Researchers at the Rutgers New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center have created a free resource for gun owners across the state to locate legal, short-term storage areas for their firearms.
Co-creator Michael Anestis, the executive director of the Center and an associate professor in the Department of Urban-Global Public Health at the Rutgers School of Public Health, said the firearms storage map is an important resource.
“The purpose of the map is to provide legal options for firearm owners to store their firearms outside of home temporarily because there are a number of reasons why the state would regulate temporary transfer of firearms,” he said. “You don't want people to be able to just pass them around at will.”
Firearm owners will be able to look at the retailers listed on the map and get in contact with them regarding storage options, according to a press release. Owners can ask retailers how the firearm will be stored, the cost of storage and the process in which they will be able to retrieve their firearm.
Anestis said one of the main reasons a firearm storage map is necessary is that it can potentially help in decreasing death by suicide via firearm. He said that having a firearm in the home increases the risk three to five times for everyone in that home, with the risk going up even further if the firearm is stored unsafely.
Other reasons why a firearm owner may wish to store their items in an off-site location include keeping the firearms away from visiting relatives, such as grandchildren, or keeping the firearms safe when one’s house is being renovated, Anestis said.
In terms of choosing locations to include on the map, he said their team worked hard to find local gun retailers across the state that were interested and tried to recruit as many people as possible. Though, certain criteria had to be met for the locations to be included on the map.
“They legally have to be (a Federal Firearms License holder),” Anestis said. “So they have to be a legal option in the state of New Jersey for being able to store firearms temporarily, and so the folks who were collecting these data built a list based off of those criteria.”
While there does not currently seem to be much community demand for a resource of this nature, he said the team is working hard to try and spread awareness about its significance and get more local gun retailers on board.
“The goal (is) to get enough folks on this map so that if someone calls one place and it doesn't feel like a fit, they're not stuck with a situation where they have to call someone on the other side of the state to try and find someone who does fit,” Anestis said. “If there are enough people participating, I suspect we will have options that map a ton of different folks' needs pretty well.”
Going forward, he said the team’s future plans for the map will include raising initial awareness regarding its potential usefulness for both gun owners and non-gun owners alike and monitor its initial use and to learn and grow from there. His team also hopes to expand this system to other states in the future.
“There are things we can do to lower risks with your firearm without making it so that we're trying to change you or trying to deny who you are or trying to have this debate about the Second Amendment, which is an important debate ... I'm not here to have that argument. I am just here to help people not die,” Anestis said.