One of the most significant and least appreciated splits among gun owners may concern how they store their firearms. There is what they believe is the best way to stow a gun: Unloaded, and locked up. And then there is what they actually do with their guns when not in use.

As I wrote in a commentary published today in the Washington Post, a majority of gun owners support laws that would hold them liable if their weapons got into the wrong hands. At the same time, a batch of recent surveys show that only a minority actually store their weapons in the way most likely to avoid their misuse. 

That’s not necessarily surprising. Gun owners now cite self-defense, rather than hunting and sport shooting, as the primary motivation for getting firearms. The National Rifle Association has fostered the idea that Americans need lethal self-defense at all times, and gun companies, which now produce more handguns than any other type of weapon, cater to this fear.

If people own guns to defend themselves against situations like home invasions, they are likely to want them easily accessible and ready to shoot when the unthinkable happens. If the weapons are stored in a safe, separate from ammunition, that could be marginally more difficult.

For the Washington Post piece, I spoke with Ralph Myers, who became a passionate pro-gun activist in the mid-1990s, after his son was shot and killed. I wanted to give his thoughts more space here. Myers exemplifies the defiant self-defense ethos that dominates American gun culture.

I live at home by myself. When my guns aren’t in use, they’re locked up. But I have a firearm I keep by my bedside, loaded, in case of intruders. My feeling is that I’m right there, and I don’t want to be caught off guard.

I know it’s a possibility that an unlocked gun could fall into the wrong hands. Particularly if people just leave their firearms out where small children could get ahold of them. Precautions should be made.

But by the same token, there are instances where firearms are used in home invasions. You’re saying they’re rare. But there are a lot of things the mainstream media won’t pick up on because they don’t fit its agenda.

Myers is particularly opposed to laws that require gun owners lock up their weapons, or that hold them accountable if unauthorized users access those firearms. In his home state of Washington, activists are campaigning for a ballot measure that would impose a safe-storage law. He testified against the idea when it was proposed in the Legislature last year.

They tried to pass the same law in the last assembly. It failed.

I am not going to have my ability to defend myself if someone breaks into my home hampered or impaired by the fact that I can’t get quick access to my firearm. That’s a major infringement on our Second Amendment right to bear arms.

I don’t totally disagree with the need to take care and make sure people don’t get unauthorized access to guns. But I’m opposed to having this dictated.

Myers bristled at the notion of being told how to store his guns in his own home. He was clear on what he would do — or not do — if his state mandates safe storage.

If this passes, I’m not going to obey it. I guess I’ll be a felon.

Read my full piece on the paradoxes of safe gun storage on the Post’s website.