Posted:
06/27/14

Gun Safes in Public Places: Is There a Benefit?

With the regularity of school and other public mass shootings in the U.S, the proposition of putting strategically located gun safes, stocked with rifles or other types of guns, in public buildings such as schools has been discussed in a lot of places across the country. Recently, a city in Idaho discussed keeping a weapon safe in a local school for on-site police officers to access in the event of an incident like a shooter entering the campus.

These kinds of armed security measures are becoming a more common topic among public officials, police departments, and administrators due to the surge in gun violence gripping the nation. Each state has different laws regarding carrying and brandishing weapons in public spaces and buildings, with most states having strict concealed carry laws or outright barring guns from certain public spaces. Still, the issue of whether more public spaces should be outfitted with an on-site gun safe for police or armed security officers to access for the public good is hotly debated.

Are Public Gun Safes Safe?

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Some argue that in order to prevent would-be mass killers from succeeding, more people need to be armed and guns need to be readily available for individuals to take quick action. The reality of the issue, however, is that gun training in a simulator or gun range is starkly different from real world gun violence training, such as a shootout between an armed civilian and a police officer. Keeping a dedicated gun safe stocked with some variety of rifles, shotguns, or handguns requires thorough consideration of the impact of this scenario, in addition to other things like weapon and safe security.

High quality gun safes are not easily breached or stolen. A high Underwriters Laboratory rating in a safe provides a good measurement of the safe’s security, and factoring in things like reinforced steel doors, fire resistance, anchoring, and locking mechanisms will give a pretty accurate idea of the safe’s overall security and resistance to breaches or theft. Safes can also be easily disguised to fit into a particular environment and with powerful steel walls, doors, and bio-metric locks, safes are more secure than ever. While safes, in general, are secure and reliable, filling them with guns in a public space leaves open some serious questions: do stored guns make a place safer and what happens if they fall into the wrong hands?

Do Guns Make a Space Safer?

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To entertain the idea of stocking public spaces like office buildings or schools with gun safes, you have to carefully consider the notion that more guns in public spaces–and stored guns–make those spaces safer for people. Many in favor of this argue that police response time to shootings is variable and more often than not, the killing has been completed by the time police arrive. With more armed security and police officers stationed in schools and in office buildings, some argue, the less likely a would-be shooter is to accomplish their goal. The question of whether or not these spaces are more secure as a result of the presence of armed personnel is, nonetheless, intensely debated. In order to endorse stocking these places with gun safes, you have to believe that more guns make these spaces safer.

This may often be more of a psychological consolation than a realistic scenario. Even armed police are often incapable of halting a shooting spree and shooting accuracy in these situations is often less than ideal. Armed civilians or a security officer who are intent on disrupting a shooter may find this a challenge easier fantasized than realistically carried out. What’s more, the presence of guns in some places can potentially create a tension filled environment among the public and, in the worst cases, become a security risk if a gun falls into the wrong hands–inexperienced hands or those intent on malfeasance.

In the best case scenario, stored on site guns would only be accessible by a trained law enforcement agent and the presence of a gun safe would only be known by a select few to reduce attempted breaches or tampering. The question of overall public safety by way of guns, though, still hinges largely on ideology. A safe can very well be secured, disguised, and accessible to only a select individual, but the underlying objective of discouraging or preventing rogue gun violence through a public weapon cache is perhaps little more than an untested theory under the guise of meaningful security.