Many gun owners look to secure their firearms in a fireproof gun safe, whether required to do so by law, for personal safety, or to prevent theft or damage in case of a fire.
Before making a purchasing decision on a safe, the wise consumer is advised to consider the following five tips:
1) Know the purpose of your firearm
2) Be aware of the safety benefits of gun safes
3) Be aware of the potential safety hazards of gun safes
4) Understand the security ratings used to test gun safes
5) Understand the fire ratings used to test gun safes.
First, know the purpose of the gun or guns you will be storing in the safe. Firearm ownership purpose typically falls into one of three categories: hunting, self-defense, and collecting. In the first case, of owning a gun for hunting, ease of access is not a priority. In the second case, however, the firearm's purpose is for self-defense.
Consider whether your response to a threat, such as a home break-in, will be hindered by having the gun stored in a safe. In the third case, many gun owners posses antique, rare, and valuable firearms. With these, the highest level of protection from theft and fire is essential. The second two tips are to consider the safety pros and cons of gun safes. The safety benefits of properly securing a firearm are obvious, especially when there are children in the house.
A study conducted by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center of the University of Washington in Seattle concluded that safe gun storage laws significantly reduced unintentional gun-related deaths, suicides, and homicides among children. However, there are also certain safety risks involved in storing firearms in a safe. A child could become trapped inside a fireproof gun safe, even if the safe is locked.
This happened in 2007 in a Sam's Club in Worcester, MA. The fire department was called, and entered an override code from the safe manufacturer to free the child. The other safety concern ties into the purpose of ownership: gun safes may prevent the use of weapons for self-defense. For instance, a later study, published in the Yale Law School, Law & Economics Working Papers, correlated safe storage gun laws with a strong increase in violent crimes. The third and fourth tips are to understand the security and fire ratings.
Many gun safes sold in the united states bear the UL Residential Security Container (RSC) certification. The RSC certification only indicates a safe will withstand attack by hand tools, such as screwdrivers or pry bars, for five minutes. This is enough to deter children and some thieves, but RSC certification is certainly no guarantee your guns are safe from a determined or well-equipped burglar. More serious protection against theft is indicated by B and TL ratings; though such safes are more expensive. As with security ratings, gun safes also carry fire ratings. These ratings are more difficult to compare one safe to another, since there are several standards for fire rating.
The most common are UL, ETL Semko, and Mercury. Each takes a different approach to measuring a safe's resistance to fire. UL's rating is the most comprehensive, testing not only the safe's internal temperature in a fire, but also its resistance to impacts that could occur when fire causes a structure to collapse. In conclusion, use your best judgment. A careful gun owner has already gone through the process of weighing the benefits and risks of possessing a firearm in his or her household. The same thoughtful consideration should be applied to deciding whether to buy a fireproof gun safe, and which safe to buy.