By Ben Douglas
Responding to tragedies is a huge part of being in law enforcement, and our job is to handle the situation no matter how benign or catastrophic. At first we often ask “Why?” until cynicism sets in and we realize the why isn’t so important. “Why?” is eventually replaced by, “What was this guy thinking?” And unfortunately, this question even applies to us when the calamity involves kids who’ve gotten their hands on one of our guns.
Your radio blares at you: “6-year-old shot, respond Code-3.” Acknowledging the call, you rush to the scene. It’s always so much worse when there’s a child involved. It’s human nature to immediately think of our own children — of their innocence, of what they mean to us and how we’d feel if they were taken from us. And that’s when the anger creeps in, but there’s no time for anger when you’re dealing with the call.
While we do our best to provide basic life support, we try not to think about how this came to be. Moments later paramedics arrive and transport, and you enter investigation mode. It doesn’t take long to find the cause. When it comes to firearms and children, it’s rarely ever anything but negligence on the part of the gun owner.
But what if this call involved the child of another officer? Is it any different? Aren’t we supposed to know better?
Carry your gun; you’re issued one for a reason. You’re also allowed to carry it off-duty for a whole slew of reasons. It’s there to keep you and your loved ones safe. It’s a tool to help stop the absolute worst-case scenario, so carry your gun.
Then there’s the other worst-case scenario; a child getting a hold of your gun.
There are always reasons to put your firearm aside for the moment. Most of us don’t sleep with a gun under our pillow, so it’s safe to say your gun will be stored somewhere for the night. Maybe you take it off when you get home from work or leave it in your gym bag while you workout. The question is what are you doing to keep your weapon from getting into the hands of a child, or anyone else for that matter? Your kids aren’t dummies. They know you have a gun and there isn’t enough training in the world to keep them from being curious about it. Mortality and consequence are two huge concepts that rarely enter into the mind of a child. If your gun isn’t attached to your hip, it should be locked up.
Space requirements vary inside every home. You may have room and the budget to get a top-notch fireproof safe. Fort Knox produces some excellent and beautiful safes, which can be configured to hold a whole arsenal. If you just need a place for your issued service weapon, they also make some very affordable handgun lockers. The Fort Knox Original Pistol Safe is small enough (4.5×12.5×10.75″) to fit in a clothes drawer or on top of your dresser. It’s a heavy little beast (22 pounds) constructed of 10-gauge steel with a 5-button combo lock, providing quick access to your weapon.
If you’re looking for something a little bit lighter GunVault offers both their MiniVault and NanoVault. The MiniVault is available in three models, each with the same dimensions and weight (5.25×8.25.12″ exterior, 3x7x11″ interior and 9 pounds) with a variety of features for you to choose. These gun vaults function on a biometric system, so unless you’re silly enough to use your kids’ fingerprints, theirs no way they could accidently find their way into the box.
On The Go
The NanoVault is small enough to be easily portable — perfect for having with you wherever and whenever you’re out and about. This 1.75×6.5×9.5″ steel box, weighing just 3 pounds, comes with a security cable allowing you to secure the box to any fixed object (think steel car seat mount). It’s also TSA certified for airline transport.
Another amazingly simple idea for those on the go — or for those on very limited budgets — a cable lock or trigger lock will ensure your firearm cannot be fired by anyone but you. I keep one in my gym bag, one in my glove box and another on top of my fridge.
Owning a lock, locker or safe is one thing. Using it is another. Create good habits by having means to store your weapons in places where they are convenient for you to use. Choose places you routinely go in your home to remove your gear and make sure one of the options above is available. Be prepared; there are always unexpected situations and you may wind up at a relative’s or neighbor’s house. Keep your options open and find a device you can keep with you, because you can’t expect those around you to have means to secure your weapon.
Everyone makes mistakes. Cops aren’t immune to stupid acts. We don’t walk on water and we could all use a dose of humility from time to time. Just don’t make the mistake of leaving your weapon in a condition where a child can fire it. Solve the problem before someone like you has to respond — before it leads to tragedy. All it takes is a few simple steps.