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Basics of Firearm Safety


While firearms have been, and will likely always be, a source of contention in the United States, it is no secret that gun owners see their firearm primarily as a means of protection. It is also no secret that guns are in a lot of homes across the country.

According to Statista, the percentage of US households with one or more firearms in 2015 was 41%. This number has hovered around 37% and above since 1972.

With gun ownership comes great responsibility, and understanding the principles of gun safety along with the consequences of irresponsible behavior is essential in keeping lives safe. If you’re thinking about acquiring a firearm, you must know the universal expectations that all responsible gun owners abide by.

First, we are going to look at The Four Rules of essential gun safety that any responsible gun owner should be able to recite and recognize at a moment’s notice:

The Four Rules

1. The gun is always loaded

Whether you know that a firearm is loaded or not, you should always handle it as if it is always loaded. Any firearm that you pick up should immediately be checked for safety every time you pick it up.

There have been some alterations to this rule to clear confusion, such as “Treat guns as if they are loaded”. This makes it more clear what the original text means, but one should not feel that any variation of the rule means that actions should be relaxed. Always treat your firearm as if it is loaded, even when you are sure that it isn’t.

2. Never point the muzzle at something you aren’t prepared or willing to destroy

Think about the first rule and let it apply to the second principle of gun safety. Realize that a firearm has the capability to kill or seriously injure any living thing and/or can destroy anything of value. If you have no valid reason to point your weapon at something, then you never ever should.

3. Be sure of your target and anything behind the target

Before you point your weapon at a designated target, always be sure of what it behind and around the area. You know bullets are powerful, but they are more powerful than you might possibly think. They can go through your target and affect other objects. Never point when there are people behind your designated target.

4. Keep your finger off of the trigger until your sights are on the target


Proper off-trigger stance

Until you are confidently ready to discharge your weapon, keep your trigger finger either on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. There is never a reason to have your finger on the trigger when you haven’t yet identified your intended target.

Now that you know the four big rules of gun safety, we are going to dig even deeper into what it means to practice gun ownership in a safe manner.

Additional essentials of firearm safety

Understand all aspects of operating your firearm

Whether you’re familiar with firearms or not, each weapon you hold may come with specific safety measures. Research the gun you plan on purchasing, and do not hesitate to seek out information from a knowledgeable gunsmith or store proprietor about anything you are unsure of. You should not take your firearm to your local shooting range (if allowed at all) until you are absolutely sure how to operate it.

Before shooting, you should know:

  • What kind of ammunition the firearm requires 
  • How to load and discharge the weapon
  • Proper firing stances 

If you are unsure about properly maintaining your firearm, you should consider a gun safety course in your local area.

Always wear eye and ear protection

If you go to a shooting range, you will have to wear eye and ear protection, and the reasons are plenty. If you’ve never been within a few feet of a gunshot, you really will not know just how loud firearms can actually be. Ear protection is essential if you value your hearing. Eye protection guards against any debris and/or hot gases that emit from your firearm when discharged.

Don’t ever go in thinking that you’ll be “fine” without such protection. If others are around you, they should also be wearing both ear and eye protection.

Never use a firearm under the influence of any substance

We shouldn’t even have to bring this up, but it is something that we have to bring up. Never use a firearm when you have consumed alcohol or have taken any prescription drug that can interfere with your better judgement.

Gun Safety At Home

If you keep a gun at home, you have to accept that fact that you’re possessing an instrument that poses a serious risk to your children if it is not stored safety at all times.

Invest in a gun safe. Keep it out of reach.

Some might think that simply hiding their gun from children is a safe enough measure, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re serious about gun safety at home, then you’ll want to make an investment in a gun safe.

Even with a gun safe, there are extra measures that you should take to ensure maximum safety. For one, always be sure your weapon is unloaded with the magazine removed. Any ammunition you have should be locked separately from the firearm.

It is recommended that you keep the keys to the safe apart from your household keys. Don’t open any pathway for children to grab hold of any means of being able to open up the safe. It is also recommended that any gun cleaning supplies you might have be kept out of reach, as they are often poisonous materials.

Talk to your kids

Talking to your children about gun safety is paramount to maintaining a safe environment for all. Explain your reasons for having a weapon in the house, and make it clear about the dangers of getting near a weapon.

Below is a good video from the National Shooting Sports Foundation that outlines a solid approach for parents to talk to their children about gun safety.

Gun Safety Resources:

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