I am often asked for advice on gun safes for holding firearms that must be readily accessible for defense, yet must not be accessible by children. I am not in the “safe” industry, so rather than discuss brands, I will offer some ideas for you to ponder.
Our goal is to keep our kids as safe as possible while having defensive tools as handy as possible. Please think about how you would feel if you kiddo’s friend (whose parents allowed him to play violent video games) discovers your gun and playfully/accidently shoots your kiddo to death. Think about it. This horrible outcome would be compounded by the inability to release your pain by having a single bad person to blame. How do we reduce the probability of an event like this taking place?
The best solution for not having a kid accidently shoot themselves with your gun is to not have a gun in your home. Yep, I said it. If there is not a gun in your home; it can’t be found and used in a dangerous way. The same holds true with having a child stab themselves with a fork. A home with no forks in it will not have a fork incident unless someone sneaks a fork in. I suggest to you that the solution I describe in this paragraph is the result of an improper question.
We accept the risk of having forks in our home because they are a handy way to eat food. I have no animosity toward parents that have fork-free homes, and I likewise find it appropriate for parents to have forks, knives, guns, baseball bats, screwdrivers and many other tools that “could” be dangerous in their homes. Part of living life is managing risk.
There are more ways than one to help keep kids safe. Training them in the proper safe use of firearms is the best way. Many rural folk have for many years treated guns like hammers, tractors, wood stoves and fire. They are all tools and none are locked away from kiddos. In recent years, many city folks have begun building fences around stoves and distancing themselves from guns. I suggest that this issue be addressed with an attitude more like the one we have toward fire use and sex and driving education.
When a 14 year old boy has questions about something that can be great fun and very appropriate in certain circumstances, he should be taught about that thing and educated as to the dangers. Telling the boy, “Don’t worry about sex now, when you are 18 you can start dating and then when you get married in your 20’s you will figure the sex thing out” has proven not to be a great response.
Telling your child, “Guns are dangerous and you should never touch one” is equally as backward-thinking and absurd. We teach our children to safely build camp fires while camping, they sit on our lap and steer the family car in a big empty parking lot before they are even 10, and I suggest we ought to also teach them about firearms pros and cons as well. A 12-year-old should know how fire works and should have been shown the results of a house fire or a forest fire. This 12-year-old should know that they could get pregnant if they play with another kind of fire. They should know that a 3,000 pound hunk of metal and glass moving at 40 MPH can kill a pedestrian, but should all vehicle owners lock their keys away in a safe?
Ok, enough philosophy to make us think, now let’s talk hardware. Safes of all types have ratings for fire that are calculated in minutes of time they can be in a hot fire or withstand someone trying to get into them. UL has a more scientific description and details. The safeness of a safe will have different levels of importance based on your concerns. Will you also be storing your million dollar original collector’s stamps in the safe? If the two guns in the safe will be a Glock and an 870, having them completely destroyed by fire might not matter as much. Guess what? The safes with the highest ratings cost more.
Next let’s consider how we will unlock the safe. There are two basic types of opening methods:
- Manual – turning a knob, punching in a code etc.
- Biometric – these read your fingerprint or retina and automatically open.
Because we know that most of us lose fine motor skills in a moment of crisis, it seems the biometric option is best for defense. We will not have the manual dexterity to push buttons if we are awakened in the middle of the night by glass breaking and screaming in our living room. The downside is that it is an electronic device and the battery might fail, the scanner might not read your print correctly etc. Like your computer, it “should” always work perfectly, but sometimes it does not. The same can also happen with a manual safe.
This is a good time to remind you to thoughtfully consider probability.
- What is the probability that you will be violently attacked in your home? In my small Rocky Mountain town, most people are typically pretty safe. On the other hand, I predict that within the next 10 years at least one stranger will try to enter an occupied home in my area to harm the occupants. Might it be me?
- What is the probability that a curious kiddo will find your gun or the key to your gun safe? Probably very high, right? It is a very small percentage of teens that have NOT tried marijuana, porn, alcohol, profanity, sex or other things parents have ordered them not to do. I think we must assume that they will probably find a way to find a gun hidden in our sock drawer.
I hesitate to recommend one over another as my only knowledge is of them is glancing at the results of a Google search for “Biometric gun safe.” I asked my friend Mr. Mack, who is manager of my region’s largest safe retail store for his thoughts on the issue.
Mr. Mack said that making a long story short, his best recommendation for an affordable single-pistol biometric safe is the ______________________, or if you want to invest in a higher quality, the ________________. For a biometric safe that will hold your defensive shotguns and pistols he suggests the ______________________, or if you want to invest in a higher quality, the ________________.
Mr. Mack also added that _________________________________.
Barska Biometric Rifle Safe $299
Seems like an inexpensive option, but up to 3 seconds for lock to open after scanning fingerprint.
Barska Large Biometric Rifle Safe $550
A bit larger than the smaller option above.
Barska AX11556 Security Safe, Pistol $182
Looks good for a pistol.