Secure firearm storage


Key points
  • In 2020, firearms were the leading cause of death in youth (ages 0-24) in the United States.
  • Approximately 80% of unintentional firearm-related deaths of young children (ages 0-14) occur in the home while playing with a firearm.
  • Nearly 30 million children live in a home with firearms and 4.6 million children live in households where at least one firearm is stored loaded and unlocked.
  • The presence of firearms in households has a stronger impact on the risk of suicide among adolescents compared to adults. Implementing policies that require locks and safe storage for firearms has been associated with a significant 13.1% reduction in adolescent firearm suicides.
  • There is increased access to firearms in rural areas compared with urban areas. 
  • Laws reducing unauthorized access to firearms, primarily requiring secure firearm storage, are associated with lower overall suicide rates.


Secure firearm storage is key to responsible firearm ownership. It involves locking firearms in a location (a gun safe or lock box) or with a device (a cable lock or trigger lock) that prevents unauthorized users from accessing them. Secure storage can also include storing ammunition in a separate location from the firearm.

It is important to store all firearms securely when not in use.

Firearms that are stored out-of-sight or out-of-reach are not securely stored, and these methods are not enough to prevent access by children or unauthorized adults. Children are often aware of hiding locations, lock passwords, and number combinations adults use. Secure storage involves ensuring that each household member with a firearm understands firearm safety measures.

Research has shown that unsecured storage of firearms is associated with a higher risk of unintentional or accidental injury among children. Ensuring youth can access firearms only with authorized adults, may help prevent firearm homicide and accidental injury.


Secure storage options

The decision on what type of firearm storage to use may depend on personal factors, such as the number and type of firearms in a household and the reason for owning them. 

  • Firearm owners with non-immediate access needs: Those who use firearms for hunting, recreational shooting, or as a collector may find that a large safe or secure room is an appropriate storage option. 
  • Firearm owners with immediate access needs: Those who want firearms in their home for self-defense may find that a firearm can be securely stored while remaining quickly accessible by using locking devices with biometrics (e.g., fingerprint) or traditional locking features (i.e., keys, number codes).
  • Firearm owners with a concealed carry permit: Those with a verified permit or those who use firearms for their profession must ensure it is either holstered securely on their body or stored securely when not in use. 
  • Ammunition storage is another important feature to secure firearm storage. Firearm advocacy organizations and medical professionals recommend that firearms are stored locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored in a separate location from the firearm(s).
  • Various locking mechanisms are used to help decrease the likelihood of unauthorized access. The most common are key locks, combination code locks, biometric locks (e.g., fingerprints), or digital keypad locks. 

Securely stored firearms can prevent: 
  • Theft and the likelihood that firearm(s) will be used in criminal activity.
  • Accidental injury and death among youth and other household members. 
  • Suicide deaths, as most suicide attempts occur during a temporary crisis. After brief contemplation (minutes to hours), 90% of firearm suicide attempts are fatal. Delaying access to a highly lethal method of self-injury may allow for a crisis to resolve. Fatal suicide attempts because delaying access to a highly lethal method of self-injury may allow for a crisis to resolve. 

In Colorado 
  • In Colorado, almost one-third of the state's middle and high school students have access to a firearm, with over 25% reporting access within 24 hours and 12% reporting access in under 10 minutes. 
  • Colorado has passed legislation to require secure firearm storage and address lost or stolen firearms. For more information, see “Colorado Laws”.

Learn more about secure firearm storage

  1. Grossman DC, Mueller BA, Riedy C, et al. Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries. JAMA. Published February 9, 2005. doi:10.1001/jama.293.6.707. PMID: 15701912. 
  2. McCarthy V, Wright-Kelly E, Steinhart B, et al. Assessment of Reported Time to Access a Loaded Gun Among Colorado Adolescents. JAMA Pediatric. Published March 27, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.0080. 
  3. Lee LK, Fleegler EW, Goyal MK, et al. Firearm-Related Injuries and Deaths in Children and Youth. Pediatrics. Published October 8, 2022. doi:10.1542/peds.2022-060071. 
  4. Miller M, Azrael D. Firearm Storage in US Households With Children: Findings From the 2021 National Firearm Survey. JAMA Network. Published February 1, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.48823. 
  5. Kivisto AJ, Kivisto KL, Gurnell E, Phalen P, Ray B. Adolescent Suicide, Household Firearm Ownership, and the Effects of Child Access Prevention Laws. J Am Acad Child Adolescent Psychiatry. 2021;60(9):1096-1104. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2020.08.442
  6. Safe Storage of Firearms. American Academy of Pediatrics. (American Academy of Pediatrics website) Updated April 26, 2023. Accessed May 12, 2023. 
  7. American Academy of Pediatrics. Safe Storage of Firearms [Internet]. Updated 04/26/2023. American Academy of Pediatrics. Accessed March 25 2023.
  8. Deborah Azrael, Matthew Miller, “Access to Firearms, Homicide, and Suicide: Role of the Mortality Multiplier”, American Journal of Public Health 110, no. 10 (October 1, 2020): pp. 1456-1457.