Skip to main content
Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Emphasizes the Importance of Safe Storage of Firearms

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Kentucky

Louisville, KY - Safe storage of firearms is an important tool for reducing the risk of unintentional shootings, helping to prevent firearm-related suicides, and for making our communities safer. In 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported firearm injuries to be among the five leading causes of death for people ages 1-44 in the United States and the leading cause of death among children and teens ages 1-19. Kentucky’s Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel’s 2023 Annual Report identified unsafe access to deadly means as a risk factor or characteristic in 83% of firearm-related cases and improper storage was identified in 90% of those cases. Proper storage of firearms can significantly reduce these risks, particularly among children and teenagers. Safe storage also protects adults by decreasing the risk of gun thefts, diversion of firearms to illegal markets, and criminal discharges of firearms. The change in seasons is a great time to review storage practices to ensure all firearms are stored safely.

“My commitment to reducing gun violence in our communities includes raising awareness of the safe storage of firearms,” said Western District of Kentucky U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett. “Secure storage saves lives by keeping guns out of the hands of children, at-risk persons who may do harm to themselves or others, and individuals who are prohibited by law from possessing firearms. I encourage the public to educate themselves on safe storage and all gun owners to take steps to securely store their firearms in their homes, businesses, and vehicles.”

The U.S. Department of Justice released Safe Storage of Firearms Unload it, Lock it, Store it, which discusses secure gun storage, different types of storage devices, and best practices for safely storing firearms. One of the most comprehensive guides on safe storage ever released by the federal government, this publication details safety and security suggestions for firearms. “These practical recommendations promote responsible gun ownership and provide effective safety measures,” said U.S. Attorney Bennett.  

Nearly all firearm accidents in the home can be prevented by making sure that guns are kept unloaded. Keep ammunition locked in a secure location away from the firearm. When removing firearms from storage, always re-check firearms carefully and completely to be sure that they are still unloaded. Always treat every gun as if it were loaded.

If you must have quick access to a loaded firearm, make sure to take special safety precautions and keep them in a secure location readily accessible to responsible adults only. Gun locks or devices that prevent the firearm from being operated without first deactivating the device are effective and should be used as an additional safety precaution to make firearms inoperative to others. Keys and combinations for the safety device should be stored separately in a location inaccessible to children, at-risk persons, and prohibited persons. While gun locks increase safety, these additional precautionary tools should not be used as substitute for secure storage.

Every year, thousands of firearms are lost or stolen from homes, businesses, and vehicles. Data compiled for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)’s Crime Gun Intelligence and Analysis shows that from 2017 to 2021, more than a million firearms were stolen from private citizens, making up 96% of all firearms reported stolen during that time period. Thefts from vehicles are the largest source of stolen guns, particularly those left in unlocked vehicles or in plain view. Across Kentucky, approximately 3,000 guns are stolen from vehicles yearly, which averages out to over eight thefts a day. To prevent these thefts, firearms should be stored in a locked cabinet, gun safe or gun vault, or secure storage compartment or case designed to be unlocked only by means of a key, a combination, or other similar means. By securely storing firearms, responsible gun owners can deter these thefts and stop firearms from circulating illegally and potentially being used in crimes.

Safe storage in the home is critical for preventing the risks of unintentional death, injury, or damage. If you live with a person who is at risk or legally prohibited from possessing a firearm, consider upgrading your storage levels to be absolutely certain that no firearm can be accessed. Always make sure any guns in the home are stored so that they are not accessible to children. Talk to children about the hazards of improper firearm use and teach them safe practices if they do come into contact with a gun. Talk to friends, relatives, or adults in homes where children may visit to ensure safe firearm storage practices are being followed in their homes. “Hiding a firearm, or telling a child not to play with a gun, is not enough to keep a curious child safe from unintentional injuries,” said U.S. Attorney Bennett. “We must all be committed to taking affirmative steps to secure firearms in order to protect our loved ones and keep our homes and communities safe.”

The safety and security practices outlined by the Department of Justice are recommendations only. Responsible gun owners should also be aware of all federal, state, and local laws regarding the purchase, possession, carrying, use, storage, and disposition or sale of firearms.


Updated July 10, 2024