Newswise — Researchers at the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center, based at Rutgers, with support from the New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, have created the New Jersey Firearm Storage Map, a free resource to help residents find legal, temporary storage for their firearms outside their homes.

“Research has shown that the risk of suicide is reduced when people have the option to store firearms outside their residence, but out-of-home firearm storage is not used very often because firearm owners have not had a clear, legal path for storage,” says Michael Anestis, executive director of the center and an associate professor in the department of urban-global public health at the Rutgers School of Public Health. “However, this is starting to change. New Jersey now joins four other states—Colorado, Mississippi, Maryland and Washington—that have already developed a safe firearm storage map that connect people to firearm retailers and law enforcement agencies willing to consider offering temporary storage.” 

Why is an option for temporary, off-site firearm storage needed?
Owners should always store their firearms safely and securely: unloaded, separate from ammunition and in a secure location like a gun safe or a lock box. There are certain times, however, when it makes sense to store the firearm outside the home to prevent a host of unfortunate outcomes, including suicide, children finding and using the firearm, fatal domestic violence and firearm theft.

When owners encounter a situation in which having a firearm in the house could be unsafe—a member of the household is feeling suicidal, there is domestic tension, grandchildren are visiting or the home is being listed for sale and strangers will be in the house alone—temporarily storing the firearm outside the home allows the owner to retain control while managing the risk.

Owners should not worry that their firearm will be stolen while being stored or that they will have to give a reason for the storage, such as suicidal thoughts, since there are many reasons people would want to store their firearm.

How does the New Jersey Safe Firearm Storage Map work?
Firearm owners can find registered retailers that offer safe storage near their home by looking at listings and clicking on the icon for the contact information. The owners of the sites listed have agreed to consider storing firearms on a case-by-case basis, which provides a path for firearm owners to find legal options in a moment of need. Firearm owners should ask the location where and how the firearm will be stored, the cost of storage and what process is in place for them to retrieve their firearms when they are ready.

We are hoping to dramatically increase the number of listings and our overall coverage of the state this year. If a retailer would like to find out more about how to be listed and what that entails, they can email [email protected].  

How is the New Jersey Firearm Storage Map different from extreme risk protective orders?
With an extreme risk protection order, people can petition a court to remove someone’s access to their firearms and their ability to purchase other firearms if they are deemed to be at imminent risk to themselves or someone else. That removal of access remains in place until the person appeals and convinces a court that the risk is no longer quite so high. 

By using the map, firearm owners make the decision to temporarily store their firearms outside the home on their own terms. In many cases, we do not know someone is at risk for suicide until it is too late; in this case, an extreme risk protection order would not help. In addition, many people who are at risk for firearm suicide avoid mental health care altogether and keep their thoughts of suicide secret. We need tools, such as this map, that allow these people to privately lower their risk in a manner that feels consistent with their own values and culture.