Column: Gun safety belongs to everyone

Too many times we read in the news, “Accidental discharge happens to gun owner.” Maybe he was cleaning his gun, or maybe at a gun show, or maybe while attending church.

No gun goes off unless somebody negligently squeezes the trigger. No gun will hit an innocent victim unless a negligent gun owner points the muzzle at that person. Be clear, because we live in the great State of Arizona where our Second Amendment right does not need a government “license,” does it mean it is not our duty to be responsible with that right. With freedom comes responsibility.

We are liable civilly and criminally for ever bullet coming out the barrel of our guns.

Period. No excuses.

There are no accidental firearms discharges, but only negligent ones that can be avoided if we follow these basic but fundamental safety rules. I want to be clear that you do not need to be a gun owner to learn these rules. Gun safety belongs to all of us, and everyone has the right and duty when they see irresponsible and unsafe behavior to take action.

The first action to take is to try to educate our fellow Americans, if possible with kindness if arrogance is not present, of course. These rules are not just to be read and occasionally followed when and if we feel like it. These rules must be followed every time we come in contact with a firearm. It does not matter if we are alone or in front of other bystanders.

Rule 1: Always treat every gun as if it is loaded.

Yes, we consider every gun to be loaded, even when we have already checked that is unloaded. It does not matter. We always treat the gun with the same respect we would treat it if we knew that it had a round in the chamber. That means to never play with it. This mindset will give you the due sense of seriousness to always follow the next safety rules I am going to share. Considering every gun always loaded is a fundamental mindset that will change your approach when you handle any gun. Guns are not toys or entertaining objects to play around with your friends. If you want to play around, buy a training tool like a plastic red gun or a toy gun.

Rule 2: Always keep the muzzle of the gun pointed in a safe direction.

It makes sense, right? A gun cannot hit an innocent person or yourself if the muzzle of the barrel is pointed in a safe direction. The problem is that too many gun owners do not apply this rule even when they know it. Always means always. That means the muzzle is never pointed at anything or anybody you do not want to destroy. It includes your cat or dog, or your flat screen TV, and of course, your hand or any part of your body. When you carry your gun concealed, remember to apply this rule, too. For example, how would you feel if somebody in front of you is carrying a gun with a shoulder horizontal holster while in line at the bank or grocery store, and the muzzle is pointed at your face?

Rule 3: Always Keep your finger OFF the trigger until you are ready to fire.

No gun will shoot by magic. Unless somebody puts enough pressure on the trigger to make it go bang. Guns do not auto ignite by themselves, so “accidental” discharges will never happen if your finger is off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Every weapon has a particular reference point where you want to position your firing finger when you are not on target and not ready to shoot.

For example, on my Glock, my reference point is the bottom part the slide and more specifically the take down level. Find your reference point for your gun. This is vital in keeping your discipline and safety, especially under stress. Next time you go to the range, try this basic exercise: If you are not on target, your finger is always off the trigger and is on the reference point of your weapon. If you are on target, then your finger is on the trigger.

Rule 4: Always check the condition of your gun, starting from the chamber.

Every time somebody hands you a gun, or you pick up a gun, the first thing you do is check the condition of the gun. You want to verify if the gun is loaded or unloaded, and first you perform a “chamber check.” Too many “accidents” with semi-automatic handguns happened because unaware gun owners removed the magazine, but forgot to check the chamber believing that their gun was unloaded. Same story with revolvers: Always check the chambers.

So, if you go to a gun show or a to a friend’s home, even if you are told that the gun they are handing you is empty, always verify it yourself.

Rule 5: Always be sure of your target and what’s in line with your target.

Shooting in real life is different than shooting in a controlled environment like a shooting range. Even there, though, you should always verify that nobody is behind or in front of the targets.

In real life things are much more complex and dynamic. What if in a self-defense situation you miss or over penetrate your opponent, and you hit an innocent bystander standing behind your opponent? Get the idea?

So, next time you read in the news “Gun owner shoots himself while cleaning his gun,” think about how many gun safety rules he must have ignored to make that happen.

In the next article, I will share more safety considerations that too many times are overlooked and could save your life or the life of an innocent person.

I invite you to any of my free gun safety classes that I teach around Mohave County.

Until then, be responsible, safe, armed, but remember, you are a weapon and the gun is just an extension of your brain.