Monday, September 9, 2013

The Traditional Gun Safety Rules Are Inadequate

 Note:  In today's blog I argue that the basic firearm safety rules, as traditionally taught, lack two rules that are as fundamental as the others.  Your responsibility over a firearm does not only exist while you are personally holding that firearm.  As a gun owner, your responsibility also includes controlling who has access to that firearm, even if you are nowhere in the area.  Proper storage at all times!  Secondly, you must know your firearm.  If you do not understand how it operates, do not shoot on the range while I am there!

The NRA correctly teaches that the most important part of firearms safety is one’s attitude.  Without the proper attitude-- which I describe as a conscious resolve to observe the rules of safe handling of firearms at all times-- the rules mean little.

The traditional rules of gun safety are simple concepts.  An average eight-year old child can understand them and repeat them.  Teaching the rules is not difficult, but attitude is something that cannot really be taught.  When it comes to talking about a proper attitude to firearms safety I tell our course participants “I can preach it, not teach it.”  I can actually do a bit more; I can demonstrate it and try to be a good role model.  

The actual “rules” of firearm safety are normally summarized in just three or four sentences.  The NRA’s safety rules are:

  1. Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
  3. Keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot.

Like I said-- just three lines that are so simple a child can recite them and comprehend their meaning.

Frequently we hear the rules expressed in four lines, which I call “Jeff Cooper’s” rules of firearms safety because this is how this very influential firearms instructor expressed them:

  1. All guns are ALWAYS loaded!
  2. NEVER let the muzzle cover anything that you are NOT willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target.
  4. Always be SURE of the target.

Personally I have always preferred Cooper’s set of rules because I primarily teach shooting as it relates to personal defense, and less as an instructor of shooting for recreational or sporting purposes; and NRA rule #3 “keep the gun unloaded until ready to shoot” has limited validity when one is carrying a gun that is “ready to shoot” a great deal of the time in order to be ready for self-defense.  

Statistically the number of accidental shootings has steadily declined for a hundred years. It appears that firearms safety training has had an effect and that the traditional safety rules have served well-- or have they?  Not when you read about stories like this:

Clearly, other than a demonstrated lack of proper attitude to firearms safety by the parents, a completely different rule was violated.  It is a rule that I believe is as important as any of the others shown above:

Gold’s rule:  No unauthorized access to your firearm.  

This obviously involves proper storage when the firearm is not on your person, and maintaining control over who is allowed to touch it when it is on your person.  A knowledge of gun retention techniques is prudent and highly recommended, if not mandatory, for anyone carrying a defensive firearm.

I believe this rule ought to take a permanent place among the NRA rules and any other expression of gun safety rules, such as Cooper’s.  Adherence to this rule would reduce the number of firearms stolen by criminals, and “swiped” by family members.  It would put an end to tragedies such as the one at Yellowstone.

In addition, there is yet another rule that I believe deserves a place among the traditional rules:

Gold’s second rule:  Know your firearm.

Ignorance is a frequent cause of firearms tragedies.  This ignorance comes in two varieties:  ignorance of the safety rules, and ignorance of how to properly operate a particular firearm.  Whether you only understand how a particular revolver operates, or whether you know how to operate every type of semiautomatic handgun on the market, you must have knowledge of how to properly unload and verify as unloaded every gun you handle.  You must also know how to load and shoot it, if you are going to shoot it.  You must know the function of all safety features.  If it is your gun or a gun that you will handle frequently, you ought to understand how to disassemble it, clean it, reassemble it, and verify that it is properly reassembled and in safe working condition.  

Even with the addition of my two rules, a maximum of six rules need to be learned-- and more importantly, followed.  Just six simple sentences, and the proper attitude, that’s all I ask.

1 comment:

  1. Great rules, Auric. I hope more people read and heed.