“With power comes great responsibility” – Voltaire, 18th century philosopher.
“A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that.” – the movie Shane (1953)
These two quotes go hand in hand. A firearm is a tool. It is a tool with a variety of purposes such as target shooting and self defense. A rifle, pistol, or shotgun is a very powerful tool, but a tool none the less.
All tools come with a set of rules and recommendations that the individual must follow to ensure the safety of the user and others when handling and using them. We know not to put our hands on a hot stove. The Boy Scouts of America has a very strict training program before a scout is allowed to use a knife or axe. Warning labels tell us to wear safety glasses and hearing protection when using a lawn mower and not put our hair dryer in a tub or sink filled with water. Likewise there are core rules when it comes to the ownership and use of firearms.
Firearms are no different. They come with their own set of rules. These rules, if followed, ensure the physical safety and well being of the owner of a firearm, their loved ones, friends, and other good people around them. There are two similar basic sets of rules in existence today that should be followed.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has developed the following 3 primary rules of safe gun handling:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. This means that you never point a firearm at someone regardless of your belief in the firearm being loaded or unloaded.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. This one is extremely simple yet seems to elude so many out there. With few exceptions, the design of modern firearms means you could drop the one off the balcony of a building and it will not fire when it strikes the ground. However if you start to play around with the trigger it will go off. Again, look at the stories of people killed by someone being negligent and not following this rule.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. This one can be confusing to some. It does not say that you only load your firearm when you are at the range and it must be kept unloaded at any other time. It means that if you are storing your firearm in a safe or cabinet, keep it unloaded. If you are walking to your hunting blind or climbing into your tree stand keep it unloaded. If you are carrying your firearm for defensive use, and it is under your control, it is perfectly fine to load it. Unless you have a lot of training, having an unloaded firearm when you need to immediately use it for defensive purposes is as useful as a screen door on a submarine.
Celebrated firearms instructor Colonel Jeff Cooper has come up with his own rules:
- All guns are always loaded. Read your newspaper or search the internet. They are full of stories where someone was killed by another person carelessly playing with a firearm that they thought was “unloaded”
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. This goes right back to rule number 1.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. This is the same as the NRA’s rule #2.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. This one is similar to the NRA’s rule #1 but takes it to the next level. You may believe that you are pointing your firearm in a safe direction, but are you sure of it? That paper target may be in a good position on your property for you to shoot at, but is your neighbor’s house directly behind it? What if your target isn’t paper but a human being who you think is a threat to the life of you or your loved ones? You need to be sure that the threat is real, imminent, and that you are not misreading your environment.
These are considered to be the core rules of firearms safety. However there are extended rules when it comes to firearms. If you want to learn more use the contact form to sign up for one of our classes