Because guns don’t come with “undo” keys.
It is essential that all of us in the hunting and shooting pastimes consider firearm safety as an utmost priority. Besides the obvious lethal potential of guns, there are also PR and governing issues to consider. We must police ourselves, or an overzealous, paternalistic government will step in and police us. In other words, it is not enough to simply avoid any safety lapses; we must also protect against any appearance of safety lapses.
The National Rifle Association publishes a brief list of gun safety rules. If you follow these, your chance of causing a firearms-related casualty is very, very small. Here is a further condensation of these rules; learn them, love them, live them.
- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Never, ever point a gun at anything that you’re not willing to destroy.
- Treat every gun as though it’s loaded. There’s a saying in the gun industry that unloaded guns kill hundreds of people every year. While we all know that that’s not pedagogically true, the message is clear: we simply cannot allow ourselves to assume a gun is unloaded. Whenever you pick up (or are handed) a gun, the first thing you should do is verify that it’s unloaded. If you put it down and turn your back on it or leave the room, re-inspect the gun upon returning to it. Practice this to a fault.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. This is sometimes a tough rule to follow, because most guns are designed to be most comfortably held when your finger is on the trigger. Get into a good habit early in your shooting career: keep your index finger arrow-straight until you’re ready to take your shot. Despite what Hollywood evidently would like us to believe, guns in proper working order simply don’t shoot themselves; if you don’t pull the trigger, it won’t go off.
We could elaborate on these rules, but three is an easy number to remember. Make them an essential part of your gun-related activities, and insist — no, demand — that others around you do likewise. Gun safety is not an option.