Gun Safety Lesson   6 comments

This is a repost of a gun safety article I wrote three years ago. Here in Alaska, a photographer was shot yesterday at a gun range because he was down-range taking photos. It is unclear whether the shooters knew he was there or if he was being stupid. He definitely knew he was at a gun range because there were photos of the shooters on his camera. So, I thought it was a good idea to repost this article … with the addition that … gun ranges are not inherently unsafe places. Accidental shootings are rare at the ones I’m familiar with. But, folks, if you break the rules there, you put yourself and others at risk. The only safe place to be is behind the firing line and you should only venture down-range with the  full knowledge of every shooter on the line.

My children grew up around guns and so did I. Most of what I learned about guns, I learned from my parents. There are a handful of rules that come with gun ownership and maybe a handful of suggestions that might be entertained by gun owners. Most of these are taught in NRA gun safety programs, but they can also be taught by an Alaskan waitress at her kitchen table with her 12-year-old daughter.

My first time handling a rifle was when I was about six years old and it was my brother’s 22 bolt-action. My mother always carried the 357 when we’d berry-pick, but I’d always been under the impression that lightning would strike if I touched it. No, I don’t know how my parents inculcated that belief into me, though I’ll share how I inculcated it into my children in a bit. I just knew that touching a gun — any gun — without an adult present would result in immediate death by heavenly electrocution. I’m pretty sure it involved something like FEAR OF MY PARENTAL UNITS. They didn’t spank often, but the one spanking I remember (the very last one when I was seven) was firm enough that I never forgot it.

When I was 12, the incident I previously posted on prompted me to ask my mother to teach me how to use her gun.

Lesson #1 involved cleaning it. Yuk! Gun solvent stinks. But it taught me a lot about the parts of a gun and how they fit together and it got me over my fear of touching a gun.

Lesson #2 was all the safety rules — and there seemed like a LOT of safety rules. More on that in a second.

Lesson #3 was how to load and unload the gun.

Lesson #4 (and yes, we were about four days into Mom’s Fire Arms Academy) was on loading, cocking, uncocking and unloading the gun. This was important because if you do this wrong with a wheel-gun, the gun will go off when you don’t intend.

Lesson #5 we went to the local gravel pit and killed cans. Lots and lots of cans.

Lesson #6 was cleaning the gun.

Overall lesson? Gun ownership is 5 parts boring, one-part exciting and then you go back to boring.

So, what did I learn from my mother of value in her Fire Arms Academy and what have I passed onto my children.

One, I instilled a respect of guns into them. I didn’t know how my parents did it with me, so when my strong-willed daughter reached for my unloaded gun when she was five (this was a set up to determine if she would break the rules) I took her to the shooting range and fired six rounds into a target down range. She burst into tears because her ears hurt and I never had to convince her not to touch the gun after that. My son was less impressed when he was 5 (I think his hearing was less acute, making him normal), but he was also more likely to follow rules than his sister. He hadn’t actually reached for the gun, so the noise experiment was unnecessary. “Don’t ever touch any gun without my permission” resonated with him because he believed adults knew what they were doing. The loud bang just reinforced why you obeyed adults. In fact, when he was going to learn to shoot a 22 at camp, the camp had to let him call me to get permission because he didn’t believe them that it was okay.

When they were a bit older, they learned the real rules of gun safety. Don’t ever touch a gun is a great rule for little kids, but not so much for young adults. Here in Alaska, you may be called upon to protect a family member from a bear or rampaging moose, so opting out is not an option.

First, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR FIRE ARMS USE. If you violate a safety rule, admit it promptly and don’t do it again. If someone gets hurt, it IS a DIRECT RESULT of YOU violating a safety rule. This is my rule, but it’s also an unspoken rule of every gun safety course I’ve ever encountered.

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR GUN POINTED IN A SAFE DIRECTION. Thank you, Joe Nava, local NRA training counselor and concealed carry instructor, for stating this simple rule that my mother made so danged convoluted. If your gun is always pointed in a safe direction, nobody gets hurt if it does happen to go off. It won’t go off accidentally, but that’s a later topic. Point it at the ground or point it straight up in the air. Don’t point it at someone and don’t point it at your own body. The stupidity of someone “accidentally” shooting themselves in the foot is just that — stupidity. If you follow the first rule of gun safety it can’t happen. Whether the gun is loaded or not is immaterial. All guns, regardless of status, need to be pointed in a safe direction at all times.

A.D.D. moment here — guns cannot accidentally go off by themselves. They are inanimate objects that require human agency to do ANYTHING. Besides that, they have built in safeties to prevent accidental (meaning non-human-caused) discharge. Have you ever wondered how bad buys pistol-whip a victim without shooting themselves? Yeah, that’s because guns can only go off if you pull the trigger. Although not recommended for other reasons, you can drop them and they won’t go off. The father who “accidentally” shot his kid in the car a few months ago depressed the trigger. That wasn’t an accident! That’s negligence! Sorry your kid died, but now you get to spend time in jail for your negligence. That may sound cold, but the police and prosecutors actually cause a lot of gun negligence by putting out this idea that guns just go off by themselves. No, they do not!

KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOU’RE READY TO SHOOT. I cringe at the range when I see someone point their gun down range and stand there with their finger on the trigger while folks are coming back from setting their targets. There have been times when I’ve confronted soldiers from the base who are the most likely to commit this offense. Don’t point your gun at people and don’t be ready to shoot until people are behind the firing line. Yes, United States Army soldiers are the most likely to break this rule. Why? Maybe poor training. Maybe training toward killing people. Just a thought. But the gun control freaks think it would be better to have these guys guarding our schools than a concealed carry holder who has had actual training in how NOT to kill people. Amazing!

ALWAYS KEEP YOUR GUN UNLOADED UNTIL YOU’RE READY TO USE IT. I disagree with Joe on this one because at three in the morning when I’ve been awakened out of a sound sleep by the sound of someone breaking into my house is not a good time for me to be loading a six-shot wheel gun. I could get around this by using a semi-auto so I can just slap home the magazine, but I’m a small woman and my hands really can’t handle the grip, so I prefer the six-gun. I compromise by having a trigger lock on my loaded gun.

Those are the three basic rules of gun safety, but there’s a few others that are useful, especially with little kids, but I also went over these with my son and a 13-year-old friend last weekend.

IF YOUR GUN HAS A SAFETY, USE IT UNTIL YOU’RE READY TO SHOOT. Most semi-autos and rifles have a safety that should be engaged until you’re ready to shoot. It’s similar to keep your finger off the trigger — it’s another safety step that will prevent an unintended tragedy from occurring. This is an instance where an NRA training counselor may say I’m promoting an unnecessary step, but it’s one of my rules and it works!

DON’T TOUCH A GUN UNLESS A SOBER ADULT IS PRESENT TO GIVE PERMISSION. My son and his friend, both raised in gun-owning households, knew this rule.

IF A FRIEND WANTS TO SHOW YOU A GUN, LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY AND TELL A SOBER ADULT. Timothy was the one who kept bringing up sobriety. He’s an Alaskan Native, so this may be an issue in his extended family, though his parents are teetotalers. The point is that guns and kids don’t mix unless under close supervision by a sane adult. You can’t always count on the neighbors teaching their kids this lesson, but you can teach your kids this and that will up the safety factor.

ALWAYS ASSUME ALL GUNS ARE LOADED UNTIL YOU HAVE UNLOADED THEM YOURSELF.  With permission from Tim’s dad, the boys and I handled my gun and I was very pleased to see that both of them checked the breach and dumped the bullets before they inspected the gun without my telling them to do so. My son remembered from previous sessions and Timothy had been taught by his dad.

KEEP YOUR GUNS IN A SECURE LOCATION THAT IS ONLY ACCESSIBLE TO THOSE WHO SHOULD BE USING THEM. A gun safe is best, a locking cabinet will suffice. Of course, your home protection gun should be close at hand, preferably near where you sleep, but it doesn’t need to be sitting on your night-stand (though maybe in the locking drawer of your nightstand).

TEACH YOUR KIDS THAT THINGS THAT DON’T BELONG TO THEM ARE OFF LIMITS. I know many parents who claim they couldn’t possible teach their kids this, but I taught my daughter — a very strong-willed child — this lesson. It can be done and it should be done. It’s not specifically a gun safety rule, but all parents should be teaching this to their children. There’d be fewer burglars shot by armed homeowners if all parents taught their children this rule.

So that’s it. Gun safety in synopsis.

By the way, I think EVERYBODY in America over the age of 12 should have to take a fire arms safety class or be trained by a competent adult. A lot of this gun control nonsense would be put to rest if people were familiar with weapons and knew that they don’t just go off by accident. Unfounded fear and unchallenged myth are the biggest drivers of this argument. Guns are a tool, like a car or a chainsaw. I can kill someone with any of those three tools, but to be perfectly honest, the car is the only one that can be accidentally involved in killing someone. The other two have safety rules that, when followed, will assure that nobody will get hurt — ever. Unless, of course, that person needs to be hurt because they are a bad guy intent upon robbing or otherwise harming someone.

6 responses to “Gun Safety Lesson

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  1. House here passed a no license, no permit carry law now waiting on Senate which say they will pass it too.


    • You’re in Tennessee … Georgia …? No, you’re from Georgia and live … dang ….

      Alaska re-instituted constitutional concealed carry 13 years ago (first in the nation). You can still get a permit if you want … Alaska has reciprocity with most states that require the permit. I went ahead and took the concealed carry class for the education. I laminated my certificate in case I ever need it in a court proceeding, but I didn’t apply for a permit. I have no desire to be on a government list that can be used for gun confiscation later or can become published in the newspaper so thieves know which homes to hit for weapons. According to Joe Nava, our NRA trainer, attendance at his classes actually picked up after constitutional carry was re-instituted. He had to add women’s classes because of demand. It’s his estimation that only about 50% of the folks who pass his classes actually apply for the permit. They’re there to learn to conceal carry safely just because they think it’s a good idea.


  2. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak and commented:

    Just thought some related posts would be interesting for you.


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