One of the most sacred laws of the land in America is the right to bear arms. It was with their guns that American revolutionaries fought against the tyranny of British rule. But that was 24o years ago. Nowadays people use guns for a variety of different reasons: hunting, self-defense, emergency preparedness, target practice, sporting pursuits. The list goes on.
But, as Americans are endowed with the right to bear arms, so too are we tasked with learning the ins and outs of gun safety. In 2015 alone, at least 141 deaths of minors were attributed to unintentional or accidental shootings, according to a nationwide review conducted by The Associated Press and USA TODAY Network. Moreover, each year the number of deaths by accidental shooting hovers somewhere around 500.
Hence why obtaining a gun license can be difficult and often discouraging. In order to encourage responsible gun use, lawmakers have taken steps to ensure that gun owners learn the necessary tenants of firearm safety. As in the state of Massachusetts, one must complete a state-approved firearms safety course before qualifying for a license.
As part of that course, you will most likely learn the four basic rules of gun safety. Though you might use your guns in a number of different ways, these four rules apply no matter who you are, no matter where you are, and no matter what you intend to do with your gun. If you make sure to follow these rules carefully and consistently, you can be certain you’ll never have a firearms accident. Fortunately for you, we’re going to present them here as a primer for any courses you will take in the future.
- The First Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
Always treat your gun as if it’s loaded. Or more simply, all guns are always loaded.
Now what does this mean exactly? It means treating every gun with the same respect that you’d treat a loaded gun, regardless of whether it’s loaded or not. In other words, you wouldn’t jokingly point your loaded rifle at your best friend’s face, so you obviously wouldn’t if it was unloaded. It doesn’t matter if you’ve checked or not. There may be a bullet hiding in the chamber. That’s why Rule Number One is so important, and why it precedes all the other rules. Because it means, no matter the situation, that we’re using our firearms with mindfulness and care.
- The Second Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
Never point the gun at something you’re not prepared to destroy.
This one’s pretty simple. It essentially states Rule One more clearly. No matter what you’re doing with your gun–whether you’re unloading it, correcting a jam, cleaning it, or showing it off to your friends–you must always be aware of which direction the muzzle is pointing. Even for something as basic as setting your gun down after use, make sure it’s pointing in a direction that won’t cause destruction or harm. Otherwise don’t pick it up in the first place.
- The Third Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you have made the decision to shoot.
As with every other moment of use, the decision to shoot should be approached with conscious attention and care. This rule is simple: keep your finger off the trigger and it won’t accidentally discharge. These days firearms are made so they won’t ‘just go off’ on their own. For anyone operating a gun, unless you’re engaging a target, their finger should be placed high on its frame–not on the trigger, not hovering near the trigger guard. And the definition of a target is equally simple: a target is anywhere you deliberately point a gun. If you’re not deliberately pointing a gun somewhere, your finger is high on the frame. That’s it.
- The Fourth Universal Rule of Gun Safety:
Be sure of your target and what’s behind it. It’s important to know that bullets can go through an intended target. Which means you must ensure that your target has a proper backdrop to receive fire. It seems obvious but you’d be surprised how many accidents happen when you’re not entirely aware of the environment surrounding your target. Whether you’re disassembling and cleaning a glock, or practicing on a makeshift shooting range (such as cans in your backyard), you have to make sure that, one: there isn’t anyone lurking behind the target or potentially in the line of fire, and two: that there’s a solid backstop behind it to absorb the bullet. You might be wondering what qualifies as a solid backstop. That depends entirely on what type of gun you’re operating, its power, and the kind of rounds you’re using. Buckshot, for example, will fall to rest with sufficient open space, whereas bullets from a hunting rifle could travel for miles without a solid surface to hit.
So there you have it, the four universal rules of gun safety. Do not take these rules lightly. To quote from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Guns are some of the most powerful machines in the world, and so owning one is a serious responsibility. In order to ensure safe and proper use, always follow the four basic rules. As you go through a firearms safety course, you will probably go much deeper into the nuances of each rule. But for now maybe print this out and keep it handy whenever you pull your rifle off the rack.
The Four Universal Rules of Gun Safety:
1. Treat all guns as if they are always loaded.
2. Never point the muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.