Whether you own a firearm or not, the importance of gun safety hits home more often than expected.
“32% of U.S. adults say they personally own a gun, while a larger percentage, 44%, report living in a gun household.” – Gallup News
According to records at CDC, more than 500 cases of unintentional deaths by a firearm happen every year in the United States, meaning every day averages at least one incident. A majority of these deaths are from gun owners mishandling handguns, or children of gun owners playing with firearms that should have been kept out of their reach. Hunting accidents involving firearms also happen, but deaths are less common.
A great deal of the accidents and deaths that happen from guns could have been easily avoided, and much are due to ignorance of the individual handling a gun. Some accidents are directly connected to a negligent gun owner. This includes leaving the gun loaded when unnecessary, not having firearms and ammunition properly locked up when not in use, or not taking the proper steps to ensure something as simple as the safety being on.
Accidents also happen due to the fact many gun owners (and their household) have never gotten a proper education on gun handling and firearm safety prior to their ownership. Adults in the United States can go out and purchase a gun (of many different types) with no previous gun handling experience, not including online courses. The requirements on gun purchasing vary from state to state, but the overall common requirements are a basic criminal background check and a valid citizen ID. Furthermore, there are rarely any teaching or lesson handling requirements in order to obtain the gun, leaving that responsibility up to the new gun owner.
These new gun owners that have no prior experience of handling such a weapon tend to be a huge factor in many gun related accidents and deaths. Not only do they potentially not know how to properly handle the firearm they now have possession of, but the household they bring the firearm into also may not know gun safety. The new gun owner may disregard proper storage of the gun, such as leaving it loaded, with the safety turned off. They may not keep it out of reach of others that come into the same household. They also may not keep their finger off the trigger when handling the gun around others. The possibilities are endless, but all are avoidable.
One user on Reddit shared an encounter they had with a new gun owner at a firing range.
“As I was leaving a booth, an older gentleman tapped me on the arm and asked for help. I didn’t work at this establishment, but I had a solid understanding of firearm safety. That being said, I stopped and asked him what he needed. He stated that he was having trouble with his new firearm, he couldn’t get it to fire, even though the safety was off. As I was responding with the usual questions, and asking if he had a round chambered, he picked it up, pointed it at himself, and pulled the trigger. By some sick divine intervention, it didn’t fire. I slowly removed it from his hands and removed the magazine. It took all of half a second to see that the safety was sitting in a cool half on/half off position, and that he was scooting by on sheer dumb luck.” -r/AskReddit (deleted)
Hunting & Gun Safety
In the United States, anyone who wants to obtain a hunting license must first pass a hunter safety course. In the past, much of these courses took place in person over the course of a few days. Now, these courses can be done online in under a few hours. The in-person course would usually consist of a small class of students that gathered to learn the basics, the ethics, and the laws of hunting. Also at most of these courses, there would be a gun safety and target practice session available. One of the main topics that is covered in hunter safety is gun handling and firearm safety.
The lessons on gun safety that are learned at this course come into play more often throughout the course of a hunter’s life than they may realize. Not only do these lessons reflect on their own personal safety, but just as importantly it reflects on the safety of those around them, including animals.
Most hunters are familiar with the term “TAB-K” (or something similar) and know what the letters stand for. The meaning of the acronym was likely covered during their hunter safety lesson. But this is an acronym that everyone should become familiar with, whether they handle firearms regularly or not. The phrase is easy to remember, and covers the most important rules when it comes to handling or being around a gun.
Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
Whether someone knows the gun to be loaded or not, the practice of handling the gun as though it were always loaded makes the handler of the gun treat every situation involving a gun the same. The gun is loaded? Keep the safety on. The gun is unloaded? Keep the safety on anyway. It’s that easy. Not to mention, many accidents involving firearms are due to the handler not knowing the gun was loaded, or that a bullet was still in the chamber.
Always point your gun in a safe direction.
This may seem obvious, but keeping awareness of where the gun is pointing can get overlooked or forgotten, especially when the handler of the gun believes the gun to be unloaded, or that the safety is on. Numerous accidents could be avoided by following this rule. The safest bet is to point the gun towards the ground at all times until the right moment to fire the weapon.
Be sure of your target and what is beyond.
Knowing the the target is important, but knowing what is beyond the target is equally as important. When a gun is aimed at a target, there is always a chance of misfire, improper aiming, or having a bullet go through the target into what is behind it. Factoring in the chance of the bullet missing or going passed the target is part of firearm safety and determining avoidable accidents. Bottom line: if you cannot see what is beyond your target, don’t shoot.
Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
Self explanatory, don’t be trigger happy. Have patience, and avoid putting a finger on the trigger until ready.
Safety vs. Regulations
A great amount of the people in the United States believe that gun regulations should be focused on more than gun safety, and there is some truth to that. Changing and adapting gun regulations should be addressed as the times change, especially when gun violence is on the rise and firearms improve. However, this is a discussion of the guns that are already out there. Currently, there are more guns than people in the United States, according to recent reports shared by BBC News.
Whether you are a hunter, friends with a law officer, or just an average joe.. the probability of encountering firearms in your life is very likely. Learn the basics of gun safety, or better yet, learn how guns work. Better to know these things and not need to, than to need the knowledge and not have it.