Safe firearm storage saves lives

Talk to friends and family about firearm safety


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More women than ever are taking on the responsibility of firearm ownership. Women Veterans are well-trained in the care and use of firearms, but other members of your home may not be.

During National Safety Month this June, VA encourages women Veterans to make sure firearms are stored safely in the home. Talk to friends and family about proper firearm storage and safety methods. Doing so can help prevent accidents and suicides.

Firearm storage and a decreased risk of accidents and suicide

VA is working to prevent suicide among those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. Safe firearm storage is an important part of suicide prevention.

Firearms were used in nearly half of all suicides among Americans in 2017 and nearly 70% of all Veteran suicides. Women Veterans have a higher risk of suicide than other women and are also more likely to use firearms to attempt suicide.

For most, thoughts of suicide are usually brief and temporary. Putting time and space between someone in crisis and firearms by using secure storage methods can make all the difference.

Research also shows there is an 80% reduction in accidental firearm deaths among children when firearms and ammunition are stored separately.

Important checklist

Here are some simple ways to protect yourself, your friends and your family:

  • Keep firearms unloaded when not in use and out of the reach of children and unauthorized adults.
  • Store firearms in a safe, locking cabinet or lockbox.
  • Store ammunition separately from firearms.
  • Use a cable or trigger lock for your firearm.
  • Store firearms disassembled or remove the firing pin.
  • Make sure household members understand the safety guidelines concerning firearms.
  • If there is someone at high risk for suicide in the home, store firearms at the home of someone you trust. Check relevant firearm laws before doing so.
  • Regularly review the safe storage of your firearms and safe handling guidelines.
  • Request a firearm lock from your local VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator (SPC). Find your local SPC using the VA resource locator.

By following and talking about safe and simple storage practices, you can help prevent firearm accidents and deaths in the home. Firearm owners have a duty to protect themselves, family members and the public from misuse.

Protect you, friends and family

Firearm safety locks, safes, and other proper storage methods not only protect you but your friends and family members as well.

Free cable firearm locks are available at VA Medical Centers (VAMC) across the country courtesy of Project ChildSafe, a VA-endorsed program. You can get the locks from your VA primary care team or your VAMC’s suicide prevention coordinator.

For more information, review VA’s Safe Firearm Storage Toolkit, learn how to create a safe home environment. Check out VA’s safety brochure for Veterans.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.


VA Women’s Health addresses the health care needs of women Veterans and works to ensure that timely, equitable, high-quality, comprehensive health care services are provided in a sensitive and safe environment at VA health facilities nationwide. We strive to be a national leader in the provision of health care for women, thereby raising the standard of care for all women.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Mark Moon    

    The (woman) (veteran) person that
    a) has a firearm,
    b) will have ammunition, and
    c) knows how to access the loaded firearm, even if it is locked in their safe.
    Your advise is a dud.

    My appreciation goes to those who serve(d) with me.

  2. A. Johns    

    Who the heck wrote this article? Did you have to meet a quota with having an article that addresses female veterans? Sorry, but shouldn’t this be targeted to ALL Veterans?

  3. James King    

    Seriously?? I cannot believe this liberal anti gun propaganda was even published by the VA. Oh wait, yes I can. And why does it start out specifically addressing women Veterans? Does the VA or the author consider women less competent with firearms? I taught 3 sisters and one daughter how to handle, shoot and maintain their own firearms. They all still own guns and shoot proficiently. Again, Seriously??

  4. Marcus    

    I keep my HK loaded all the time, unless I’ve emptied the magazine at the range or I am allowing someone else to hold it. It does little good for self-defense/home security if it’s unloaded and locked up. If you have a family member that is suicidal then by all means lock them up. Other than that, this is bad advice.

  5. Paul Feyerabend    

    Education and Training with firearms is the key, and if someone in the house shouldn’t handle weapons, for whatever reason, just deny them access. Defensive weapons are kept loaded, other than that, there is nothing to discuss.

  6. Joseph Manwell Williams    

    I would love to have a safety box like that one please let me know what I can do to get one!

  7. W. S.    

    I talk to no one about my weapons. It’s no ones business but mine.

    1. Paul Feyerabend    

      If you get one, they have boxes that will open with the correct finger print, so there is no key or combination to slow you down, and the gun can be stored loaded.

  8. Travis    

    This is one of the worst “advisory ” post I have ever seen this site post.
    An unloaded firearm locked in a vault during a time when it is needed for protection serves about as much good against attackers of home invaders as rolled up copy of Guns and Ammo magazine.
    The key to firearm safety is not hide them and lock them away like they are taboo, the key to true firearm safety is to educate those in your household to the dangers of firearm, as well as the proper way use it, when to use it and when not to use it.
    Yes young children can be educated on these things, when you make things taboo to them you create curiosity, curiosity without education creates a dangerous situation. You teach them not to touch a hot stove, this is no different.
    My children were taught firearm safety and the way to handle a firearm before they learned to ride a bike. They are both grown adults now and never once shot each other or themselves. And yes I have always had firearms out in plain view in my home.
    And remember this, you never see a cop with his weapon unloaded or locked in a vault in his vehicle or office. It’s always loaded and ready to do the job they need it to do.
    Education and common sense will protect your family much better than a vault or trigger lock.
    Dont get me started on common sense and gun ownership……..

    1. walter mclaughlin    

      Correct. This was stated by the Supreme court “the requirement that any lawful firearm in the
      home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible
      for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and
      is hence unconstitutional. ” in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008).

      1. Leesa Ross    

        Travis,

        You’re a lucky man. My family wasn’t as fortunate. Accidents with guns can happen. Guns were in our household too. My son died while he was away at college. He went over to a friends house after a concert. That boy kept his loaded gun on a coffee table. A friend handed it to my son, Jon, he grabbed it with his non-dominate hand, it discharged and killed him.That particular handgun didn’t even come with a safety button. I can tell you no one in the room thought about the dangers of keeping a loaded gun out.
        I now educate young adults about the importance of storing their guns safely. Science has taught us that young adults brains are not fully developed until the age of 25. I have another son that loves to hunt, but after losing a brother he never leaves a gun lying around. It shouldn’t take an accident to change to someone’s mind, but sometimes it seems that’s the only thing that will work.
        I tell parents they need to consider other ppl’s homes — places where their children play. While your child may be well educated the other child may not. For young adults it about keeping friends and roommates safe. If a roommate or friend becomes suicidal and knows that you own a gun and it’s not stored safely he might use that gun to commit harm on himself. There are plenty of biometric safes available for quick access in case of intruder. I tell young adults if they want to get skilled in opening a safe they need to practice regularly. You can’t fire a gun accurately without practice, and you can’t open a safe quickly without practice. I think the article is a full of good resources and conveys the message of safety. I believe we should all care about safety.

    2. Paul Feyerabend    

      Education and Training with firearms is the key, and if someone in the house shouldn’t handle weapons, for whatever reason, just deny them access. Defensive weapons are kept loaded, other than that, there is nothing to discuss.

    3. Joan MacNeill    

      Dear Travis

      I agree that it is smart to have a weapon ready and available if it is needed. The other side of the coin with children, however, is that you can not have ultimate control over their mental health, no matter how dedicated you are to their welfare. I particularly refer to teenagers, who have so many concerns at that time of life, that many become unstable. One of the major causes of teenage deaths is suicide, including some “accidental” deaths that may actually have been suicides. Three main factors have been associated with suicides, and firearms availability is one of them. I don’t know how to reconcile the wisdom of having a gun handy when needed, with children’s safety. I do appreciate your attitude; I share much of it. But I’m not wise enough to know how to deal with all possibilities, especially unexpected ones. I can just say I wish you well.

      Joan MacNeill

  9. H C Juengst    

    Although I agree with proper training of all family members in the handling and use of firearms I can’t agree on your “safe storage” for other than firearms used for recreation (hunting or target shooting);
    A firearm intended for personal security is useless if it is secured in a safe or with a cable, trigger lock installed and the ammunition in a separate location. By the time you accessed the firearm, accessed the ammunition, loaded the firearm and was prepared to defend your family or self it would probably be too late.
    I agree that in the case of having a possibly suicidal family member you would have to forego your personal security for that family members safety.

  10. James Paterson Dad    

    I don’t agree. If my 9mm is locked in a safe, the ammo somewhere else how do I protect my family? By the time you get your weapon ready to use hour dead. Mine is always loaded & ready to use. Usually on the side table in the open. Had 4 girls & 2 boys. Taught them not to touch & about safety. I do carry concealed. You information doesn’t apply to all.

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