Last time out we talked about the fact that you and you alone are responsible for the safety and security of not only your duty firearm, but any off-duty piece you keep in the home. So, let’s talk about some ideas for doing just that.
As part of my former department’s 32-hour Spousal Orientation Program (see Law Officer Magazine, “So You Married a Cop…”, December 2009) that was held during the officers’ recruit academy, the new officers’ spouses were all invited and encouraged to participate in a short presentation on firearms orientation and home firearms responsibility. That class included all the techniques discussed here in Part 2 in addition to a class on NYS Penal Law regarding justification and use of deadly force by civilians, as well as some hands-on live-fire range exercises and basic marksmanship skills. Classes on safe gun handling and storage were also presented, as well as familiarization with the department-issued gun since that is what most would be bringing home after every shift.
Those ideas included some practical and simple and in some cases, very inexpensive ways to gun-proof the home, and ways to store weapons safely from the curious eyes and probing hands of those little gremlins (or their friends) who may not be able to resist the urge to play “cops and robbers” with the real thing. Although this list isn’t intended to be all inclusive, it does offer some of the more conventional methods of securing your weapons in the home.
Each has their advantages and disadvantages. Combination trigger locks eliminate the need for finding a key when you quickly need access to your gun. Handcuffs (inserted behind the trigger) are readily available to every cop in the event finances are a concern. Gun safes bolted to the floor or attached to wall studs are a sure-fire way to ensure your guns won’t be stolen with the locks installed.
There are a ton of other methods that are limited only by your imagination and subject to your personal situation, too. Example: Single cops who live alone, with no nieces, nephews or neighbor kids who may come over for a visit might look toward a simple locking nightstand with a key close by as a suitable option; or a locking closet with all your police duty gear stored together might be your best bet. Under the pillow is not a good idea for several reasons. It may fall down behind the headboard or a sudden nightmare may trigger a reaction you don’t even want to even consider. Vacations might best be handled by turning it in to the department armorer during your absence if you’re not taking it with you.
The bottom line: You’re responsible for all your firearms, both service pistols and off-duty guns (and that includes any long guns—shot guns and patrol rifles) that you keep at home. And by the way, don’t forget your Taser. Gun security and storage is a responsibility that remains with you throughout your law enforcement career (and beyond, if you maintain your guns after retirement). A gun usually comes with a badge and so does the responsibility to secure that gun safely at home.
A Final Caution
A lot of officers have become comfortable with securing their duty guns in their take-home vehicles. My guess is that with the increase in the number of patrol rifles being issued, the squad’s truck has become sort of ad hoc gun safe. Not a good idea. In fact, in my humble opinion, all firearms, shotgun and patrol rifles included, should be removed from your take-home squad at the end of every shift. There’s no sense arming would-be car thieves who might not be intimidated by the words police or sheriff emblazoned on the side of your unit.
Below are some great sources not only for some excellent gun safety educational materials, but also some great resources for gun storage and security items.
Following are some resources and publications that might help in the event you want to put on a home firearms safety and security program at your agency or just re-evaluate how you currently store your duty or off-duty guns.
Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters
Chapter 13, “Home Security”
Adams, McTernan and Remsberg
Calibre Press, Inc.
Gunproof Your Children/Handgun Primer
The NRA “Eddie Eagle” Gun Safety Program
National Rifle Association of America
A Parents Guide to Gun Safety
National Rifle Association
Master Lock Co.
Gun Vault Inc.
Liberty Safe Co.
Project Child Safe