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Security Technology

How a 3-Year-Old Can Open a Gun Safe 646

Posted by timothy
from the good-nightclub-act dept.
New submitter bupbin writes "We are providing a detailed report and analysis of eleven different popular gun safes produced by Stack-On, GunVault, and Bulldog to warn the public of the dangers inherent in some of these products because the manufacturers nor their major retailers will do so. In that report you can view eight different Stack-On models, one produced by Bulldog, and one manufactured by GunVault. A similar design defect is demonstrated in an inexpensive safe for storing valuables that is sold by AMSEC, a very reputable safe manufacturer in the United States. Unfortunately, their digital safe with their claim of a 'state-of-the-art electronic lock' can also be opened (literally) by a three-year-old because of a common mechanism used in the industry that is subject to circumvention."
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How a 3-Year-Old Can Open a Gun Safe

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  • they aren't safes (Score:5, Informative)

    by i.r.id10t (595143) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:01PM (#40792447)

    Umm... the StackOn, etc. aren't safes. They are locking steel boxes, kinda flimsy, no fire rating, not UL listed, etc.

    Compare with products from Liberty, Cannon, etc.

    • Re:they aren't safes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:11PM (#40792569) Homepage

      Yeah you're quite right. I probably should have added that to my post under yours. My gun safe has a key lock(pin tumbler), a dial lock, and a bar-handle lock. You need to engage all three before you can open it. It's tedious, but in Canada you're required to store guns in a safe manner. And ammo has to be store separately from the guns as well. I dislike these "security safes" they're cheap, useless and best of all they try to make a showy face of being secure, when at best they're inviting disaster. And anyone with about 8 seconds of time, can open them. 3yr old not required.

    • by CubicleZombie (2590497) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:21PM (#40792733)
      "Stack On" makes the shittiest tool boxes on earth. It's a ripoff of the "Snap On" name, but made in Crapistan and sold in discount stores. Seriously, I'd feel safer storing my guns in cardboard boxes. This is NOT news.
    • No one expects these "safes" to be secure against a burgular or fire. The threat model is young children pilfering the top dresser drawer. That SHOULD be possible to defend with a locking steel box, and I would expect that level of security even for the very low price, but the lock is so incompetently designed that a drop from a few inches unlocks it.

      • by harrkev (623093) <kfmsd@harrelsonfa[ ]y.org ['mil' in gap]> on Friday July 27, 2012 @01:20PM (#40793663) Homepage

        This is the truth. I do not expect a $100 safe to keep out a world-class safe cracker, or even stop an adult with power tools, but I **SHOULD** expect it to stop a 6-year-old.

        The purpose of a safe is to protect the contents from anything, including fire, flood, tornado, as well as the occasional thief. The porpose of a lockbox is simply to stop a child from accessing the contents. That is the ONE REASON for a gun lock box, and apparently, they cannot do even that one thing right.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:02PM (#40792473) Homepage

    My sister and I were picking pin tumbler locks when we were 6 and 7, getting us into all sorts of trouble as most people on /. could guess. A lot of electronic locks, can be bypassed by sharp jarring. Which is exactly what this appears to be, not a real surprise. Even mechanical locks that they use in hotel rooms can be bypassed using this manner.

    Beh, the most elegant designs are usually defeated by the most simple solutions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:08PM (#40792543)

    When I was in middle school (many years ago!), after earning the riflery boy scout merit badge, I managed to convince my very-reluctant parents to buy me a BB gun. It was not in a safe, but I purchased a trigger lock from Master Lock to prevent my little sister, who was in elementary school at the time, from getting into trouble with it.

    One day when I was away, she picked the lock with a pocket knife. She was not particularly mechanically adept, either.

    Fortunately, nothing came of it--she just went out back and shot some soda cans--but there's a real problem here.

    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:23PM (#40792773)

      The trick is to teach kids how to handle the gun so that you take away the mystery. When I grew up we had guns in the house and not locked up at all. My dad's shotgun and hunting rifle generally were leaning up in a corner. No trigger locks. If he'd been hunting earlier that day they may very well be loaded.

      It was like that from birth till I moved out. Wanna know why me and my siblings didn't die horrible deaths? Because we didn't feel a need to secretly "play" with the gun. If I wanted to go out and shoot it all I had to do was ask and my dad would take me out shooting. Not only that, but during those shooting sessions he taught me exactly how the gun worked, how to safely load and unload it, and how to handle it. Even if I HAD handled the gun while he was gone I was perfectly capable to doing so safely.

      As they say: if you have a pool in the backyard, which do you think would be more effective: Putting a fence around it, or teaching your kids to swim?

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:30PM (#40792899)

        The most effective thing to do would be to do both.

        Which is what my parents did. Safes for the guns, ammo in another place and plenty of range time for the kids.

        • by e3m4n (947977)

          im ok with ammo in another place as long as its not one of those 'completely separate room in the house' kind of ideas.. after all its only useful if you can actually use it when an emergency arises.

        • This is what I am working on with my kids. The oldest is 3 and has become aware of guns at a surprisingly young age (I don't think I knew about them until 1st or 2nd grade) from other kids at preschool who "play" guns. As I have firearms he has been introduced to the concept of them and has seen what they are capable of (milk jug full of water meets 12 gauge slug). As I don't want him to have an innate fear of them I have also started teaching him about them and how to handle them even though he is still too small to hold one himself. He already understands the basics of proper handling such as point in a safe direction, only point it at something you want to shoot, always treat it like it is loaded, etc. He has seen me use my target air rifle (.22 cal 1200 fps) to take out yard pests. When he is big enough to actually handle one I will get him his own BB gun to learn with and then move up to a real firearm once he has mastered that. All of my guns (1 shotgun, 2 rifles, and 1 air rifle) are kept in a real gun safe (cost more than all 4 guns combined) along with other valuables for the protection of my kids as well as for the protection of the firearms
      • by jbeaupre (752124)

        Similar story: I slept under the gun rack at my grandparents. People talk about sleeping with a pistol under the pillow, but I had more firepower and ammo with nearly the same convenience.

        Yet I never touched them. I was told not to and that was that. My brother and I weren't allowed to handle guns until late teens (probably because Granddad didn't want to have to clean them after firing them). But we were taught proper gun handling any time we had a cap gun or water pistol.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:49PM (#40793185)

        ... in the same way and tell me that no other kid would ever do something stupid with a loaded gun. Like most accidents, stupid shit often happens because more than one thing went wrong. Your dad was called away at an emergency, you had some friends over but had to go to the bathroom... this is why most "safe" designs require a two point failure on top of a system designed with best practices. Leaving a loaded gun around is a single point of failure with a lot of assumptions built-in.

        You live in a pretty black-and-white world that allows for no statistical variation. Humans, if anything, do not all act exactly the same under the same circumstances.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          The problem with that argument is that it shows extreme bias. Roll the dice a million times, and kids will try to go joy riding in their parents cars too, yet the car is not held to the same standard as guns. We tell our 8 year old kids "Don't drive the car." and accept that that is good enough. Somehow the same doesn't apply to guns. Unfortunately, instead of teaching kids what guns do, we teach them that they are magic devices that either kill on their own, or when shot by a human don't kill at all.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        The trick is to teach kids how to handle the gun so that you take away the mystery.

        3 year old kids?
        More than enough kids have killed themselves or someone else by accident because they knew how to get to a gun.
        While I'm glad you and your siblings survived, it's bad public policy to encourage the not-storing of loaded guns.

        As they say: if you have a pool in the backyard, which do you think would be more effective: Putting a fence around it, or teaching your kids to swim?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attractive_nuisance_doctrine [wikipedia.org]
        I'm going to go with "Putting a fence around it" if you want to avoid being sued out of house and home if someone else's kid drowns.
        In most jurisdictions, you'll start racking up daily fines if you refuse to put u

      • by Chuckstar (799005) on Friday July 27, 2012 @01:43PM (#40794005)

        "As they say: if you have a pool in the backyard, which do you think would be more effective: Putting a fence around it, or teaching your kids to swim?"

        You should teach your kids to swim. But since you can't control whether the neighbors teach their kids to swim, you should still have a fence.

        Same thing applies to guns in the home. Even if your kids are perfectly safe around the guns, you need to be cognisant that their friends may not have the same education. You really don't want to find yourself in the position of saying "it's not my fault that the neighbor kid accidentally shot himself with my gun, his parents should have taught him gun safety". Not only will the jury not be very interested in that argument when the parents sue you, but I imagine you'd feel bad if the neighbor kid killed himself with your gun. (Even if you would believe it wasn't your "fault", I imagine you'd still wish it hadn't happened.)

      • by AlienIntelligence (1184493) on Friday July 27, 2012 @06:23PM (#40797199)

        The trick is to teach kids how to handle the gun so that you take away the mystery. When I grew up we had guns in the house and not locked up at all. My dad's shotgun and hunting rifle generally were leaning up in a corner. No trigger locks. If he'd been hunting earlier that day they may very well be loaded.

        It was like that from birth till I moved out. Wanna know why me and my siblings didn't die horrible deaths? Because we didn't feel a need to secretly "play" with the gun. If I wanted to go out and shoot it all I had to do was ask and my dad would take me out shooting. Not only that, but during those shooting sessions he taught me exactly how the gun worked, how to safely load and unload it, and how to handle it. Even if I HAD handled the gun while he was gone I was perfectly capable to doing so safely.

        As they say: if you have a pool in the backyard, which do you think would be more effective: Putting a fence around it, or teaching your kids to swim?

        Wish we could score to a +10.

        Education is the key to most 'problems'.

        My dad let me shoot a nice big magnum when I was really little. KA-POW!

        Wasn't about to touch ANY gun after that.

        Then when I was old enough, he took me out, taught me how to
        use a gun, clean it, actually hit things with it.

        And best of all, he let me shoot a pew, pew, .22

        I thought... what a bastard. Not all guns will break your arms? Lol.

        -AI

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:09PM (#40792547)

    QUOTE: "Ed Owens began voicing concerns about the security of these containers and that every other officer within the Department might be at risk. As a result, he was subsequently fired after fifteen months for allegedly violating department policies."

    Oh yeah. Hide the problem instead of facing it head-on and dealing with it. Damn politicians.

    • Oh yeah. Hide the problem instead of facing it head-on and dealing with it. Damn politicians.

      That's not politicians; That's human nature. Whenever a person's ego or sense of pride is at stake, they're going to rationalize, minimize, lie, etc. It doesn't matter what their position is -- everyone does it, from janitors to presidents. That is why any organization which values objectivity in its decision-making process does its utmost to ensure that those making the decision are impartial -- that is, they have no emotional attachment to it. Police departments are famously lacking in this; They steadfas

  • Simple flaw. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:11PM (#40792563)
    Short version: The locking solonoid mechanism can be mechanically disrupted into an open state by applying a sharp vertical acceleration. The three-year-old used in testing achieved this by picking the safe a few inches off the ground and dropping it. The mechanism design is common across models and manufacturers.

    An obvious countermeasure is to use the bolts usually supplied to securely attach the safe to a wall or floor. If it cannot be lifted, there is no way to apply the jolt needed to knock the mechanism open.
    • Re:Simple flaw. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:24PM (#40792785)

      In your universe hammers do not exist?

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      >>> If it cannot be lifted, there is no way to apply the jolt needed to knock the mechanism open.

      True but also false. If you RTFA you will see they secured the safe to the floor, but were still able to jiggle-open the lock with a piece of metal. The locks are no more secure than the lock on a child's piggy bank.

    • Re:Simple flaw. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CaptBubba (696284) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:29PM (#40792883)

      The safes should be designed such that they cannot be used until those bolts are in place, perhaps similar to how smoke detectors have a small lever arrangement so they cannot be installed in their bracket if you don't have a battery in them. It isn't exactly a secret that a sizable number of people (perhaps even the majority for the smallest safes) don't bother to bolt the safes down.

      If something is a safety-critical requirement for the operation of the device then it should be designed in a way that the device will not operate without it.

  • If only we had a consumer group that could protect children from getting into their parents guns... Oh wait, we do, and they are more worried about kids swallowing small magnets instead.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:12PM (#40792585) Journal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Implied_warranty [wikipedia.org]
    Those safes are not fit for their intended purpose.
    Start suing.

    • Those safes are not fit for their intended purpose.

      Yeah, so about six months ago my 5-year-old son broke into a bank vault. He goes with his Mom to the bank. He didn't know his numbers at the time, but he apparently is good at patterns, so he remembered the 7-digit pattern the teller would often punch in when he was watching what was going on (clearly not paying attention to the banking).

      On a subsequent visit he wandered off (to play with the bead toys, right?) while his Mom did the banking, and a few min

  • by Saxophonist (937341) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:15PM (#40792649)

    Remember the Stack-On press release that touted the fact that their containers met “TSA airline guidelines” as if this endorsement is added evidence of the security of their products? We tested these containers, and the reality is they can be opened in a variety of ways including with a tiny piece of brass by a three year old.

    That pretty much says it all right there. The TSA approves something because it can be opened by a three-year-old, meaning their own employees might have a 50/50 shot at it.

  • by CaptBubba (696284) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:21PM (#40792737)

    That locking mechanism is just atrocious. They thought using a single solenoid which when actuated retracts to allow the bolts to be withdrawn was a secure design in a safe the size of a shoebox? Add in that because it is battery powered it can't have a strong return spring and of course it will be easy to open by giving it a small physical shock. FFS even something simple like a bolt driven by a small stepper motor and a worm gear would be orders of magnitude better.

    That the company and distributors are refusing to admit there is a problem is disgusting, but understandable given how large the potential liability is in this situation.

  • Not News (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparticus789 (2625955) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:21PM (#40792739) Journal

    Locksmiths have been using these exact techniques for 20 years to open safes. This is nothing new nor secret. What's next, a video of a security consultant picking a deadbolt in 20 seconds?

    First off, safes (which store anything) should be bolted into the foundation of your home. Therefore the pick-up-and-drop method is ineffective. A sturdy strike from a hammer may open some of them, but not all.

    Second, none of these are real "gun safes". A real gun safe weighs 300 lbs. and cannot be opened using any of these methods. You need a large drill and a schematic of the inside of the door. These lock boxes are intended to be hidden somewhere (back of a closet, behind a bed) and allow for quick access (15 seconds to open) in the event of an emergency. Kids should not know where they are, nor be able to reach them. A real gun owner would know this.

    • by Animats (122034) on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:33PM (#40792957) Homepage

      A real gun owner would know this.

      1) The guy whose kids got into the lockbox was a cop.
      2) The lockbox had been issued to him by his police department.

  • by Xibby (232218) <zibby+slashdot@ringworld.org> on Friday July 27, 2012 @12:53PM (#40793261) Homepage Journal

    I currently do not own any guns, but I come from a family of hunters and gun owners. I have been through gun safety training. At some point in my life it is highly likely that I will inherit guns from family members or purchase my own guns. I'm not into hunting, but I do enjoy target shooting and skeet. My father always kept his guns in a large combination lock, fire rated, etc. gun safe. It was a 1,000 pound monster of of thing. OK, possibly exaggerating, but it was huge, solid, and heavy and not something that can be moved without at least a heavy duty moving dolly and at least two people.

    I would never store a gun in a lock box. A lock box is for transporting your gun from your home to the range or other place of it's use. Properly storing your gun means a quality gun safe that is bolted to the floor (for smaller safes) or a full on monster of a safe (for rifles, shotguns, etc.) that is not easily moved should a thief (or multiple thieves) enter your home. Even with my guns were in a safe, I would also have trigger locks on every one of them with the keys stored in a separate, smaller safe, again bolted to the floor.

    Now this is my own opinion of proper gun handling based on personal experience, information from experts, as well as a dose of personal paranoia. I have a 3 year old child who will someday be instructed by myself or my father in proper gun safety, because she will be exposed to guns in our family. This is not optional. If she shows interest in joining her family in target shooting and hunting she will also go through gun safety courses before participating. Also not optional.

    So I find it very irresponsible that these are being sold to meet the federal requirements. I do appreciate the opinion of gun owners who feel this type of law is infringing on their rights, but my personal opinion is that this is simply putting good, common sense into law, and that while selling these lock boxes does meet the letter of the law, it completely skirts the intent of the law.

    That a law enforcement agency issued these defective by design devices to it's officers is very concerning, and the reported response to being shown that they are flawed devices is even worse. It is equally concerning that at least some of the officers in question didn't secure their weapons in the first place and that this wasn't a policy of the department before a member of the department was hit with personal tragedy. The sheriff department should expect their officers to show a good dose of common sense when it comes to their service as well as personal weapons, but in the world we live in common sense is no longer sufficient.

  • by moeinvt (851793) on Friday July 27, 2012 @01:24PM (#40793719)

    The response he got from the manufacturers and retailers is unbelievable!

    I'm not an exec at a big corporation, but if I saw a video of a 3 year old opening a lock box that I was marketing and selling as a "gun safe", I'd at least stop selling new ones. The bean counters would coldly calculate the cost of a recall vs. the cost of settling a few lawsuits for the items already in use, but what motive would they have to keep selling the same junk? I suppose the retailers could just point the finger at the manufacturers of course, but it still makes no sense.

    I'm going to forward the source article to the NRA, and I encourage others (esp. members) to do so. Hopefully we can get permission to re-print parts of it in American Rifleman. The last F*&^%!$ thing we need is firearms accidents in cases where people are trying to do the responsible thing by keeping the weapons locked up.

  • as a gun owner (Score:4, Informative)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday July 27, 2012 @02:25PM (#40794697)
    As a gun owner and a father of a 4 year old, I have to plead that if you're going to own a gun, you MUST properly train your children, no matter how young, in Gun Safety. If you are not going to, or you do not trust your child to do what they are trained to do, do not keep a gun in the house. Period. Gun safety is the only way to keep your kid safe. A vault is there to keep out buglers, not children with indefinite amounts of time on their hands. What's the proper training for someone that's 3? If you see a gun, ANYWHERE, tell an adult immediately. Every time they see one and tell you, you give them a treat. Basically, every time my kid sees a cop he gets an M&M. It gets irritating, but that's the price you pay.

    As far as the safe goes? It's supposed to be bolted to a concrete floor you morons. You've got a loaded gun, in a safe that's not bolted down, you're really lucky the gun didn't just go off INSIDE the damned safe while the kids were bumping it around. And no, the safe probably wouldn't stop the round. Read the directions next time.
  • If I had touched my dad's guns, he would have killed me. I guess I was raised to leave things alone that weren't mine.

    BTW -- my dad was a police officer for 25 years. Had more than one gun in the house. I knew where they all were. But I wasn't allowed to go into their room.

    The real tragedy is that more and more parents want to be their kid's friend instead of their parent and don't know how to raise them

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake

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