“Maintain control of your firearm (if not in possession, lock it up).”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety lists this as its fifth and final firearms safety rule.
All too often, firearms are reported throughout the country to be stolen because they were left unattended or kept somewhere with the assumption that it is safe, such as in a vehicle.
The two recent cases reported by The Daily Courier of unprotected guns being stolen from unlocked vehicles in the Quad Cities are prime examples of how these things happen.
Donald Grier, manager of Prescott Gun Club, believes much of this simply comes down to a lack of basic firearms training.
“People need to get trained on not only how to safely handle their firearms, but how to safely store them,” Grier said. “A lot of people who go to buy a gun just buy a gun and walk out and never get training.”
As clearly stated by AZDPS’s rule, keeping a weapon in a lock box when not being carried is fundamental to responsible gun ownership.
Lock boxes designed for both vehicles and homes come in all shapes, weights and sizes. Some are unlocked using a key, some use a number pad and others can even be unlocked by scanning an electronic wristband or code on a smartphone.
Grier specifically recommends lock boxes that use biometrics. These can be unlocked by reading the owner’s fingerprints.
“They allow for quick access in the event of an emergency,” he said.
Smaller models of these usually start at about $135, which Grier finds quite reasonable considering what it is protecting.
“$135 to protect a $500 to $1,000 firearm, not to mention you don’t want it to get in the hands of someone doing something bad, it’s a small investment to make to protect yourself and other people,” he said.
Lock boxes designed for vehicles usually also come with a security cable that attaches to the side of the box and can be wrapped around something in the vehicle that can’t be easily removed, like a steering wheel column.
“A lot of times, these cables are super heavy duty strength,” Grier said. “You can’t just cut through them with bolt cutters or anything like that.”
Vehicles not best place for firearms
Keeping a firearm stored in a lock box inside a vehicle is certainly better than leaving it unprotected, but Sergeant Jason Kaufman, spokesman for the Prescott Valley Police Department, a former range master for the department and a current Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Firearms Instructor, doesn’t believe it’s wise to leave a firearm in a vehicle under any circumstances.
“It’s not the best idea,” Kaufman said. “I wouldn’t do it. Even if a gun is in a lock box, that doesn’t mean someone won’t just steal the whole car with the gun in it. If I’m going to carry a gun off duty as a police officer, I’m going to have it on my person.”
He also doesn’t believe in flaunting gun ownership, such as with pro-gun bumper stickers on a vehicle.
“If people put stickers on their vehicle like NRA, Gunsite (Academy), Ruger, Glock, Springfield Armory, it’s kind of like an advertisement,” Kaufman said. “So even if you lock your vehicle, it kind of gives the suspect an idea that 'there’s possibly a gun in this car if I break into it.'”
The same goes for carrying on your person.
“If you walk around with a gun like open carry, everyone knows you have a gun,” he said. “But if you walk around with a gun in a concealed capacity, which you can do in the state of Arizona as long as you’re not a convicted felon or have been convicted of domestic violence, nobody knows you have a gun, and it’s kind of a surprise if you need to take it out and utilize it to protect yourself or a third party.”