Q: I purchased a handgun a few years ago for personal safety. Now that I have a family, I still have the gun for personal safety. How can I keep the gun at home safely?

A: Having a gun at home for personal defense is a personal choice and one that should not be taken lightly. If you can legally possess and/or purchase firearms, and decide to keep a gun in your home, there are a few things you need to consider.

Storing the firearm

There are a variety of safety and storage items available on the market today. The safest way to store a gun would be to restrict access to the firearm and prohibit unauthorized use of the gun.

First, a firearm stored in the home should be stored unloaded and kept in a place where it is not easily accessible, like a lock box or gun safe. This way the firearm is not found by children, thieves or anyone else that you don’t want to handle or remove the firearm.

Second, a firearm should have some type of locking mechanism that prevents the operation of the firearm if it is discovered by someone who is not authorized to use it. A couple of common locking mechanisms are trigger locks (which prevent access to the firearm’s trigger) and cable locks (cable locks loop through the firearm’s action to prevent operation). Both locking mechanisms are effective methods of preventing accidental and unauthorized use of your firearm.

Remember, safety devices and storage units are only as secure as the precautions you take to protect the key or combination to the lock! Firearms and ammunition should be stored separately. For eligibility and purchasing requirements, and a list of Department of Justice-approved firearms safety devices and gun safe standards, please visit the California Department of Justice website at http://oag.ca.gov/

You may be guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony if you keep a loaded firearm within any premises that are under your custody or control and a child under 18 years of age obtains and uses it, resulting in injury or death, or carries it to a public place, unless you stored the firearm in a locked container or locked the firearm with a locking device to temporarily keep it from functioning.

Familiarity, maintenance

Here is something many gun owners don’t consider: When guns are first purchased, they are held, shot at the range, taken apart and put back together again, and stored away. But if you own a gun, when was the last time you held it? When was the last time you checked it to make sure it functioned properly? Can you access, unlock and load the firearm in a hurry if you needed to? Will the firearm work if it wasn’t properly maintained?

Many times gun owners purchase their firearms and safely store them for months (or even years) at a time before they are used. Being unfamiliar with your gun can be an accident waiting to happen. Whether you find yourself in an emergency or just handling the gun after it has been stored for a long time, not knowing how to use the gun can lead to accidental firing where someone could be seriously hurt or killed.

Neglecting to properly clean and oil a firearm could lead to a malfunction or failure of the gun when you may need it.

Firearms and children

Here is a topic that is very important for anyone who has children, nieces, nephews, cousins or any children in a home where a gun is kept. Children are naturally curious about things they don’t know about or they believe are forbidden. When children start to ask questions or act out “gun play,” you may want to address his or her curiosity. Take the time to talk to your kids about guns in a manner they can relate to or understand. Take the time to talk about the difference between what is make believe, such as movies, television and video games, and what is real. Let kids know that a real gun can hurt and kill people. By talking to children you can remove the mystery and reduce natural curiosity.

Here’s another thought.

You may not have a firearm in your home or you have a firearm that is kept unloaded and locked away where your kids cannot find and access it. But what if your kids go to a friend’s or relative’s home for the afternoon or overnight? Is there a gun kept in that home? If a gun is kept in that home, how is it stored?

Talk to you children so they know what to do if they find a gun. Kids could discover a gun when a parent or another adult is not around. A child should know the following rules and be taught to practice them:

•Stop

The first thing a child should do if he/she finds or see a gun is stop what they are doing.

• Don’t touch

A child should not touch a gun he/she finds or sees. A child should not touch or pick up a gun and take it to an adult!

• Leave the area

Immediately leave the area. Do not try to take a gun from another child or prevent another child from using the gun.

• Tell an adult

Tell an adult about the gun he or she has seen including times when other kids are seen playing with or shooting guns.

This column was prepared by NRO Artis Williams, Beat 7 (Sunset Park). He can be reached at (424) 200-0687 or artis.williams@smgov.net.