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Alternative safe storage of firearms and ammunition

Each Australian state and territory has its own set of rules and regulations detailing the proper storage of firearms. More often than not, these rules require attaching a suitable storage container or safe to the structure of a house, garage or other building.

But there may be a number of reasons why this is not possible. For instance, you may live in a small apartment and not have enough space for a safe. You could live in a rented building where the landlord does not want you drilling into walls and floors to attach bolts. You may not wish to go to the expense of buying a safe for just one $200 air rifle, or you simply don’t desire to have firearms in your home at all. As responsible firearm owners in this situation, what are the alternative ways you can store your valuable possessions and still comply with the safe storage requirements?

Most state and territory regulations are fairly similar when it comes to the safe storage of firearms, but as always, it is recommended that you check your respective state’s firearms registry for specific information.

The most common and convenient form of alternative storage, which also happens to be the most cost effective, is storing your firearms in the safe of a friend or family member. However, there are some things you need to consider before going down that path. From a legal point of view, you need to find out first from your state or territory firearms registry whether you can in fact store your firearms at someone else’s place. Most states allow this, provided you notify the registry of the address where your firearms are stored and that the person storing on your behalf has the same category of licence as your stored firearms. That is, if you are storing your Category B rifle with a mate, they must also have a Category B licence.

Naturally, for your own protection, you should also write up some kind of agreement or receipt in case something happens to one or both of you and your families have to sort out who owns what in the safe. This arrangement should apply to someone lending a firearm to another person too. Most firearms registries require being notified within a week that a firearm or firearms have been moved to a new storage address.

Again, not every state allows such a storage alternative. In the ACT, for example, you are not permitted to have your firearms stored away from your home unless you go through a ‘registered user’ process with ACT Police and pay the appropriate fee. If you are an ACT licence-holder and you want to store a firearm at a mate’s place, for instance, the registration for that firearm has to be transferred to the person storing it on your behalf.

Another popular form of storing firearms is at a gunshop or licensed firearms dealer. A lot of gunshops offer this facility and naturally, they charge a fee for the service. While security at gunshops is of a higher level than that required for home storage, the downside is that you can only access your guns during normal business hours. This means that you need to have suitable storage while your firearms are away from the shop, as well as remembering to collect your firearm when you head out for the weekend before the shop shuts on Friday afternoon. For more information about travelling with firearms, read ‘A state by state look at travelling with firearms’.

There are also private companies that offer facilities for storing firearms. These facilities have to comply with the minimum safe storage requirements as set by their respective state’s firearms regulations. Kennards Self Storage has added firearms to its other specialty storage services - wines, kayaks and motorbikes to name a few. Kennards operations manager for Victoria Wayne Birch said that because Kennards offers around-the-clock access to its facilities, many people are opting for firearm storage away from home. “Our customers also appreciate that our level of security is the highest possible,” he said. “They know their firearms are safe. Each locker is individually alarmed, and back-to-base monitoring operates around the clock, reporting on who’s coming and going from our customers’ PIN information. This happens even during normal working hours when our staff are on-site.”

While Kennards’ firearms storage is currently available in several states, Mr Birch says the company will plan further expansion based on customer demand and inquiries. Check the Kennards website for storage locations and options.

If you are new to shooting or a recently joined SSAA member, ask at your local branch for information about firearm safe storage alternatives in your area. SSAA club armourers in some states are permitted to hold firearms on your behalf. For members in the Sydney area, the SSAA’s St Marys Indoor Shooting Centre offers lockers to members at reasonable rates. Ali Newbery is the centre’s manager and she said that the storage facilities are very popular, especially for people who are renting. “We’re also conveniently positioned for our members who pass this way as they head out west for a weekend of shooting,” she said. “The centre has a fully stocked gunshop and members can pick up other supplies as well.”

The St Marys Indoor Shooting Centre is open seven days a week, but access to firearm storage is only available during the centre’s hours of operation.

Summary

Storing your firearms off-site is a legitimate option to having your own safe in your own home - rented or otherwise. While most of us could never imagine our firearms being anywhere apart from in our home, for others this is simply not an option. Before considering alternative storage for your firearms, make sure you find out what the rules and regulations are in your state or territory.

Remember too, that the alternative safe storage options referred to in this article all involve your firearm being out of your physical control. Make sure that when you are storing your firearms off-site, you and your family member or best friend are completely happy with the alternative arrangement you have in place.

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