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Anyone who is going to handle a gun must adhere to the basic safety rules.

What causes gun

accidents? Simple: People aren’t paying attention to the basic safety rules. Just about every firearm mishap can be traced back to one of two things: Carelessness and ignorance. Guns are

dangerous things that can be very severe and unforgiving. And then you have Murphy’s Law — if something can possibly go wrong at the worst possible time, it probably will. You must learn to be extremely careful all the time.

I know you have heard it time and again, but here we go with the basic rules of safe gun handling. I will repeat once again that if you don’t violate these extremely simple rules, you will never have a gun accident or even an accidental discharge of the firearm.

Rule 1: Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times. What does this mean? Some might say to always keep it pointed up, or to make sure it’s pointed at the ground. Sometimes — but not always. In a multistory apartment or cement-floored building, neither of these would be good.

A safe direction is defined as one where if the gun should accidentally discharge, no one would be shot and there would be minimal property damage. It’s just that simple, but you have to use your head and apply this to your particular situation. At a shooting range, it would always be downrange toward the targets. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have seen this rule violated at the ranges.

Rule 2: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to make the shot. Your finger shouldn’t be in the trigger guard area at all. Get in the habit of laying your finger flat along the frame of the gun outside the trigger housing. If you do this, you will never discharge your weapon accidentally.

It sounds simple enough, but this is by far the most common violation I see at the shooting ranges. After you make a shot, take your finger off the trigger and out of the housing until you acquire the target again and are ready to make the next shot. When you are handling a gun at home, the same rule applies. There are absolutely no exceptions!

Rule 3: Keep your firearm safely unloaded until it is ready for use. This means when the gun is stored or put away, it must be unloaded. It is a good idea to not even store the gun and the ammo together. In the context of self-defense or concealed carry, the gun must be ready for immediate use and therefore loaded. Self-defense is one thing, storage is quite another. It is both wrong and illegal to leave a loaded firearm where a child or any unauthorized person has access to it.

There are many additional concerns about safety while handling firearms, but if you follow these three basic safety rules you won’t go wrong. When handling any firearm, always assume it is loaded until you yourself check it safely and determine that the firearm is in fact unloaded. When doing this, keep rules number one and number two in mind.

If you do not feel competent to check the gun safely, refuse to handle it and demand that the handler safely encase the firearm and put it away. Remember all guns are loaded until you verify that they are unloaded — no exceptions.

When handing a gun to another person, the cylinder of a revolver should be laying open and the action or slide of a semi-automatic locked back with the magazine removed. If the slide or action does not lock back, you can easily improvise something inert such as a spent shell casing or a short piece of heavy weedeater line inserted so that all can see the bolt is not forward. Most people call this a flag.

In the case of a break-down long gun or shotgun, the gun’s action should be open so all can see it is safe to handle. Many times at ranges I have seen shooters attempt to go downrange to check targets with their guns benched but not made safe with the bolt locked back. This is not acceptable.

I have been seeing way too many careless instances of gun handling at the various ranges. Let’s all try to be more careful while we’re handling firearms. Guns are not that complicated, but they are totally unforgiving when you make a mistake. Please think when you are handling a firearm, and keep those simple safety rules top of mind. Safe shooting.

Billy Carl is an NRA-certified firearms instructor and is available for individual instruction in firearms safety and concealed carry classes. Contact him at 941-769-0767 or through J&J One Stop Gun Shop at 2324 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, or 941-979-5008.

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