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Using gun safes under Washington’s newest gun control regulation

Gun safes by Safe Tracker, based in Tukwila. (Heather Bosch, KIRO Radio)

When Initiative 1639 goes into effect, gun owners can be charged with a crime if their firearms end up in the wrong hands. That has a lot of gun owners asking about their options. What about gun safes?

The initiative was approved by about 60 percent of Washington voters this November. It is already facing legal challenges and one Washington police chief refuses to enforce it.

But other arguments have emerged around the issue of gun safes — one method of keeping firearms secure. I-1639 does address safe storage of firearms. It holds gun owners accountable if their deadly weapon gets into the wrong hands and is used in a crime.

Gun safes come in different shapes and sizes: from briefcase like boxes to large bank-like vaults. Zach Boyer is co-owner of Tukwila’s Tracker Safe. He advises customers to consider what they’re buying the safe for.

A larger safe can protect a collection of long-guns used for hunting or collecting. A smaller safe — bolted near your bed — may be right for a single gun, used for home protection. But opening the safe is where many focus their arguments. How long could it take to open a safe? If an unwanted individual is in your home, is there time to punch in a code, etc.?

There are several options.

Dial combination

Boyer first points to the classic dial combination many folks are familiar with at first sight, resembling a high school locker setup.

“There’s the traditional dial combination, but it’s not like your high school locker or like a pad lock,” Boyer says, turning a dial to specific numbers, entering a correct combo.

It’s quite secure, but it does take some time to open.

Biometric gun safes

For quicker access, Boyer says many customers chose gun safes with “biometric technology.” They can open it with the touch of a finger.

“It scans your fingerprint, and you register your fingerprint into the safe. It’s electronic, it runs on batteries,” he said.

Other members of the family can open the safe — it can program multiple fingerprints. The technology is not perfect, however. Even slight alterations to your fingerprint — from a cut, to aging skin — can prevent the safe from reading your print.

Electronic locks

So, here’s yet another option.

“Then you have your traditional electronic lock,” Boyer said. “So push buttons.”

Think of this like unlocking your smartphone, pressing in a code to open it.

Other factors

One other point, unrelated to locking and opening the safe — rapid access.

“This safe right here has a spring-loaded front door, so as soon as the code is entered the door opens up,”

Safes come at varying price points. It will cost gun owners about $30 most basic gun safes. More elaborate options can cost up to thousands.

Bottom line: Just as you would consider a different firearms to determine what’s the most practical and comfortable to use, customers should put that same amount of thought into what gun storage option works best.

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