Friday, November 28, 2008

Five Fundamental Firearm Safety Rules

No self-respecting firearms instructor will let a student handle - let alone fire - a handgun until he has learned and fully understood the five most fundamental firearm safety rules. These safety rules are that important. Not knowing and understanding those rules can result in disastrous consequences.

In fact, every single time before I conduct a firearms safety training course, I go over to Youtube and watch the video of the DEA Agent who shot himself - both literally and figuratively - in the foot in front of a room full of soon-to-be traumatized children. I view the video to remind myself that safety is of paramount importance.

The opening speech of the DEA Agent was hauntingly arrogant:
"Just this week, at the begining of the week, a young boy not even 16 years old was killed because he was playing with a gun. You see, this is an unloaded gun. This is a Glock .40. This is the same gun that Too Short and all them talk about. I am the only one in this room professional enough, that I know of to carry this Glock .40. I am the..."

If all of the fundamental firearm safety rules are followed, there is no way that anything bad can happen.

A. Always Treat A Firearm As If It Is Loaded

Every single time that you handle a firearm, you must treat it as if it is loaded - even if you "know" it is unloaded. Always take on the mindset that your gun is always loaded. If you do this, you will treat the gun with the respect and reverence that it deserves. History has shown - including in the above video - that many people are shot every year with "unloaded" handguns.

Further, you should never hand someone a loaded gun. The recipient may not have had any gun safety training. If you give a gun to the average person, his response is all too predictable; he will put the trigger. What do you think will be the first thing that he will say? He'll say without hesitating, "I didn't know it was loaded!" Surely, he had enough time to check if it was loaded but he didn't. He's an obvious amateur gun-handler.

In this situation, the gun should be opened such that a visual look at the action will clearly show that it is unloaded. When the recipient has verified that the gun is unloaded, he should then take possession of the gun.

B. Always Keep The Firearm Pointed In A Safe Direction
If the muzzle of the gun is always pointed in a safe direction, there is no way that anyone or anything can be shot if the gun was fired. Another way of stating this safety rule is to "Never Point It At Something That You Don't Want Destroyed."

When I conduct my firearm safety training class, I ask my class to tell me a safe direction. I always get an interesting and varied array of responses. Some people say "up" and other people say "down." Neither answer is acceptable. The true answer, however undefinitive it may sound, is "it depends." A safe direction is based upon where you are and who is around you. Sometimes the correct answer for a given scenario may be "up" and on others the correct answer may be "down."

C. Always Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Ready To Shoot
The trigger finger should always be kept on the frame of the handgun - not in the trigger guard. It only takes a split-second to move your finger to the trigger when needed. If you still watch TV, you will undoubtedly see this rule violated incessantly. The reason for this rule is very simple. It helps to eliminate the possibility of a gun-handler from accidentally shooting a handgun.

There is no justifiable excuse for accidentally shooting someone. Besides, what friend of yours would respond to your apology favorably. The only valid justification for shooting someone is that you meant to do so. Keep in mind that if you do intentionally shoot someone, you better have a good reason that falls within the confines of the law.

D. Always Keep Your Firearm Unloaded Until It Is Ready For Use
A gun that is not being actively used should be unloaded. This rule has the potential for confusing many students. Sometimes, a student will ask me how he expects to protect himself with an unloaded gun. The answer is very clear: If a gun is being used for personal protection, it should be loaded. An unloaded gun is of no practical use when an intruder is climbing through your bedroom window at 2:00 a.m. in the morning.

With respect to guns being used for personal protection, the handgun owner must responsibly balance accessibility with keeping the gun away from unauthorized users - children.

E. Always Be Sure Of Your Target and What Is Beyond It
Never shoot your handgun at a target until you have verified that it is a valid target. Once a gun is fired, you can't recall the bullet. Thus, if you fire upon an improper target you will have to live with the consequences. Also, you need to know what is beyond your target because if you haven't been to the range in a while, you might miss. If you fire your gun and miss, you are criminally and civilly liable for wherever that bullet lands. So, don't "take any shots in the dark" and don't miss.

Firearm safety is not complicated. Actually, it is quite easy. However, it requires that a handgun handler be extremely focused when handling a handgun. If all of the aforementioned safety rules are followed, nothing bad can happen. In fact, a few rules can be simultaneously broken and nothing catastrophic may not happen.

In the above Youtube video, several rules were broken. Do you know which ones?

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