firearm where a person knows, or should reasonably know, that a child under age 18 is likely to gain access to it. Violation of this law is a gross misdemeanor. Here’s more tips from the Minnesota Safety Council on gun storage:
- Always empty the ammunition from your firearm prior to storing.
- Use a barrel lock, trigger lock, cylinder lock or a locking firearm case, or keep your firearm in a locked gun safe.
- Store ammunition separately, in a locked container, away from the firearm, heat and moisture.
- Never throw ammunition in the trash. (This includes spent brass as well!)
- Carry the keys for the gun and ammunition containers with you at all times or keep them locked in a spot that only you know.
- Never store a gun under a mattress or pillow, or on top of a bedside table.
- To help ensure that your firearm does not end up in the hands of a criminal, don’t store it among valuables such as jewelry where it might be stolen.
If you are looking for a trigger lock, we recommend contacting your local Sheriff’s office, or reach out to Project Childsafe.
Gun Storage Laws Aside – Lock Up Your Firearms
While it may not be enacted into law for your municipality or state, it is highly recommended that you lock up your firearms, in a safe manner, no matter what. Steelhead Outdoors offers a variety of customized gun safe options for your home or business. A gun safe doesn’t have to be ugly or sit in the garage where it is easily viewed by neighbors. Steelhead Outdoors modular safes allow you to literally place your gun safe anywhere in the home or business. And the best part? You can take it with you wherever your adventures may move you.
*** New York, N.Y. Admin. Code §§ 10-311, 10-312(a); Albany Munic. Code § 193-6.