A State by State Breakdown of Safe Gun Storage Laws

Kevin Gardner

Gun culture is very prevalent in American society. Learn how to follow the rules per state while keeping your guns safe.

Firearms are used for a host of recreational and sports activities. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, they can also be used to do harm. That is the primary reason you should always take steps to safely store and transport your gun. It is also the reasoning behind many of the safe storage laws that have been enacted across the nation.

Safe gun storage saves lives and reduces the number of firearm-related injuries every year. With a patchwork of laws, however, it can be too easy to miss a requirement where you live. If you own a firearm, it is your responsibility to keep it safely stored in your home, business, vehicle, or anywhere you take it. Take time to learn the gun storage rules and requirements in your state.

Federal Firearm Rules

Federal regulations largely apply to the sale and transfer of firearms by licensed dealers. All firearm transactions that fall under this umbrella must include a locking device at the time of transfer. There is no requirement for the new owner to use the device, however. There is also a lack of safety standards or regulations regarding the quality and effectiveness of locking devices at the federal level. For the most part, gun storage laws and regulations are left up to individual states.

States With Safe Storage Laws

Safe storage laws are in effect in 11 states: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. These vary on what types of firearms they apply to and under what conditions. For the most part, they mirror federal regulations about requiring locks for a sale or transfer.

Massachusetts has what are considered by many to be the strictest gun storage laws in the nation. It is the only state to require that all firearms are stored with a lock in place. Three other states -California, Connecticut and New York- have similar laws that apply in certain situations.

States With Minimum Standards for Locking Devices

There are five states that oversee standards for locking devices. They are California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Of them, California is known for a stringent set of standards that each gun safe and lock must meet to be approved for use.

Storage Laws Addressing Special Circumstances

In many states, there are special rules for certain parts of the population. This may include households that include children or someone with certain mental health conditions or a previous criminal record.

Child access prevention laws are designed to keep guns out of the hands of children to reduce accidental injuries, damage and death. They are on the books in 30 states, compared with only 11 that have general restrictions. These vary between states. California has the toughest requirement, which makes it a crime to store a firearm in a way that a minor might be able to gain access to it. Utah's law falls at the other end of the spectrum, criminalizing directly providing a firearm to a minor.

There are three states that require firearms to be stored with a locking device in place if someone in the household is ineligible to possess firearms. These states are California, Connecticut, and New York. In California, a firearm owner must store it either secured with a locking device or in a locked container he or she lives with a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law. Connecticut has a similar law, however, it only applies to loaded firearms. New York's law applies to households that include a domestic abuser, a convicted felon or a person whose mental health history would preclude them from owning a firearm.

Storing your firearm safely isn't a matter of political views or partisanship. It is a matter of safety and living up to your responsibility. You should always follow the minimum requirements in your state as they apply to your situation and household composition. Learning local and state laws can help you comply with them and keep your family safe. It may also limit your liability in some situations.


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