From a political perspective, gun control is looked upon as restricting civilian access to firearms. While I’m sure some of you will want to engage in that argument, let me inform you where I stand right now. I believe the current gun control laws are over-restrictive and think the American citizenry needs more firearm freedoms.
But this blog post isn’t about gun control in the political sense. It’s about safety and individual gun control.
There are four primary firearms safety rules, and if you break these rules, one of two things generally happens: someone gets hurt or embarrassed. The government shouldn’t be the enforcer of these rules, but you should. And, every time you break one of these rules, you should penalize yourself.
Why? If these four rules, which were established by Col. Jeff Cooper who founded the Gunsite Academy, were never broken, the only gun accidents we would hear about would be when someone drops a gun on their toe.
RULE #1: All guns are always loaded.
Well, no, not really. Some guns are unloaded. Thing is, if we treat all guns as if they’re loaded, the less likely we are to do stupid things with them … such as pointing them at ourselves or other people. “I thought the gun was unloaded” is not a viable excuse. If you pick up a firearm, check it visually and physically to determine its condition and then proceed to obey rules two through four.
THE PENALTY: If you break this rule, say “Hail Cooper” 10 times, immediately return home and visually and physically inspect every firearm you own to determine its status.
RULE #2: Never let the muzzle cover anything which you are not willing to destroy.
If there was only one rule of gun safety, this would be it. In fact, it’s the first rule I teach and the one rule I demand compliance with. If gun owners only followed this one safety rule for their rest of eternity, accidental deaths and serious injury from firearms would only be committed by the blind.
THE PENALTY: If you point a firearm at anything other than a viable backstop or an applicable target, you need to stop shooting for the day. If the violation involved pointing the gun at yourself, call everyone who you think loves you and apologize to them. If you pointed the gun at another person, apologize to them profusely and then take them out and buy them a fine steak dinner. You should also buy them a beer every time you see them for the rest of their life.
RULE #3: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
Why would you do this? To make sure you don’t inadvertently pull the trigger when you’re not ready. The firearms instructor who accidently shot himself in the leg at my old department violated Rule #2 when he pointed the pistol at his leg. However, had he not also violated Rule #3, he would probably have continued to offer less-than-acceptable training to the police officers he took to the range. Most firearm accidents with handguns occur due to violations of rules two and three simultaneously.
THE PENALTY: Pick up all the brass on the range and count it 10 times. Then, take a roll of Duck tape and wrap it around your trigger finger until there’s so much tape on your finger it will not fit inside a trigger guard. When someone asks you, “Why you got all that tape on your finger?” you can tell them, “I put my finger on the trigger when I wasn’t supposed to.” Leave the tape on your finger for 24 hours. Leave it there a week if you violated Rule #3 in conjunction with Rule #2!
RULE #4: Always be sure of your target.
What does this mean? It means you only shoot at things that are OK to shoot at. Can you shoot at paper targets? Sure. But be careful about what’s beyond them. I once had a dog that liked to sneak downrange. I broke him of this unsafe habit by accident. One time he got behind the target and received a hole in his ear. Regardless of what you’re shooting at—game animals, bad guys or targets—be cognizant of any and all things the bullet might hit if you miss or shoot through the target.
THE PENALTY: If you ever take a shot and realize when you pulled the trigger you weren’t 100-percent sure of what the bullet could have impacted after a pass-through, or in the case of a miss, walk back and forth to the target 10 times, repeating out loud the phrase, “I’m an idiot. Always be sure of your target.” If you were shooting at 300 yards, all the better.
Here’s the problem: We all get complacent with the things we routinely do. That’s how cell phones get dropped in toilets and how we run red lights when driving. The rules of firearms safety are violated by all, sometimes more so by those who shoot the most. If you see someone break one of these rules, politely and discretely correct them. If they take offense, that’s too bad. Sure, they’ll probably be embarrassed. You would be, too, but that’s better than either you or them having an extra orifice.
When I started teaching my kids firearms safety, I told them the rules and that they were the range police. And, yes, occasionally they catch me breaking a rule. When they do, I apologize and thank them for looking out for us. The end result is that when I catch them, they do the same.
Violating any of the firearms safety rules is like walking into a snake den. It exponentially increases the opportunity for bad things to happen. Don’t let your fellow gun owners walk into a snake den, and don’t get mad at them if they keep you from doing the same.
Real gun control is about being safe with firearms, and unless we want Big Brother enforcing these rules, we need to police our own ranks.