Too often we hear tragic stories resulting from children accessing firearms. In this column, Doug shares the gun-safety policy his family has adopted and offers some ideas on encouraging others to do the same.
The phrase “everything changes when you have a kid” is, perhaps, the understatement of the century. In addition to things like changes in sleep, the amount of money in your bank account, and your personal tolerance for noise, we must also change many of our habits. With the first baby, things change at a slower rate because the kid is too busy twisting into a pretzel in an effort to get his whole foot into his mouth to be carefully calculating how he will hurt himself in a way you never imagined. However, before long, those little balls of chub seem to suddenly become more capable than it seems they should… and, before this moment arrives, there are certain changes that must already be well-established.
For my wife and I, one of these critical changes was our practices with securing firearms in the home.
Before kids, we could put a pistol just about anywhere for convenience – the kitchen counter, the stairs, the coffee table, etc. I could have it in a drawer next to the bed and I could set it on the dresser while I was picking out what stylish duds I was going to grace the world with. In short, there were no little hands in our home which needed to be prevented from accessing a firearm.
I could come home from my day, set my wallet, keys, phone, gun, and knife on the kitchen counter, greet my wife, open a beer, and start my evening. Eventually, when it was time to go upstairs, I’d grab my everyday carry stuff and we’d head up. Life was simple… in fact, as many new parents quickly learn, we had no idea how easy we had it.
Then the day came when my wife peed on a stick… and we saw two lines.
The day we found out we would soon become parents, my wife and I sat down and started brainstorming what life was going to be like. We laughed, acknowledging that whatever we were about to think up wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of our approaching reality… and, as all new parents learn, we were right. We designed the nursery, spent a fortune on furniture (once my wife took me to Pottery Barn, I knew I was doomed), and we started making plans.
Guns, however, remained on the counter, in the drawer, on the stairs, and the habits surrounding them didn’t change – we were too busy reading reviews of diaper pails and testing rocking chairs to find *just the right one* to concern ourselves with firearm safety… after all, mommy still had the kid under lock and key.
The contractions eventually started and soon enough I found myself in the delivery room nervously and repeatedly asking my wife “are you ok?” Of course, her anesthesiologist had nailed his target and she was riding a wave of epidural-love without a care in the world. My wife literally never broke a sweat throughout either of our deliveries (ladies, get the drugs!).
Within a couple months we had addressed the issue of unsecured firearms. We added another safe, a few lock boxes, and a no-exceptions policy on how we were to handle firearms in the home. Our policy is simple: Every firearm, regardless of condition, is either under a responsible adult’s direct and active control or has been secured in a locked safe, inaccessible to children. That is our policy, and we mean it.
By “active and direct control” I mean that it’s on-your-body. It does not mean it’s on the ottoman, not tucked in the couch cushions next to you, not in a purse or a hip/fanny-pack (even those designed to accommodate a concealed firearm), and not unloaded somewhere you’re not (I know 4 year olds who can load, chamber, and effectively fire a handgun with no assistance). Active and direct control means, frankly, that should someone attempt to remove your weapon, you are in position go into weapon-retention at whatever level is necessary. Obviously if your little niece toddles up and puts her hand on your gun you’re not going to react the same way you would if someone at the grocery store grabbed at it while you were selecting what wine to pair with tonight’s dinner… the difference being that my niece will get tickles and cuddles (because it’s really a non-issue) and the guy at the grocery store is going to get hurt. Nevertheless, “active and direct control” means you’re in position to successfully defend and protect your weapon at whatever level is necessary. It means it’s literally on-your-body or in-your-hand, period, no exceptions, ever.
When I come home, I continue to wear my firearm on-my-body until my wife or I can secure it in the safe. There are no exceptions to this rule and, in fact, we have extended it to folding knives and pepper spray as well. We even purchased a GunVault biometric “MicroVault” for guests to use when they come to visit – we simply program their fingerprints into the box and instantly they have the ability to secure their equipment while maintaining immediate access to it. Our policy actually caught on well enough that my parents, siblings, and best friends have all ended up purchasing their own “MicroVault” boxes and actually bring them when they come to visit. Once again, quite simply, every firearm in our home is under the active and direct control of a responsible adult or it is actively secured in a safe or lockbox. Side note – we have had a great experience with our MicroVaults and look forward to evaluating more lock box options for our readers in the near future.
As my buddies started having kids, the MicroVault became my go-to “dadchelor party” gift… you know, the “man-shower” that involves all the dudes running out to the bar to escape the over-enthusiastic loving of the diaper-cake, the estrogen-fueled-collective-cooing over pastel-colored baby supplies, and the having to watch grown women drink wine from baby bottles. Do your soon-to-be-dad/friend a favor – liberate him from the baby shower, take him out for some guy-time, and present him with a lock box or gun safe as a collective gift from the guys! It’s an investment in his ability to keep his growing family safe. Of course, a lock box makes an awesome gift for an armed soon-to-be-new-mom too! I can’t think of a more thoughtful gift than one which will help your friends keep their family safe.
As I mentioned before, this policy of active-control makes so much sense that my whole family has adopted it, even when children aren’t present… but this policy is only as good as those adults who adhere to it. Admittedly, when you adopt a no-exceptions approach to firearm safety it’s probably going to feel awkward for a while… but stick with it and soon enough it’ll start to feel natural.
If you’re reading this column, chances are there are kids or grandkids in your life… or there will be soon! Make an investment in their safety and your peace of mind. I think you’ll find it’s a lot easier to do than you expect, and it’s certainly more painless than some of those early “thousand-wipes diapers” you’re going to be faced with… or your baby’s amplified cries piercing your ears from the baby monitor at 2am… or your baby’s feet pressed squarely into your face while you share your bed with them after you’ve woken up to their amplified ear-piercing cries…
In the coming weeks, I look forward to writing a post specifically about lock box options and my thoughts on which best apply to what situation.