There are many important aspects to owning, handling, and firing a weapon. Being a gun owner comes with a great deal of responsibility that many people seem to neglect, or forget. Mishandling such a powerful tool can lead to someone getting seriously injured or killed (including yourself).
A good place to start understanding how to properly and safely handle a firearm is by memorizing the 4 rules. I had the 4 rules pounded into my head at a very young age and I believe that they are vital in forming the necessary foundation that handling firearms requires. Understanding and employing the 4 rules will result in you and the people around you being safe.
The rules are designed so that if one is broken, the rest will make up for it. Think of the 4 rules as a suspension bridge. There are many cables that hold it up. If one of the cables snaps, the others will support the extra load and keep the bridge standing. However, if multiple cables break, the other cables won’t be able to support the bridge and it will fail.
The combination of all the rules works as a backup so that your safety is never in jeopardy. However, this does NOT mean that it is acceptable to neglect any of the rules and you should always practice all 4. Please do not take that as an ok to discount ANY of the rules. It is only to demonstrate that not all is lost if a mistake is made. However, if you follow and practice all of the rules like a responsible person, then you should never make a mistake!
The 4 rules of gun safety:
1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
This is the first of the 4 rules. Every firearm that you touch should be thought of as loaded with a round in the chamber. Period. There is not much to say about this because it is simple. It does not matter how certain you are that the firearm is empty, how many times you checked to make sure that it has been cleared, or that it is new out of the box, never act as if any gun is empty.
If you get complacent and feel like the gun is safe then you are being irresponsible. People make mistakes. It happens. You may think that you cleared the firearm, but in reality you were thinking about when you did it yesterday. Or maybe the manufacturer got distracted during their test fire and it was shipped out with a live round. You never know and you should never let your guard down.
2. Never point a firearm at anything that you are not willing to destroy.
This is the second rule of gun safety. It is also arguably the most important (at least in my opinion). I say this because if you are being stupid or reckless, this rule could save someone’s life. Always point a firearm in a safe direction. This is usually at the ground or down a shooting range. Don’t aim it at your dog, at your friend, at your foot, or even at your expensive TV.
Point it at things that you would be ok with being shot, like the ground (if you’re on the ground floor). Remember that bullets penetrate pretty much everything, so don’t assume that your walls or ceiling will stop a round, because I guarantee that they won’t. A firearm can only shoot where it is being aimed, so if you mess up (which you never should if you follow the rules) and it goes off, at least it won’t hit anyone because it will be aimed in a SAFE DIRECTION.
3. Always be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
The third rule of gun safety is to always know what you are shooting at. Remember that you are responsible for every round that leaves you firearm, no matter what. This is very simple. Don’t go around shooting random objects in random places, shooting into the air, etc. This should just be common sense.
For example, if you are in the forest to practice target shooting, do your research and check out the area. Don’t ever assume that there isn’t someone nearby. Nobody will care that you did not know that there was a house beyond those trees. It is your responsibility to know where your rounds are going once they leave the barrel. If you are at a gun range, it is usually safe to assume that you know what is beyond your target.
4. Always keep your finger off of the trigger until you are ready to fire.
The fourth and final rule of gun safety is to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. It is excellent practice to always keep your finger out the trigger guard and off the trigger at all times unless you are ready to take a shot. A little bit a discipline and repetition to obtain muscle memory goes a long way with this.
When you are cleaning, handling, or aiming a firearm, just keep your finger off trigger. Plain and simple. Rest your trigger finger on the side of the firearm until you have aimed, steadied, and are ready to fire. There is no other reason for your finger to be on the trigger when you are not intending to fire.
Seriously, understanding and implementing these four rules is the absolute best way to make sure that you are safe when handling firearms. It is a tried and true system and the rules will protect you as long as you follow them!