Safe Gun Storage Guide

Written by: StorageUnits.com Editorial Team - Updated: Jun 15, 2022

 

In our guide about items that shouldn’t be kept in a storage unit, we mentioned that firearms can make your unit the target of a robbery and that most self-storage providers don’t allow them anyway.

 

Indeed, firearms are best kept at home, so we’ll review everything you need to know about safely storing guns in your house below. And just in case you’re not able to keep your guns at home, we’ll go over your options for storing them somewhere else as well.

 

Can You Store Guns and Ammunition in a Self-Storage Facility?

Although it’s ideal to store your guns at home, this isn’t an option for everyone. If you’re a renter, your landlord may not allow you to keep firearms on their property. Also, if you plan to travel and you don’t want to take your guns with you, it might make sense to move them to a more secure location. Either way, with some research and a little luck, you may be able to find gun storage options available in your area.

Standard self-storage facilities

Ammunition is almost always banned at self-storage facilities, due to the obvious safety concerns associated with any type of explosive. But even though unloaded firearms aren’t a fire hazard (assuming they are cleaned properly and free of gunpowder residue), they are generally banned as well. 

Firearms are often banned at self-storage facilities because they can be a liability issue. What if someone breaks into your unit, steals your gun, and then uses it to commit a crime? If the thief is already a felon, then possession of your gun would itself be a crime. Many self-storage providers will auction off the contents of their units whenever a customer fails to keep up with their rental payments — this is another way a stored gun could fall into the wrong hands. By including a clause that bans the storage of firearms in their rental agreement contracts, self-storage providers can protect themselves from accidentally contributing to crimes and being charged with negligence.   

There are some businesses in this industry, though, that are willing to accept this risk and store firearms. For example, John Fayard Self Storage has a room that’s dedicated entirely to gun storage. If there’s a self-storage provider in your area with an especcially convenient location or other features that you’re interested in, you might as well call them up and ask if they allow gun storage. 

Specialty gun and ammunition storage facilities

Rather than looking for a self-storage provider that will allow you to store firearms, you might have more luck checking out facilities that are more focused on firearms in the first place. In particular, the following facilities often provide gun storage services:

  • Armories: Military members are another group that may not be able to simply store their guns at home. If you can’t keep your personal firearms at a friend or family member’s house while you’re on duty, you may be able to keep them at your base’s armory. 
  • Gun ranges: In addition to providing a place for you to practice shooting your guns, many gun ranges allow you to store guns on their premises as well. And while ammunition is almost always banned at self-storage facilities, it certainly isn’t going to be a problem at gun ranges. 
  • Police departments: If you want to get a gun out of your home because someone in your household is going through a crisis, many police departments will allow you to temporarily keep it with them. For example, there are dozens of police departments (as well as a few private retailers) in Washington state that offer this service. 

Safe Gun Storage at Home

As mentioned above, we recommend storing your guns at home if possible. If you plan to do so, you should be aware of your state’s gun laws, the different types of locking devices that are available, and the established best practices for keeping your guns safe at home. 

Gun safety statistics

First, it’s important to note that gun ownership is quite common in the United States. 30% of Americans own at least one firearm — and of the Americans who don’t currently own a gun, 36% could see themselves purchasing one at some point in the future. These figures indicate that guns are present in tens of millions of homes across the country.

Considering the popularity of guns and their deadly potential, it shouldn’t be too surprising that they are often involved in violent events such as suicides, murders, and accidental shootings. In 2020, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University found that there are an average of 34,538 firearm deaths per year in the United States (21,128 of these deaths are attributed to self-harm). This study also found that an average of 85,694 people visit the ER because of nonfatal firearm injuries every year.

Annual Gun Violence in the US Graph

States that demand owners secure their firearms

To help reduce the gun violence referenced above, many states have passed laws that require gun owners to secure their firearms in order to prevent unauthorized access. There are many different types of restrictions currently in place across the country, including:

  • Child access prevention (CAP) laws: These regulations are designed to prevent children from accessing firearms. At the weakest level, CAP laws only prohibit adults from directly providing firearms to minors. Although most states define a minor as anyone under the age of 18, some states have set a younger cutoff — for example, in Illinois, Iowa, Virginia, and Wisconsin, CAP laws aren’t triggered unless the child who accesses a gun is under 14.
  • Negligent storage CAP laws: Stronger CAP laws assign criminal liability to gun owners if they neglect to store their guns properly. The strictest negligent storage CAP laws apply whenever it is possible for minors to access firearms, whereas other negligent storage CAP laws only apply when a minor actually gains possession of a firearm (a common exception to these laws is that if a minor accesses firearms while trespassing, the owner will not be held accountable even if it was unlocked).
  • Safe storage or gun lock requirements: In addition to preventing children from accessing firearms, some states have laws that are designed to prevent unauthorized firearm access across the board. There are about a dozen states where you can be fined or even face jail time if you don’t lock up your guns properly. Most of these regulations only apply to certain types of firearms, though.
  • Lock must meet requirements or be approved: You may not be able to use just any kind of locking device, as some states require your locks to either meet certain standards or be approved by a state agency for effectiveness.
You can reference the chart below to see which regulations apply to your state:
State CAP Law Negligent Storage CAP Law Safe Storage or Gun Lock Requirement Locks Must Meet Standards or Be Approved
Alabama X X X X
Alaska X X X X
Arizona X X X X
Arkansas X X X X
California
Colorado X
Connecticut
Delaware X X
Florida X X
Georgia X X X
Hawaii X X
Idaho X X X X
Illinois X
Indiana X X X
Iowa X X
Kansas X X X X
Kentucky X X X
Louisiana X X X X
Maine X X
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan X X X
Minnesota X X
Mississippi X X X
Missouri X X X
Montana X X X X
Nebraska X X X X
Nevada X X
New Hampshire X X
New Jersey X
New Mexico X X X X
New York
North Carolina X X
North Dakota X X X X
Ohio X X X
Oklahoma X X X
Oregon X
Pennsylvania X X X
Rhode Island X
South Carolina X X X X
South Dakota X X X X
Tennessee X X X
Texas X X
Utah X X X
Vermont X X X X
Virginia X X X
Washington X X
West Virginia X X X X
Wisconsin X X X
Wyoming X X X X

Massachusetts has the strictest regulations regarding firearm security. In this state, any type of firearm that you own must be kept in a locked container or equipped with a locking device whenever it is not under your immediate control (in other states, these laws often only apply to handguns and assault weapons). 

In New York, you are required to keep your firearms locked if you are living with a felon, someone who has been convicted of domestic abuse or issued a restraining order due to domestic abuse, or someone who has been committed to a mental institution. Colorado has a similar law, though you are allowed to keep a gun unlocked in your home with a prohibited person if it’s so close to you that you’re effectively carrying it. Connecticut has a similar law as well, but it only applies to loaded guns. 

Locking devices

Even if state law doesn’t require it where you live, you should still invest in a locking device to prevent children, thieves, and any other unauthorized person from using your guns. There are several different types of devices you can use to lock up your firearms, including:

  • Cable lock: These devices are inserted through openings such as the magazine well, barrel, or chamber in order to render a firearm inoperable. They are the most affordable option when it comes to locking devices — indeed, cable locks are often included for free with firearm purchases. But these devices are not compatible with all guns, and it is possible to cut through the cable.
  • Trigger lock: This locking device is designed to fit through the trigger guard, preventing the trigger from being pulled. Some trigger locks are priced as low as $5, whereas high-end models are closer to $75. If you decide to get a trigger guard, you should opt for one of the more premium products, as most low-quality models are fairly easy to break open.
  • Lockbox: These small safes are typically large enough to store a handgun and some ammunition, and some models are big enough to store multiple handguns. They’re much harder to break open than cable locks or trigger locks, but they’re also light enough for a thief to simply carry away (for additional security, you can bolt the lockbox to a wall in your home). You can expect to pay somewhere between $25 to $350 for these products.
  • Gun safe: This is the most secure option for storing your firearms. With their heavy-duty steel construction, gun safes are extremely difficult to move or break into. Most gun safes are big enough to hold multiple firearms of all types (handguns, shotguns, rifles, etc.) as well as other valuables. Of course, this is also the most expensive option — they generally cost between $200 to $2,000.

Lockboxes and gun safes are especially secure if you purchase a product that uses biometrics. With this feature, your fingerprint will be required to open the lock and access your firearms — unlike keys and passcodes, which could potentially be used by others without your knowledge, biometric technology offers complete protection from unauthorized access. This high-tech feature does usually add to the cost of locking devices, but that’s a small price to pay for improved security.

How to safely store your gun

In addition to using a locking device to prevent other people from accessing your firearms, the following tips will help you store your guns more safely:

  • Talk to your children about firearm safety. If you have children in your home, you must explain to them that guns are dangerous and they should never handle them without your permission or supervision. Choose a time and place that’s free from distractions for this conversation — and it’s important to make this a conversation rather than a lecture, as you’ll want to hear exactly how your children currently perceive firearms so that you can clear up any misunderstandings. Children are naturally curious and may seek out guns in your home no matter what you say (this is what makes locking devices so important), but having this conversation will certainly improve the odds that they act responsibly.
  • Don’t share your key or passcode. No matter how much you might trust someone, never share the key or passcode to your gun’s locking device. If you’re willing to let a friend or family member borrow one of your firearms, you should remove the locking device and then hand it to them rather than give them the means of accessing the gun without your help. 
  • Store firearms and ammunition separately. Firearms should always be stored unloaded. If you would also like to store ammunition in your house, it should be kept in its own locked container and located in a separate room from your guns. That way, even if someone is able to break open your locking device and access your firearms, they would still need to make it through an additional security measure before they could actually use them.