There are few topics more important than firearm safety. Not only is it vital for gun owners to know how to safely operate and store their firearms, but they also need to instill these same values in their children. It’s up to us to make sure our kids grow up knowing how to respect all firearms.
Luckily, many of the rules that applied to gun safety 200 years ago still apply today. Sure, they might seem like common sense, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a serious conversation with our kids about how to handle a firearm properly. Here are 10 easy-to-follow guidelines for firearm safety that every gun owner needs to know:
- Always point your gun in a safe direction. At all times you need to be conscious of where the muzzle is pointed. Never let another person pass through the gun’s line of site when you are handling it; engaging the safety isn’t a license to stop paying attention to where the gun is pointed.
- Always keep your gun unloaded when not in use. The only time your gun should be loaded is when you’re out in the field or practicing at a target range. Otherwise, store your weapon and ammunition separately.
- Whether you’re hunting or shooting targets in the backyard, always be sure of what you are shooting at and what is behind it. Never shoot toward a building or road, and be vigilant of other hunters who may be in camouflage. An impulsive shot is the wrong shot.
- When handing someone a firearm or receiving a firearm from someone else, always check the action to visually confirm that no ammunition is in the chamber. Even if someone tells you it isn’t loaded, find out for yourself.
- When your firearm is not in use, store it in a safe, storage case or locked cabinet. If you keep your gun in a mobile carrying case, make sure to keep it in a location that is inaccessible by children. Remember, you are responsible for anyone who gains access to your firearm, whether you wanted them to or not.
- Use a gun lock, which makes it impossible to use your firearm when engaged. A gun lock should be used as an additional safety precaution and not as a substitute for secure storage.
- Keep your guns clean to prevent malfunction. A gun that has not been properly cared for is much more likely to misfire, which can cause injury or death. If your gun does fail to fire when you pull the trigger, use extreme caution. Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction and carefully open the action to remove the cartridge.
- Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting. Make no mistake, a lifetime of shooting will take a toll on your ears, so protect them with the proper ear protection. Additionally, firing a gun can cause all kinds of debris—like clay target fragments or twigs—to fly back toward the shooter. It only takes one shot to cause irreparable damage of the eyes, so keep them covered.
- Never fire a gun while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Period.
- Educate yourself about your specific firearm. No list can account for the subtleties and nuances of every gun model, so it’s up to you to learn them. Use this as an opportunity to educate your family as well.