Tuesday, May 4, 2010

5 Keys To Responsible Firearms Ownership

As a result of reading a few stories about persons in the local media, who in my opinion were irresponsible with their firearms, I felt moved to pen a blog post about elementary concepts associated with responsible firearm ownership.

If I covered this subject in-depth the resulting work would easily be a book comprised of at least a few hundred pages. This article is not exhaustive, but will guide the novice and inexperienced firearms owner towards a body of knowledge for further investigation.

Intended Audience
In Michigan, individuals desiring to qualify for a state-issued Concealed Pistol License (CPL) are required to take a gun safety class. As a consequence, these persons are taught how to be responsible with their firearms.

However, there are many other persons who own firearms and may not have been raised with guns or had prior experiences with them. Accordingly, these people may not know everything that is expected of them as responsible firearms owners. This post is written for that audience.

Key 1: Always Obey All Gun Safety Rules
If gun safety rules are always followed, there is no possible way that an adverse and tragic accident can occur. The five fundamentals of safe gun handling are listed as the following:

- Always treat a firearm as if it is loaded at all times.
- Always keep a firearm pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
- Always keep firearms unloaded until ready for use.
- Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Do not handle a firearm unless you know the above rules and completely understand them. If necessary, consult with the following: a knowledgeable user, a firearms dealer, or a firearms instructor.

Key 2: Always Keep Firearms Away From Unauthorized Users
Many tragic incidents with firearms occur when unauthorized users acquire access to firearms. Within this class of persons who should be kept away from firearms are individuals who have not had any training handling firearms, known convicted felons, and small children. Firearms are not toys and should be respected at all times.

Moreover, children when and if they are deemed to be emotionally mature by their parents can be safely introduced to firearms. It is a prudent policy to teach your children about firearms to reduce their curiosity about exploring their usage both inside and outside the home.

Frank and candid conversations about the realities and seriousness of firearms and why they are present in home can effectively "gun-proof" your kids. Many children, when old enough, are allowed by their parents to participate in organized shooting sports and to acquire hunting licenses.

Additionally, a variety of products are available in the marketplace to secure and safeguard firearms that are "not in use" from unauthorized users. These devices include gun locks, trigger locks, gun cases, gun safes, and gun vaults.

Further, responsible gun owners have a duty to keep track of their firearms. If a firearm is lost or stolen, it must be reported as such within five days of having made that discovery.

Key 3: Abstain From Alcohol And Certain Drugs When Handling Firearms
Certainly, most people readily understand why gun owners should refrain from handling a firearm after drinking alcohol: impaired judgement, loss of ability to focus, and loss of fine motor skills. In addition, gun handlers should not indulge any habits involving the ingestion of illicit drugs and any prescription drug that is labelled "Do not take while driving or operating heavy machinery."

Key 4: Learn How To Safely Operate Your Firearm
No firearm owner should operate his handgun without first reading his operator's guide from cover to cover. If there any concepts that are not understood, advice should be sought from the following: the gun dealer who sold the firearm, the manufacturer's web site, a knowledgeable user, or a credible firearms trainer.

The operator's guide will detail the following:
- The features of the handgun
- Ammunition calibers and types that can be fired
- Proper maintenance schedule and method
- How to inspect handgun for safe operation

Failure to follow directions can not only lead to the firearm becoming damaged but can also cause a serious injury, up to and including death, to yourself or someone situated nearby.

Additionally, when operating your handgun at an approved target please be sure to wear proper safety equipment: shooting glasses and hearing protection. Failure to do can lead to permanent and irreversible damage to your senses.

Key 5: Stay Abreast Of Firearm Law Changes
Firearms are the most regulated products in our country. It is estimated that nationally there are over 20,000 gun laws on the books. As a firearm owner, you are responsible for knowing the law at all times. Ignorance of the law is not a legally justified excuse for running afoul of it. Gun offenses and crimes usually carry stiff and harsh penalties.

Responsible gun owners can stay abreast of law changes by frequently checking their state legislature's web site or by joining state and national level firearms advocacy and gun rights organization.
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