Probably the best posted safety rules is published by the NRA:
- ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where the muzzle or front end of the barrel is pointed at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction, depending on different circumstances. In the military firing ranges, we were told to always keep the muzzle “down range” - always good advice. The key is you cannot go wrong if you treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
- ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger. This is important for those who have carry-conceal permits. If you have the dreaded day you must pull that concealed firearm to use against predators, you certainly do not want to shoot your self. With the finger extended along the side of the firearm, it also serves as an aiming aid to hit a target more accurately under stress. Practice is important and should be done regularly. Self defense courses are available, just ensure that the instructor is certified and isn't who we called in the military “weekend warrior”.
- ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device if possible, and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition. If you do not know how to open the action or inspect the chamber(s), leave the gun alone and get help from someone who does. This, of course, does not apply to those who carry a weapon for defense.
- Know your target and what is beyond.Be absolutely sure you have identified your target beyond any doubt. Equally important, be aware of the area beyond your target. This means observing your prospective area of fire before you shoot. Never fire in a direction in which there are people or any other potential for mishap. Think first. Shoot second. In the military, such accidents are called “friendly fire” - something you would never want to live with.
- Know how to use the gun safely.Before handling a gun, learn how it operates. Know its basic parts, how to safely open and close the action and remove any ammunition from the gun or magazine. Remember, a gun's mechanical safety device is never foolproof. Nothing can ever replace safe gun handling. This is where practice comes into play.
- Be sure the gun is safe to operate.Just like other tools, guns need regular maintenance to remain operable. Regular cleaning and proper storage are a part of the gun's general upkeep. If there is any question concerning a gun's ability to function, a knowledgeable gunsmith should look at it. Know how to properly disassemble and reassemble your firearm(s). Understand its functions and keep it clean according to the manufacturer's manual recommendations. Do not play gunsmith. Errors can be dangerous and expensive to fix. Every time you use your firearm you should clean it. Any firearm that has been stored for awhile should be cleaned before firing it. There are ways to store firearms to protect them from moisture that can promote rusting. Desiccants are helpful and should be stored with firearms in gun safes and gun cases. There are also electrical devices to ensure no moisture develops where firearms are stored. And, importantly, before cleaning your firearm, double check to ensure it is not loaded. No ammunition should be in the cleaning area, and the firearm's action should be open during the cleaning process.
- Use only the correct ammunition for your gun.Only BBs, pellets, cartridges or shells designed for a particular gun can be fired safely in that gun. Most guns have the ammunition type stamped on the barrel. Ammunition can be identified by information printed on the box and sometimes stamped on the cartridge. Do not shoot the gun unless you know you have the proper ammunition. Too many times, especially with those who choose to reload their own ammunition, the grains of powder used may be too much for a certain firearm to handle. Use what is recommended by the manufacturer. Do not experiment.
- Never use alcohol or over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while shooting.Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must not be used before or while handling or shooting guns. When I used to hunt, I refused to go with anyone who is intoxicated or uses alcohol around firearms. People who use firearms must be mentally focused at all times.
- Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.Many factors must be considered when deciding where and how to store guns. A person's particular situation will be a major part of the consideration. Dozens of gun storage devices, as well as locking devices that attach directly to the gun, are available. However, mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules. In addition to safe storage, every parent who owns and uses firearms should be strict upon rules with their children, which also helps them to grow up to be responsible firearm owners as well.
The National Rifle Association [NRA] has training and education programs concerning firearms. Their agenda is to protect Second Amendment rights, but also emphasize safety and responsibility in regards to firearm use. If you become an NRA member, you will be supporting a responsible and ethical organization. By being a member, you can keep up-to-date with proposed bills concerning firearms and help them afford to continue to be the watchdog for the Second Amendment.
SEE ALSO: National Shooting Sports Foundation