Saturday, February 7, 2015

Wanna Keep Your Guns Safe? Here are some ideas:

After a rash of home burglaries within our local gun community I decided to author a blog post about how NOT to have your guns stolen. 
The crime of burglary has been with mankind since the first shelter was constructed, despite laws, jail time and the stigma of being a convicted felon we are still having to protect our stuff from people who would rather take the items belonging to others then earn a legit living. 
I decided to just cover burglary, as home invasions are a whole different scenario.

Below are real life stories of people who had their houses broken into:

Story #1: Several guns were taken during this daytime burglary
"Well, we have a window over our bed that's pretty high up off the ground. It was left slightly open, maybe 2", someone must have held someone else up so they cut the screen and wedged the window up. We usually close the window but that day we forgot, unfortunate timing on that one. It happened during the day sometime between 10-4. Once in they ransacked the place."

Story #2: This guy experienced a home invasion and didn't even know it
"I left my sliding glass door open on the second floor during the summer to keep cool at night. The burglar scaled the balcony to get in and stole my Glock 21 and wallet from my night stand while I was sleeping. wallet was later found a couple buildings away at the apartment complex."

Story #3 They took the whole safe
This gun owner discovered the hard way how a cheap safe is no deterrent to burglars. They took the entire safe, loaded it in their truck and made off with 9 firearms (including 2 handguns and several AR rifles), hundreds of rounds of ammo and important documents.
The burglary happened between 1am and 5:30am while the owner was out for the night. Perhaps he left clues that he wasn't home or the thieves had been casing the house waiting for the right opportunity. It could also be an "inside job" in which the burglars knew the owner, at least peripherally. The victim did admit to having gun stickers on his vehicle which may have tipped off the people casing the house. 

Story #4 Daytime thieves leave behind rifles
The home owners found their hunting rifles on their bed (they were previously under the bed). The burglars had robbed the place and left the rifles behind. The owner removed the bolts from the rifles and hid them in another location. We might guess that this is why they were left behind, but to do that we would need to assume the burglar has a working knowledge of firearms. It is more likely that the rifles could not be concealed in their backpacks during their getaway.

Story #5 Thieves knew the schedule
This home owner can tell exactly when his house was broken into based on his and his neighbors schedules. The event occurred between 4:30 and 6:40 pm, which is an odd time. The creeps must have been watching the house. They broke a window to gain access.
A computer and a 1911 pistol were among the items stolen.

Story #6 Safes 'unmolested'
This homeowner had his house burglarized sometime during the day before 3pm. The thieves apparently went straight for the Master Bedroom and emptied all the drawers looking for jewelry, prescription drugs and guns.

"Good news: Gun safe was unmolested (it was locked). But everything on top of it (holsters, ears, etc.) was thrown on the floor. V-Line wall safe (which I use for quick access to hand guns and for prescriptions that I don't want the kids getting into) was either undiscovered or just not bothered with. Closet door which contains my ammo was unmolested (it has an electronic deadbolt that I installed last year, the push button type that you program with your own combination of numbers). All three of these "safes" were in the master suite and left alone."

Story #7 A weak safe is just a box
This poor homeowner found out the hard way that his gun locker was used as a portable transportation container for the thieves that broke into his house on a Friday between 11am and 3pm. The creeps made off with the entire locker containing 5 firearms and ammo.

Story #8: Smash & Grab thieves make off with gun & jewelry
This members house was broken into during the day between 11:30 & 4:50pm, they broke a window and opened the french doors to the master bedroom. Their ransacking was halted by dogs that were in the house. The creeps made off with a pistol and some jewelry.

Story #9: A real safe saves the day
My friends house was burglarized a couple of years ago. 
The creeps used a hammer that was on the porch to break a window in a french door, then they reached through the new opening and used the lock handle to unlock the deadbolt.
Luckily they had just purchased a Superior gun safe a few weeks before and had it bolted to the oak wood floor inside a closet. I am proud to say that I was the one that prompted them to buy the safe. No guns were taken, just a TV set and some other valuables.

The above stories have a lot of similarities.....

How about we discuss some facts:

More than 2 million homes are burglarized each year in the U.S. (about one every 13 seconds). 

Burglary is the number one threat to our homes, not fire or natural disaster, but our own fellow citizens. Forget about guns having only two enemies (politicians and rust) Criminals are just as big a threat.

The majority of burglaries are committed by drug addicts who are not professionals in any sense of the word.

The majority of burglaries are committed during the day (9am to 4pm) and during the warmer summer months. 
The day time is when most people are at work and the summer months is when most people take their vacation.....

I am no expert on security, but I do have a degree in Law Enforcement and I have done extensive research, so I am sharing what I learned. Not all of these tips will work for everyone, but every little bit helps.

I know these tips will make it seem like I am paranoid, but NO ONE has ever been sorry they took some extra security measures. 

I have seen people who have had their homes burglarized, it is a sickening feeling to have your home me you don't want it to happen to you!

We should start with home security in general.
Most burglars look for clues that a house is empty. Beyond the obvious tips like leaving lights on or some sound producing device like a TV or radio. There are other things you can do to convince the goblins to break into the Obama supporter's house across the street instead.

These tips are designed for when you are on vacation, but also work for a normal day when you are at work.

1. Lock your doors and windows! I know this sounds ridiculously simple, but this is the absolute most important thing you can do! In more than 1/3 of the burglaries committed, the burglar gained access, without force, through an unlocked door or window. 
It happens all the time, you are late in getting to the movies or dinner and run out forgetting to check the back door or the bedroom window....well the burglar will check it for you (it is the 1st thing they look for).  Also I shouldn't need to tell you this but I will: Don't keep your garage door opener in your car that is parked in the driveway. 
You shouldn't even keep it in your car, keep it on your person or purse/backpack. Your car is most likely registered to your home and if a thief breaks into your car he has access to your home (the garage door remote), your address (via your registration) and time (you will call the police when you discover the car has been broken into).

There was once a cable show called It Takes a Thief, that ran on the Discovery Channel for a couple of years. The show was hosted by two ex-cons who spent time in the big house for burglary. They stage real break-ins (with the permission and fore knowledge of the home owners). Most of the time the guys were able to gain access without breaking glass or kicking in a door. You can sometimes catch reruns on the Discovery Channel, I highly recommend the show.

A side note about doors and locks:
  • Use a solid core wood, steel or composite door for the entry/exit doors, believe it or not I have seen hollow core doors used for this, which is a huge mistake. An intruder can bust through a hollow core door in just seconds. See the picture below and the youtube video here

  • Use Grade 1 dead bolts that meet UL 437, most people don't know that dead bolts come in grades, ANSI lists these as Grades 1, 2 and 3, with Grade 1 being the best/strongest, locks that meet the UL 437 standard help prevent lock bumping and picking. read more here

  • Use a heavy duty strike plate and long screws. Many doors are mounted in the center of a rough opening, so the studs that support the lock may be too far to offer the necessary support. Shore up the area with a thick strike plate that has more than two screw holes and use 3" long screws.

  • EZ Armor makes a similar kit, find them here

  • Strengthen the door around the dead bolt. These thin brass or stainless steel plates don't look like much, but they do make a difference.

  • On doors with windows, use a double sided keyed dead bolt (not like the one above) and remove the key when you leave the house, This prevents the burglar from breaking the window and letting himself in and it also prevents their easy escape should they gain entry through a window.
Another way to prevent your dead bolt (your back or side door) from being picked or "bumped" is adding a strip of Velcro and securing the lock handle to the door knob. see the whole installation here

2. Get a Security System.
While they are not for everyone and can get quite expensive, they seem to work. I have had more than one law enforcement officer tell me that they have never been to a successful home burglary in which the house was armed with a security system. Sources tell me that only 17% of homes in the US have a security system. Which means the crooks have plenty of other targets.

If you can afford one and you can find a system that fits your lifestyle, by all means get a security system.
An alternative is to get your self some signs, stickers and the other components to make it appear that you have a security system installed.
 The security companies may not like it, but it is free advertising for them and does work as a deterrent.
Along the same lines you can buy a small closed circuit video system or buy fake cameras, although the real ones are getting cheap enough now, that fake cameras may just be a waste of time.
This dummy camera looks convincing and has an LED light powered by a hidden solar panel on top of the can get them for $25 each from Security Cams

The real cameras are both a deterrent and a tool for law enforcement to nail the bastards that violated your domicile. Costco has many kits that include a DVR, shop around, you'd be surprised how affordable they are.

3. Get a dog. I know not everyone is a dog person, but there are hundreds of breeds to choose from and most of them can be trained to make noise when someone is trying to beak in. Many breeds are very territorial and will tear the ass out of anyone trying to intrude on their grounds. Obviously you cannot leave a dog alone in the house while you are on vacation, but for a typical work day they will be a huge deterrent. A side note, do not install a doggie door....these are used quite often by criminals to get in.

4. Know Your Neighbors: Perhaps the best security is a nosy neighbor. 
A person who pays attention and knows who should be coming and going in your neighborhood can be instrumental in fighting crime and catching the bad guys. Host a BBQ, let them know you care and want to help keep an eye on each others houses. 
Forget this idea if your neighbors are members of a drug cartel or have a deadbeat son who likes meth.

5. Lights and Sound: I know this is a no brainer, but it happens all the time, people go on vacation and leave their lights off. Don't worry about the phoney global warming scam, you'll be really pissed if your stuff is looted because you were trying to "save the planet". 
There are ways to maintain appearances and keep your environmental guilt in check. You can get porch lights that have a built in photocell which turn on and off with the sun, you can get timers for your indoor lights so they come on at 6pm and go off at 10pm. In addition you can switch to LED bulbs which use a fraction of the energy of the old ones.

Leave a radio or TV on, better yet leave your stereo playing a pod cast or a recording of a family get together. You can also buy a device that simulates the flickering light of a TV set from Fake TV.

Anything that suggests electronics are being used may prevent a break-in.

6. Muddy work boots. Unless you already have a pair, get a pair of size 13 or larger work boots from your local thrift shop, put them on, get knee deep in some muck, put them on your front porch (add some muck or even a dirty sock around them to appear as if they have just been taken off). Do this just before you leave for vacation. This is also really good advice for women who live alone.

If the burglars see these huge boots, they may think twice about possibly disturbing the hulk who took them off.
7. Garbage cans and newspapers. If you are one of those old school people who still subscribe to the newspaper, cancel your subscription before vacation. You can renew when you return. By putting your newspaper on hold you are announcing to the delivery person (who may or may not be scrupulous) that you will be gone. Much better to just cancel it. Also you don't want the newspapers piling up while you are away, which is a dead giveaway that someone is not home. 
Garbage service can wait as well, put your cans in the garage or carport as if you forgot to bring them out on garbage day, again your garbage man or the company representative may use the information about your vacation in ways you wouldn't appreciate.
The same goes for your mail or milk delivery. Have a trustful neighbor collect your deliveries for you rather than putting delivery on hold.

8. House Sitter. If at all possible have a friend come stay at your house while you are away, alternatively have them visit the house, turn on different lights, make noise, make it appear that someone is coming and going at different times. This is especially important during snow storms, the absence of foot or car tracks in the snow tells the bad guys that the home owner could be away.

9. Leave a note on the door. This is really useful during the holidays. Think about this. If a burglar comes to your house at 7-8pm (dusk) on the 4th of July and you are not home, chances are you wont be back until after the fireworks display (usually 11pm or later), so they have plenty of time to find a way in. The same goes for New Years Eve and other holidays that revolve around a schedule. In addition the noises made from fireworks can easily conceal the noise of breaking glass or a door being kicked in.
Leave a note on the door that suggests someone is home: "please be quiet Uncle John is napping on the couch" or that you will be coming back soon: "I ran to the store to pick up more 44 mag ammunition, be right back" or that you are expecting company "Hey Joe, park your car in the alley so there is plenty of room for Allen & Sue's car out front". Adding something about not letting the dog out because "he bit the neighbor again" will help as well. 
These could make the burglar look for an easier target.

A real life note left for criminals, I especially like the last line:

10. Gun stickers. Those gun stickers on your car are advertising the fact that you own guns. I would love to put my NRA stickers on everything I drive, but prudence dictates otherwise. There is no sense in letting burglars know you have guns.

11. Tools. Tools outside the home are often used to gain entry. The creeps who broke into my friends home used a hammer that was sitting on their back porch. I cannot add up the number of times I have heard of people's homes being broken into using a ladder that belonged to the homeowner. Lock up the tools in the shed, don't be lazy!

12. Advertising: DO NOT post travel plans on your social media account before vacation and NEVER post live updates. Criminals are getting tech savvy and look for these posts like flies looking for piles of poop. 
There will be plenty of time to brag about your trip to Tijuana when you return. 
Also never post funerals or weddings in the local paper. More than one family has had their house burglarized while morning a loved one.

13. Trim that bush!
Many burglars look for secluded homes or homes with lots of foliage to hide their activities. Trimming or removing bushes may put a damper on 'Naked Tuesday', but there may be ways to get the privacy and still keep the windows and doors visible from the street .......or you could just buy blinds like everyone else.

14. Window Bars.
There is a reason you see so many of these on houses in bad neighborhoods, they work!
 Many people find these unsightly, but you needn't put them on every window. Perhaps just the most vulnerable ones, the ones not exposed to the neighbors or the street. You can also chose ones that have some artistic flair and if you are handy with a welder, you could make your own. This is an extra layer of security that makes your house a much less attractive target. They also allow you to leave a window open on those hot summer nights.

Let's say for a moment that these techniques did nothing to stop the goblins and they have now gained entry to your do we prevent them from getting their filthy paws on our firearms?

1. Buy a GUN SAFE, get a good quality one and BOLT IT DOWN! We are talking about real gun safes, not the cheap lockers sold at some box stores, we are talking about dedicated, made in the USA, steel gun safes. For help on picking out a good one see my blog post: A Primer on Gun Safes

Besides bolting the safe down, you should also place it where access to the top, sides and back are restricted (these are often the weakest places on a safe). In addition consider where you place it in your house. The garage is a poor choice, more than one safe has been ripped out of its moorings by a truck and a chain. Better to have a wall or two in the way. It is also advisable to hide the location if possible.

Before you say that you cannot afford a real gun safe. Consider this: you can store more than guns in the safe; collectibles, family heirlooms, jewelry, important documents, photographs, money, your pregnant pygmy porn collection etc... A Safe is an investment in peace of mind, ask yourself what your peace of mind is worth to you. 
Also some home insurance companies will offer discounts for customers with a real safe.

If you simply cannot or wont buy a real safe. Hide the guns in some sort of locked container where the burglar will not find it. The hidden location is to prevent access from burglars, the lock is to prevent access from children. Locking your guns in a cheap safe or a locker that is out in the open is just an advertisement that you own something worth stealing and an invitation for them to spend a few minutes prying the door open.

One way to conceal the hiding place is to have them in plain sight, but yet in something no one would bother looking in. 

One example is a commercial breaker panel board, many of them are long and wide enough for several rifles, shotguns and handguns. If the box is wider than 16", simply build a header and footer like your are framing in a window. Your depth will be limited, but most guns are not wider than 3.5" (the width of a 2x4) so you can turn them on their side if needed. 
Then build padded brackets, shelves or dividers along with some Velcro straps to securely and safely store your guns.
The advantage here is that the commercial grade panel boards also come with locking doors.

Now the locks provided are not the most secure, but who in their right mind would pry the door off of a panel board marked with one of these stickers?  

Here are some other ideas for hidden storage:
A mock heating/cooling vent
A drawer in the stair riser

Just a mirror on the wall, no wait it is a Tactical Wall safe
Replacing the hide-a-bed in your couch with one of these vaults will keep the crooks guessing and the inlaws from staying overnight.
They also make them for your bed
The website has lots of great ideas

2. Lock up your tools, Many criminals carry only a simple screw driver or pry bar and a small hammer in their backpack. Many times they find the tools they need to break into locked containers or doors at the house of their victim. This applies to inside and outside the home.

3. Hobby Evidence. On a similar note, when I leave for vacation, I lock up all my gun periodicals and anything gun related. While the burglars may find my safe, there will be nothing in the house to indicate guns are stored inside.

4. Hide it in the Kid's room.
Another good piece of advice that comes from the burglars themselves: Hide it in the kid's room. 
Criminologist Richard T. Wright interviewed 105 convicted home burglars for his book Burglars on the Job, during which he discovered that burglars almost never go into the kid's room. They don't have time to look there because there usually isn't anything of value in a child's room.
Now I am not suggesting that you leave firearms in your child's room, but perhaps their closet could be the home for your gun safe or other hidden storage compartment for jewelry or irreplaceable items.

5. Lock up the keys.
People can sometimes forget that a lock does no good if the keys can be found. Keep all keys with you when you leave.

Also most burglars arrive at their mark's residence with very little in the way of baggage. They use what is in the house to help carry away their loot. Some items are difficult for them to conceal in a backpack or other bag. This is especially true of long guns.
While it may not make sense to lock up every box, bag or piece of luggage, it does make sense to lock up your car keys (assuming you have left a car at the house) or take them with you. Many of these crimes start out as burglary and end up as grand theft auto. A car is a wonderful way for them to haul away your stuff. 

 6. Leave a note behind.
In years past the gun community thought it wise to inscribe their social security number on their guns, which was never a good idea (see my blog post here). Of course now a days we try to keep our social security number from the bad guys. 
A better idea is to leave a note in the barrel of your guns, that way when the dipstick who stole your gun goes to sell it, the prospective buyer may look down the barrel, discover the note and solve the crime...

My final piece of advice is to get and keep insurance. Make sure the policy covers the value of your guns. Also the value you agree on up front, not what the insurance adjuster decides after the fact.
Like all insurance purchases, you should shop around, some companies want your serial numbers and other info about your firearms, which is none of their business. If you say the gun is worth $1000, they should adjust their premiums to reflect an agreed upon value of $1000.
The NRA offers a free $2500 policy with a standard membership, but they also underwrite firearms insurance for up to $1 Million. see more here

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Crime Doctor 
Tactical Walls 
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