One of the leading safe lock manufacturers, Liberty Safe, sparked discussions on consumer privacy vs civil duty in the US when the company voluntarily gave an access code to the FBI to view a suspect’s personal belongings. Navigating the Liberty Safe controversy allows you to understand how to balance consumer expectations and corporate responsibility, forging a path that’s right for your business and customers.

Here at Business2Community, we’re dedicated to providing concrete guidance for businesses based on real-world data and experiences. We’ve organized all the key facts surrounding the Liberty Safe drama in 2023 so you can learn from its mistakes and make your business model bulletproof.

Liberty Safe Controversy – Key Facts

  • In August 2023, Liberty Safe provided access to a Liberty gun safe so the FBI could conduct a raid on a Jan 6 Capitol Protest suspect, leading to widespread criticism from conservatives for violating consumers’ trust and privacy.
  • One week after the raid, Liberty Safe issued a public statement defending its action to work with the authorities, prompting another round of heated backlash.
  • The day after its initial public announcement, the company issued another statement to offer a security upgrade to gun safe users by opting out of the passcode database.

The Story of the Liberty Safe Controversy

Founded in 1988 by entrepreneur Jay Crosby, Liberty Safe is a leading gun safe manufacturer based in Utah, the US. With over 2 million gun owners enlisting its services in the country, the brand is a popular choice among gun supporters.

liberty safe

In 2023, Liberty Safe created controversy for giving an override code to the FBI, causing conservatives to criticize the lack of privacy and respect given to gun owners. Let’s take a look at how the controversy damaged its reputation and what you can learn from it to better prepare yourself in times of crisis.

Liberty Safe Gave Access Codes to the FBI to One of Its Safes

On August 30, 2023, Liberty Safe was ordered by the FBI to provide access codes to one of its safes. The owner of the specific safe belonged to an Arkansas native named Nathan Hughes – with the name being confirmed by his friends, conservative comedians Keith and Kevin Hodge, via X (formerly Twitter).

The two YouTubers said the raid was related to the Jan 6 Capitol protest that happened in 2021 during the certification of the election results.

Nathan Hughes was eventually charged with felony civil disorder and several misdemeanors relating to the Jan 6 Capitol protest after the FBI found relevant firearms in his Liberty gun safe. The incident led to Liberty Safe facing backlash over giving access codes to the authority, (supposedly) violating the privacy and human rights of gun safe owners. Nathan Hughes’ trial is set to begin in July 2024.

Liberty Safe Faced Conservative Backlash for FBI Cooperation

Gun safe manufacturer Liberty Safe was heavily criticized by conservatives for violating customers’ trust. A lot of people took to social media to express their frustration and anger, and even called for a boycott of the company.

Michael Seifert, founder of the “anti-woke marketplace” PublicSq., said:

No Safe company should ever have access to the property of their customers, let alone sell them out to the feds.

He compared the incident to the Bud Light controversy that happened earlier that year, which also triggered a boycott from conservatives. Seifert believed Liberty Safe should get “the Bud Light treatment” for invading consumers’ privacy.

Another conservative, Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, told Fox News that the company was actually not legally obliged to provide anything as there was an absence of court order in this instance:

“You voluntarily gave out a combination over a warrant, per your own release, that didn’t apply to you or your property. Maybe start marketing your stuff as Bud Light storage.”

Charlie Kirk, a controversial manager for a right-wing student group, also wrote on Twitter that “Liberty Safe is an enemy to gun owners.”

The Consequences of the Liberty Safe Controversy

The Liberty Safe incident sparked a nationwide debate over corporate responsibilities and legal compliance. Many people were furious about Liberty Safe’s action and believed it had no right to access a customer’s safe without the owner’s permission.

After the raid, legal experts came out to clarify what companies would be required to do in situations like this and challenged Liberty Safe’s decision on the matter. Following the public uproar, the safe manufacturer issued 2 statements on consecutive days to explain its decisions and promised a revised protocol for the future.

The decision of leading safe maker Liberty Safe led to many people questioning the privacy and consumer rights in this case. Legal experts came forward to explain that in this particular situation, Liberty Safe was not legally responsible for opening the safe as requested by the federal agency.

Tracey Maclin, a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, told the press that “the warrant doesn’t require that they do anything”.

“All the search warrant does is say that government officials have the authority to go into a home and look for certain things,” she added.

Another expert, Christopher Slobogin, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School, said, “Unlike iPhones, where Apple doesn’t know the code, or social media, where there is a free-speech issue, the FBI doesn’t even need the safe company to do anything if they have a blowtorch.”

The experts stated that people may view Liberty Safe’s decision as an act of civil duty but in terms of the legal aspect, the company was not legally obliged to give the code to the FBI or reveal the safe combinations of its customers’ properties.

The company was only supposed to provide access to the safe’s physical location. If the FBI deemed there was dangerous or suspicious content inside, they could have then used their own force to break the safe open. It just would have taken a bit more time and taxpayer money.

In many cases, companies would choose to refuse the order to protect their brand image to stand with their consumers.

Liberty Safe Made a Public Statement to Defend Its Decision

Following the backlash over giving override access, Liberty Safe made a public announcement one week after the incident on September 6. The statement was justifying its decision to supply access codes to federal officers and that it had repeatedly denied requests for the FBI access when a warrant was not presented.

Our company’s protocol is to provide access codes to law enforcement if a warrant grants them access to a property. After receiving the request, we received proof of the valid warrant, and only then did we provide them with an access code

Although the statement acknowledged the company’s commitment to protecting consumer safety and privacy, it remained firm that the FBI’s warrant was sufficient for the company to provide access. The public announcement did not yield the results Liberty Safe had hoped.

The public was once again outraged by the company’s unapologetic attitude, promoting the safe company to issue a second statement the next day.

In the statement, the company explained that the purpose for keeping records of factory-set default combinations was in case of a lost combination that would leave the customer with limited recourse. However, given the public uproar, Liberty Safe decided to reach out to gun safe owners and offer a security upgrade that would remove the factory-set combinations in the company’s database.

The company also “revised [its] policies around cooperation with law enforcement” to create a more secure database for users.

“Going forward we will require a subpoena that legally compels Liberty Safe to supply access codes but can only do so if these codes still exist in our system,” it said.

What Can We Learn From the Liberty Safe Controversy? 

Liberty Safe created a controversy in 2023 due to its decision to grant the FBI the factory-set combination for one of its customers’ safes. Although the company tried to convince the public that it held the master key to all safes to prevent malfunctions or the code being lost and that it was legally required to provide access, many conservatives and legal experts challenged the claims.

Eventually, in order to regain its consumers’ trust, the safe manufacturer allowed users to opt out of its factory-key database so the firm would not be able to open the user’s safe without permission. In 2023, the company continued to lead the US safe and vault manufacturing industry with an estimated revenue of $131.5 million.

The controversy serves as an excellent guide for you to curate your crisis management strategies. It is important to fully understand your rights and responsibilities as a reputable brand. If your customers’ rights and your company’s civil duty collide, it is up to you as a morally conscious decision-maker to choose the most appropriate option. When facing backlash, you need to consider how various stakeholders are impacted and what action plans you can offer to regain their trust in the brand, while also seeking legal counsel to remain compliant with state and federal laws.


What is the most trusted safe company?

Why are people boycotting Liberty Safe?

Is Liberty Safe still in business?