Guns are always in the media - whether it’s via violence in the news, discussions of gun control legislation, or the latest Hollywood action flick. Most recently, a study by the University of Washington hit the news with findings that over half of all gun owners don’t safely store their firearms - meaning unloaded, out of reach of others, and in a locked storage safe. While alarming, this statistic tells me that gun owners need help with secure storage. With the popularity of guns in America and increased pressure on gun owners to safely store their weapons, niche storage of firearms could be a lucrative business opportunity for storage owners.

Sound crazy? It might not be. As calls for U.S. gun control legislation increase, gun sales have skyrocketed - possibly due to fear of not being able to purchase a firearm in the future. It’s clear that firearms are a popular household item in America, and self storage owners already help people store other various household items - some even less common. There are more gun collectors in America than wine collectors - in fact, there are more guns in America than people - and we already have tons of wine storage facilities. Plus, since over half of Americans don’t store their firearms properly, they’d likely benefit from the expertise - and safety - of storing their weapon in a secure firearm storage facility. As storage owners know, whenever there is risk involved with the storage of an item, the price per square foot of storage increases and premium amenities are easier to sell. The question is, will self storage businesses embrace and profit from gun owners as they have from wine collectors, RV and boat owners, and small business retail sales?

Where people are storing guns now

American gun owners are clearly in need of safe and secure storage space - many are collectors wanting an access controlled gun room, or they may be a gun owner going off to college or on a trip where firearms are not allowed. Antique firearms require special care, and many gun owners lack the facilities to care for historical firearms but are unwilling to give them up to museums.

Most popular places to store guns:

  • Bedroom
  • Vehicle
  • Basement
  • Home office
  • Gun store
  • Shooting range
  • Pawn shop
  • Bank safe deposit box
  • With a friend or family member

Gun owners struggle to find safe and affordable storage options for their weapons. Many safes are easy for children or criminals to crack or steal, and accessibility can become a problem. There is certainly a need for a better, safer way to store firearms.

The industry’s stance on gun storage

Each state has different rules about where and how guns can be stored. Similarly, each storage facility owner has their own rules about gun storage. But many storage owners say storing firearms at their facility is a hard no - possibly due to the increased danger of break-ins, theft, and legal action. Because bullets are explosives, gun owners have not and will not be able to store ammunition in a storage unit ever, not even separate from their guns. Many storage owners also know that they might not have a keen eye on absolutely everything that’s being stored in their units - it’s possible that some renters already store guns in their storage units without being caught by management.

Self storage auctions get a little more complicated when guns are being stored in a unit. Storage owners have to include gun sale provisions in auction contracts, obtain an auctioneer certified in gun sales, and have background checks done on gun bidders. If the bidder doesn’t qualify based on the background check, the guns can be sold separate from the unit by a certified auctioneer or gun dealer, and the bidder must be reimbursed. If the guns are “hidden” in the unit and unbeknownst to the storage owner, it gets even more complicated.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

There are obviously a ton of risks with storing firearms, so to make the benefits outweigh the risks, you’d have to design a strategic business model that’s centered around safety. It’s not a stretch to imagine a valet storage business model in which a gun owner could request secure storage for their firearm and a secure storage service would pick up the firearm, store it safely at an undisclosed warehouse, and hold it until the gun owner requests delivery. Theoretically, a gun owner could use this service when they wanted to go hunting or to a shooting range - they’d simply request delivery and have their firearm securely brought to them. Then, all they’d need to do is pick up ammunition for the day. If a valet gun storage business model was possible, firearm storage could be very lucrative for storage owners, and with an undisclosed location, the security threat would be much lower.

Pros:

  • Higher rent rates and increased profit per square foot of storage space
  • Increased marketing potential when catering to a niche audience
  • Potential for revenue-boosting valet gun storage services (in which the firearm is picked up, stored securely at an undisclosed warehouse, then delivered back at the gun owners’ request)
  • Develop expertise and build authority as an expert in safe storage practices for firearms

Cons:

  • Risk of a firearm going off or a renter being injured at your facility
  • More threat of break-ins and theft when marketing firearm storage
  • Require a more expensive insurance policy (both for your facility and the tenant)
  • Increased security measures, like high-tech access control, “vault-like” impenetrable storage doors, night security guards, and/or unit security and infrared sensors

Guns would certainly require climate-controlled storage to prevent rust, as cold, heat, and humidity are all damaging for firearms. There would also be additional paperwork associated with storing guns, and storage owners would have to be meticulous about recording firearm serial numbers and monitoring gun and storage laws in their state. Because there are so many risks, guns might not be something you want to be associated with your storage facility. For those that find the benefits outweigh the risks, it could be a trendy niche storage idea. With the right preparation, marketing, and security, storage owners could be change-makers by offering a safe gun storage solution that helps keep firearms out of the hands of children and criminals.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: Read between the vines: 11 unexpected ways to wow your renters with wine storage, Will the traditional self storage model win out against 'Uber for storage' and 'AirBnB for storage' startups?, and Competing with the REIT next door: How small storage businesses can thrive in today’s market.