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Owning a Gun Safely at Home

Owning a gun for home defense is your right as an American. But what about guns and child safety? Or intruders finding your gun before you do? Owning a gun for home defense requires some forethought – and some planning.

Owning a Gun is a Right But Requires Responsibility

A lot of people do it. Few do it right. There are many, many factors to consider after the decision is made to own a gun in your home for defensive purposes. Let’s try to wade through some by answering a bunch of the most common questions on the subject.

But first, let’s respond to the major criticism of the topic in general: “You’re paranoid.” That’s what those who don’t understand the topic are likely to say to you.

You can keep a fire extinguisher in your home, and no one bats an eye. You probably have smoke detectors, and maybe even a carbon monoxide detector. These are considered “normal” protections.

You have locks on your doors, seat belts, and airbags in your car, a first-aid kit in the bathroom, etc. In short, you are prepared with the tools to deal with most any emergency. But, of course, you hope that will never happen.

So owning a gun for home defense against possible intruders who mean you harm is not paranoia. It is preparedness. But be prepared – not everyone will see it this way.

A Personal Anecdote About Owning a Gun

I remember when my son was in preschool in the early 90s. I had been friends with Lexi (not her real name) before we even met in person. We both had complications with our pregnancies and shared a visiting nurse while we were on bed rest. We sent messages back and forth through the nurse, wishing each other well.

When our babies were born, we bought each other shower gifts. After we finally met, we were inseparable – chatting on the phone, picking out the “right” preschool so our kids would be on track for the best private schools in Los Angeles. Having playdates with our sons, regardless of whether or not they wanted to – just so we could chat it up and gossip.

Then, after the L.A. Riots in 1992, I began taking shooting lessons. I bought my first gun – a .44 Magnum. (Silly choice, I know but they were sold out of sensible guns after the riots. And I was impatient.)

Anyway, as soon as Lexi found out there was a gun at my house, the play dates ended. I understood her paranoia. Even back then, the media made inanimate objects into killers.

But what she didn’t realize was how safe anyone would be in my home. Of course, my gun wasn’t sitting out on the counter. I have children too. Home safety, in every way, were my main priorities then. And they still are today.

Where Should I Keep My Home Defense Gun?

After doing some research and asking my “gun friends,” I quickly learned these short answers:

Combining those first two requirements with the last one can be difficult – especially considering I lived with others (including children – I’ll get to that in a minute). But it can be done.

Just keeping the gun handy is easy. But, without a plan combined with a distinct and consistent place for it, there is a good possibility that Murphy’s Law will kick in. And your gun won’t be where you want it when you need it.

If your plan is to just carry it around in your hand and set it down on the kitchen counter, think about this: How many times have you misplaced things like your car keys and your TV remote? I used to do it all the time. Not so much anymore. That’s because I made a plan and I stuck to it.

You know the old saying, “A place for everything, and everything in its place?” Well, it’s like that. Ideally, every item in your home has a place, but I can’t say that’s 100 percent true for the most organized person. Still, when it comes to really important things, having an allocated place becomes critical.

My car keys are consistently hung on a hook by the door. The TV remote has a little pouch on the side of the coffee table. And my gun has a designated spot, too – no matter where I am in the house, I know exactly where to find it.

Reaching for the remote and coming up empty is one thing. Reaching for your gun when you need it… well, that’s an entirely different story.

The Simple Concept Behind Home Defense Gun Location

(Important Caveat: Keep in mind that my children are grown and moved away. So when I explain this concept, remember there are only adults in my house. If children came to visit, I would alter my plan.)

When I am in the kitchen, I have a magnetic holder under the cabinet by the coffee maker. That’s where my Sig Sauer 229 Elite resides. (I know I mentioned I started with a .44 Smith and Wesson, but I never said that was the only gun I ever bought.)

Snacks made and heading into the living room for an evening in front of the TV? My pistol comes along for the main event. Then I just slip it neatly into a holster I installed between the back of the couch and the wall. It can’t be seen. No one but me would know it was there. But it’s always right there, in the same place, and ready should I need it.

The movie’s over, and I head off to bed. The Sig comes along. It slips into another affixed holster, this one at the back of my nightstand. I’ve practiced quite a few times finding it in the dark.

Consistent position and location are never so important as they are for the gun you will want to grab when you’re groggy and in the dark.

What Should I Keep My Home Defense Gun In?

Here’s where you need to take a hard look at some things and consider your options carefully. If you live alone or with one other trusted adult, the fixed holsters I mentioned above work just fine. However, if there are more adults in the house, or if there are kids, you’ll want to go to another level of safekeeping.

But remember, the basic concept stays the same – you want your pistol nearby. And in the same place every time.

So rather than a simple holster when it’s just you (and maybe one other adult), you need more restrictive access. Thank goodness there are many varied options for this.

Gun Safes

U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Thomas Dow

My first secure spot for my gun when my sons were small was a gun safe. I stored my .44 Smith and Wesson in there, without ammo. (I kept the ammo in my nightstand.) Of course, if there were some sort of unexpected emergency, my gun would be fairly useless. But I was willing to pay that price for peace of mind.

Today there are some excellent gun safes on the market you can quickly and easily access. No keys are required. In fact, you probably shouldn’t use a keyed safe for these quick-access applications. Imagine fumbling to find and fit keys in a lock under extreme duress. It’s a recipe for disaster.

If your gun safe is a simple, mechanical one, you needn’t worry about batteries, of course. But if it’s electrical, you need to change the batteries on a regular basis. Make it part of your routine to change the batteries on all the security devices in your home at least twice a year. That includes your smoke detectors, gun safes, etc. Write it in your calendar and set up an electronic reminder. Having dead batteries in a security device gives you a false sense of security – which is worse than no security at all.

Some safes use a simple push-button combination. And others have RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) sensors that pop the top open in an instant. Some read your fingerprints. It’s amazing what technology can do these days.

The point is, you can access a gun safe quickly when you need your gun. And, best of all, a gun safe keeps your firearm out of the hands of curious roommates or kids.


Now let me talk about fixed holster positions for a moment. Fixed holsters keep your pistol in an accessible and constant location, like the ones I use by my couch and under my kitchen counter. They don’t move or go with me anywhere. They have their assigned location. That’s where they live.

But fixed holsters require a bit of practice – and a lot more thought – than simple holsters. First of all, you must be able to pop that holster open quickly – even in the dark and even under stress. Another situation where practice makes perfect.

Are you noticing a theme? Plan and practice with your pistol before you need it in a home defense situation.

How Do I Keep My Kids Safe from My Home Defense Gun?

Kids and guns are usually a bad combination.

Now that I’ve stated the obvious, let me add that all kids are different and only you – the involved and concerned parent – can make the proper call. It’s a very good idea to err on the side of caution.

That said, my best friend grew up in central Pennsylvania. He says his home was full of guns. They were everywhere – especially in his father’s gun cabinet, which wasn’t locked. But he was raised with serious respect and discipline. At a very young age, he understood that if you stuck your hand in Dad’s gun cabinet you were likely to get some seriously unpleasant discipline.

The paramount key to keep in mind was that guns weren’t mysterious in any way. Whenever he or his brothers wanted to see them or handle them, his father took the time to give them a safe gun-handling lesson.

In those days, it was not uncommon – especially in rural PA – for kids to own and shoot their own guns responsibly. In fact, he tells me he marvels at the world we live in today. Because he took a gun to school with him almost every day. He was even on the school shooting team.

Of course, as I said, all kids are different. Every home is unique. Every kid matures at a unique rate. So there is a lot to think about, consider, and act on if you’re a parent who has decided that owning a gun in your home is a good idea.

As a side note, the NRA has a very successful program for teaching kids safe gun-handling practice. They’ve already taught millions of kids across America with their Eddie Eagle program.

The most important thing you can do is accurately and honestly assess the situation with your child or children. And, as always, err on the side of caution.

What Else Do I Need to Do to Safely Own a Home Defense Gun?

Just like buying a book from Amazon and sleeping with it under your pillow doesn’t mean you understand what’s in the book, you can’t just buy a gun and expect to know how to use it. You must dedicate yourself to spend time with your gun – learn safe gun handling procedures, take lessons, and practice shooting at a target range. You need to be a proficient shot for it to be an effective tool.

And try this to become really good with your gun: Visualize how you’ll actually access your gun under different conditions. The more you mentally imagine different scenarios, the more prepared you’ll be should you actually need to use your gun.

You need to be able to get the gun in your hand and on target quickly – often in the dark and under great stress. When you mentally practice potential scenes, you’ll be more relaxed if you actually need to use your gun.

Owning a Gun at Home is Quite Common

Like I said, for many generations, owning a gun in your home was very commonplace – especially in more rural areas. They were just another tool, like a shovel or a hammer.

And yet mass shootings and school shootings were unheard of. So don’t allow yourself to be bullied by the current “politically correct” crowd. Know that many other homeowners have decided that owning a gun makes sense for them. And these tools keep the occupants – including the children – safe from the big, bad world outside.

It isn’t talked about a lot because the “tolerant, progressive anti-gun crowd” can attack you in the most vicious of ways. There have even been instances of people being reported to Child Protective Services just for having a gun in the home.

So know you are not alone. There’s nothing shameful about owning a gun. But there’s also no need to bring negative energy into your life from conversations by irrational anti-gun folks. It is your right to guard and protect your home and family. With that right comes enormous responsibility. Exercise both.

I believe there are people who oppose owning a gun in the home who aren’t stubborn and unreasonable. I also believe there are folks who don’t necessarily have all the facts about owning a gun for home defense.

Have you had any situations with people who thought differently than you about owning a gun in your home? Did you have a conversation? What was the outcome? Let me know in the comments. I’m always curious to know how other gun rights advocates handle things.