As parents, we want nothing more than to ensure the safety of the little souls we’ve been tasked with keeping safe. When it comes to gun safety, though, more than a few households are lacking in safety.
According to a 2002 study conducted for the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 4% of parents keep loaded and unlocked firearms in the home. While a 2006 study found 3 in 4 children ages 5-14 knew where firearms were hidden in their home. Thirty-nine percent of parents thought their children did not know the location of the firearm.
Sometimes we think we know but we have no idea. Despite our best attempts at hiding, our kids can still find our firearms. It’s on us, as parents, to strike that balance between accessibility for us and safety for them and it’s a tall order. But with the right gear it’s not as daunting of a task.
In a previous article, I discussed the how of concealed carry with kids. Taking that discussion a step further, we’ll look at how parents can carry safely with a family.
Carrying by holster
Beyond the usual fit and feel of holster selection, parents need to weigh a few more considerations when choosing a carry holster. Trigger safety and retention should also drive holster shopping.
A molded Kydex concealed carry holster provides great weapon retention and completely covers the trigger guard. (Photo: Jacki Billings)
I highly suggest holsters with a trigger guard to fellow parents. Not only does it help prevent accidental discharges from the concealed carry holder, but it also prevents children from accidentally pulling the trigger in the holster. Most parents can relate to feeling like a jungle gym. With all the climbing, clambering and rough housing, little fingers may find their way into pockets, purses, waistlines, pant cuffs and holsters. A trigger guard prevents any further finger travels and keeps kids and parent safe from discharges.
Corset carry rigs can sometimes compromise comfort and concealability for security. (Photo: Jacki Billings)
While carrying, I exclusively want access to my pistol. My kids don’t need access to it nor does anyone else for that matter. Therefore, I highly recommend holsters with a retention mechanism. There are different styles that range from push button releases to simple molding to retain the firearm in the holster. (I prefer a molded Kydex holster.) The beauty of a good retention system is that you can be as active as you need to be with your kids without the worry of a firearm falling out or worse your child gaining access to the pistol.
Deep concealment options aren’t out while concealed carrying with families; though special care will need to be exercised with some holsters. For example, corset holsters make for deep concealment but often lack a solid retention system and trigger guard.
Concealing by bag
Concealed carry purses, diaper bags and totes have risen in popularity over the past few years. These certainly do work for moms and dads already toting bags for their little ones, but this type of carry does come with its own set of safety concerns.
Carrying your concealed pistol in an off the body manner, such as in a purse or tote bag, comes with it’s own set of safety concerns. Today, shooters have an entire market of CCH specific bags to chose from.
Introducing an unsecured, loaded firearm into a bag is trouble and, as a firearms instructor, I would never advocate tossing a firearm in a bag without a holster. Aside from the potential of introducing foreign objects into the barrel or slide and the inability to quickly draw, a free floating pistol presents a safety hazard to children. A firearm in a diaper bag can look tempting to curious kids rummaging for food or toys and if there is nothing covering the trigger guard, the possibility of an accidental discharge caused by other items shifting in the bag is too high. If you opt for bag carry, invest in either a dedicated carry bag or holster up within the bag and make sure that this rig is situated/mounted in a secure spot.
Concealed carry bags made for firearms are equipped with an integrated holster to retain the firearm (or at least have a place where a holster can be mounted). These bags also feature quick access panels, using easy open zippers, to allow for a quick draw from the bag. Though all of these elements are a step up from throwing a gun in a purse, they aren’t child proof. Quick open panels, though great for concealed carry, are also easy for small children to manipulate. Built-in holsters often lack trigger guards with some lacking retention mechanisms.
To safely bag carry, the most important idea to adhere to is always maintain possession of the bag. CCH bags don’t belong in shopping carts. They don’t belong on the floor beside you. They should stay on you at all times. Remember, if you have the firearm, then your kids don’t.
A mid-market pistol safe and trigger lock are all go to solutions for safely storing your pistol. (Photo: Jacki Billings)
Responsibility doesn’t end when the firearm comes off the belt or out of the bag. Safe gun practices should continue in the home as well with safe storage practices.
Gun locks, like this numeric combination lock, allow an added level of security but could also prove a hindrance to accessibility to the weapon in a high stress situation. (Photo: Jacki Billings)
Many gun safe manufacturers are thankfully meeting the parental demand of safety and protections by developing compact, accessible safes. There’s some great ones on the market that use biometrics, RFID, or a code to open. They come in a variety of sizes and can also be used to store passports or other sensitive documents. These run on the small side and can fit on a nightstand or in a drawer for concealment. Some even come equipped to auto open, a great feature should you need quick access at night.
Prices range from $25 up to $300. I personally own two lower end models so both my husband and I have a place for our carry guns at the end of the day.
Another option is a simple gun lock on the trigger. Using either a key or combination, these fit over the trigger area and are designed to prevent the trigger from being pulled. Proper placement is essential for these to be an effective option. Ideal placement is behind the trigger, with as little space as possible between the lock and firearm.
Hidden cabinets or other furniture features meant to hide gun safes offer superior concealment for weapons. (Photo Jacki Billings)
These locks do take longer to open and can be difficult in a high stress situation when dexterity is non-existent. Older kids may also be able to manipulate and open the lock.
Novelty styles of storage such as hidden books and shelves can also be an alternative to more traditional methods of storage. I prefer those that feature an integrated locking system and suggest placing these in spots where children cannot reach.
Safety doesn’t stop with storage: Education is an extremely important factor when it comes to the overall safety of your family with guns in the house and on your person. Teaching your children what to do when they see a firearm (stop, don’t touch, leave the area, and tell an adult) can prevent unnecessary accidents.
For parents not sure where to start, the NRA offers the Eddie Eagle program. Parents have the option of finding a local class to enroll their child or ordering a sample pack from the NRA to teach gun safety at home.
It all comes down to responsibility. If you have a gun and you have kids you don’t have the luxury to be lax when it comes to where you keep firearms. Mischievous masters at finding hidden objects, it’s up to parents to pair proper carry gear and storage with education to keep kids safe.
Safety warning: Jacki Billings is a certified NRA instructor and any methods or information described here is intended to be put into practice only by serious gun-owners with proper training.
Cover: Getty Images