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Guns are everywhere these days; the media can’t seem to get enough. You go to the movies and watch your favorite action hero in his latest shoot em’ up only to see the same actor on the news the next evening telling everyone that guns are evil. I’m looking at you Liam Neeson. Setting aside any personal feelings about gun rights, the one thing that never seems to get talked about is gun safety. Large portions of the people of Edmonson County are gun people. Whether its recreational shooting, hunting or trading, guns are a long standing part of our culture. With so many people enjoying this great hobby, safety must be our top priority.
What follows is what I believe to be the most essential elements of Gun Safety. No one list or article could ever cover the subject completely. Gun safety, training, and education are a lifelong process. So let’s dig in………….
Before I even get to the “rules,” there is something that you have to accept as a mindset when handling guns: All guns are loaded. Don’t argue the point, just accept it. All guns are loaded. If you always treat firearms as if they are loaded, you are more likely to follow the rest of the rules that keep you safe.
1. Always Keep The Muzzle Pointed In A Safe Direction
This should be a no brainer, but sadly it’s not. It takes focus and concentration to always be aware of where your firearms is pointing, and it is the primary rule of gun safety. We have all heard people say, “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded,” which we know from what we just read is wrong and can never be trusted. If your friend continues to carelessly point his firearm while insisting it’s unloaded, he might be better suited to paintball.
2. Firearms Should Be Unloaded When Not Actually In Use
I know what you’re thinking, “he said no gun is unloaded” but I think you get the point. Unloading firearms while not in use helps prevent mistakes by people who have not bought in to rule number 1.
3. Don't Rely On Your Gun's "Safety". Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire.
If your firearm has a safety, that’s fantastic. However please keep in mind that any man made mechanism has the potential to fail. This is where we see the importance of how the rules work together. If you keep your finger off the trigger (rule 3) and keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction (rule 1) all should be well.
4. Be Sure Of Your Target And What's Beyond
This rule is important with all guns and all calibers, but is of even greater importance when shooting high powered rifles. Bullets are designed to penetrate deep and travel further. It is not enough to know your target, you must be aware of what is behind and beyond your target. You have to know what could happen if you fail to hit your target or your bullet penetrates the target completely. This rule applies not only to the target shooter, but also to our many hunters. Think first, shoot second.
5. Use Correct Ammunition
There are a lot of different calibers, and it can get confusing to the new shooter and the experienced hunter alike. Using incorrect ammunition can result in damage to the firearm and possible injury to the shooter. Never use someone else’s re-loaded ammunition.
6. Never use alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while shooting. Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must not be used before or while handling or shooting guns.
7. Always Wear Eye And Ear Protection When Shooting
Guns are loud and the noise can cause hearing damage. They can also emit debris and hot gas that could cause eye injury. For these reasons, shooting glasses and hearing protectors should be worn by shooters and spectators. Also, ear and eye protection will make you a better shooter. When your ears begin to hurt and ring, it can be difficult to keep your balance let alone shoot straight.
8. Clean and service your firearms regularly
What does a clean gun have to do with safety? Everything. Regular cleaning is important in order for your gun to operate correctly and safely. Taking proper care of it will also maintain its value and extend its life. Your gun should be cleaned every time that it is used. Regular cleaning is important in order for your gun to operate correctly and safely. Taking proper care of it will also maintain its value and extend its life. A gun brought out of prolonged storage should also be cleaned before shooting. Accumulated moisture and dirt, or solidified grease and oil, can prevent the gun from operating properly. Before cleaning your gun, make absolutely sure that it is unloaded. The gun's action should be open during the cleaning process. Also, be sure that no ammunition is present in the cleaning area.
9. Don't Alter or Modify Your Gun
No matter how simple it may appear, your firearms was designed and built by highly skilled engineers and gunsmiths. If you are not a professional gunsmith, just leave it alone. If you need repair work or want to add a level of customization, find a professional gunsmith or contact the manufacturer.
10. Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.
Many factors must be considered when deciding where and how to store guns. A person's particular situation will be a major part of the consideration. Dozens of gun storage devices, as well as locking devices that attach directly to the gun are available. However, mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules.
We all have to do our part to keep each other safe and to ensure that we are able to enjoy this part of our heritage for generations to come.
Stay tuned throughout the year as we discuss other firearms related issues.
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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the authors, and as such should not be relied upon as a substitute for in person safety training. Anyone interested in receiving such training should visit the NRA Training website to find a suitable instructor.
*http://www.nssf.org/safety/basics/ National Shooting Sports Soundation
*http://training.nra.org/nra-gun-safety-rules.aspx National Rifle Association