Understanding Gun Safety: Tips For Responsible Firearm Ownership

Gun owners have a responsibility always to be aware of where their firearm is pointed. It includes when it is not being fired, such as in a holster, a case, or on the ground. It is an essential safety rule that may seem like common sense, but not everyone intuits it properly.

Treat All Guns as if They’re Always Loaded

The first rule of gun safety is always to treat all guns as if they were loaded. It is the foundation upon which all other rules of safe handling are built. The reason is simple – you never know for sure whether or not a firearm is loaded. Even if it is unloaded, a bullet can still shoot through a floor, wall, or other object and injure or kill someone. In many cases, accidents like this are caused by someone who doesn’t understand how a gun works or the proper way to handle it. That’s why it is essential to know how your particular gun works and how to check if it is loaded before each use.

It’s essential for those who live with children – one in three families has a gun in their home, and almost all accidental shootings in kids are caused by friends or relatives (particularly brothers). Responsible gun ownership includes teaching your family how to handle a firearm properly.

Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger

The first rule every gun owner must practice is to keep their index finger from the trigger. It seems simple enough, but it can be challenging for new shooters because of how our fingers and thumb are designed to work together to grasp something. If a person is scanning for threats while handling their firearm and doesn’t keep that index finger off of the trigger, it can easily slip into position over the trigger guard and fire accidentally. Law enforcement officers and other professional shooters are taught strict trigger discipline in the range or outside.

It includes keeping the finger off the trigger when reloading and holstering the weapon. It reduces the chance of a negligent discharge and helps ensure the muzzle is pointed safely, considering potential ricochets and what may be behind a target. For this reason, any gun must be kept with its safety on unless it is being fired.

Know the Law

Many states don’t require a person to complete safety training before buying or carrying a gun. As a result, the vast majority of gun owners have never been trained in proper firearm handling, storage, and use. Guns stored improperly can be accessible to unauthorized users, including children. These unsupervised accesses can lead to injuries and deaths if the firearm is mishandled or used for a purpose other than intended. Large majorities of both gun owners and non-owners say it’s essential for those who live with kids to talk to them about guns, take a safety course, and keep all firearms unloaded and stored separately. Using safes, lockboxes, or trigger locks can reduce this risk. However, these are not a substitute for responsible firearm ownership. Neither are they enough to prevent children from exploring the guns they find, which is why it’s also important to educate people about safe storage practices. Creating coalitions of trauma professionals, law enforcement, local sports and recreational facilities, shooting ranges, military personnel, and conceal-and-carry course instructors can ensure everyone understands the importance of responsible firearm ownership.

Know Your Target

Children are curious and impulsive, so even when adults warn them about guns, they may want to touch and explore. An adult is responsible for ensuring that any weapon in the home is unloaded and locked with a State-approved firearms safety device or securely stored, separated from ammunition. Before firing, new gun owners must ensure they can identify their target and what’s in front of them and beyond it. Firing at movement, sound, or unidentifiable shapes could result in injury or death.

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