Gun Safety: What You Need to Know
The right to keep and bear arms is an essential and fundamental American right, spelled out in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Our founding fathers understood the importance of gun ownership with Richard Henry Lee of Virginia stating that “to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
The second part of Lee’s statement is what gun safety advocates have long espoused, with training in the proper care and use of firearms a must. Let’s take a look at the essentials of proper gun safety.
1. Work with a trained instructor. If you’re new to firearms, then you’ll want to work with someone who has experience operating guns. The National Rifle Association, for example, has been providing firearm safety and shooting skills courses since the 1870s, with thousands of instructors impacting millions of gun owners nationwide. Chances are your instructor is NRA-certified or has received similar training from a recognized group.
2. Keep it unloaded. No gun should be kept loaded unless it is be readied for use. Storing your gun in a safe place and keeping it unloaded ensures that it is never accessed and used accidentally. Your state may have requirements to ensure that children are kept safely away from guns. You need to know local and state laws, and by abiding by them at all times.
3. Point it safely. Television and movies often show the irresponsible use of guns with actors not holding on to their firearms in a safe manner. That means never pointing a gun at another person or at yourself, instead aiming it toward the ground or at a target. A bullet can penetrate thick objects, passing through a wall, a window or floors before coming to a rest. Unfortunately, a person could be between the gun’s barrel and the bullet’s final resting place.
4. Keep you finger off the trigger. When carrying a gun, you trigger finger should rest on the trigger guard until it is ready to be used. Once you touch the trigger, you can set off the gun, possibly and inadvertently firing a shot when you’re not ready.
5. Understand the individual gun. Not all guns are alike and familiarizing yourself with the way it operates is important. This means getting a feel for how the gun is held, understanding its parts, how to load and unload ammunition, and how to maintain it — essential points to furthering gun safety. Learn how to clean a gun and know the best practice for storing it.
6. Know what ammunition to use. There are four components to ammunition: the case, primer, powder and projectile. Choose a shotshell and your ammunition includes a seal consisting of paper or plastic that separates the powder from the slug, keeping the shot together as it moves through the barrel. Check the barrel of the gun to find the ammunition type stamped on it; never use other ammunition even if its fits in the barrel.
7. Put on the appropriate protection. Using a gun means protecting yourself from harm as well as others. People who hunt or participate in target shooting should wear protective gear including eye and ear protection. The National Shooting Sports Foundation recommends eye cover for disassembling or cleaning a gun, to offer protection against a spring hitting your eye. Ear protection can preserve your hearing, allowing you to enjoy your sport for many years.
8. Service your gun regularly. Like any instrument, a gun needs to be kept cleaned and serviced. And like anything, your gun is subject to wear and tear. Parts can break or wear down, making your gun a safety concern. Your gun’s manufacturer has service requirements; follow these to keep you and everyone else safe.
9. Operate your gun responsibly. Like driving a car, carrying and operating a gun should evoke the same level of caution. Drinking and driving is wrong and so is drinking, taking drugs or doing some other type of behavior that impedes your ability to responsibly use a gun. Even some prescription drugs may diminish your capacity to safely use a gun — know a drug’s side effects and behave accordingly.
Gun safety should be second nature, but don’t assume anything. When buying, selling or trading firearms, follow local, state and federal laws. If you’re buying a used gun, have it independently inspected before using it. When safely used, a gun can provide the protection you need or the sportsmanship you desire for as long as you own it.
Adam works for the Gun Safe Store and teaches firearm safety. The gun safe store has a wide variety of gun safes and pistol safes.