I was reading one of my favorite firearm related forums, and someone posted about an incident. One of the close friends of the family had bought a new firearm, was struggling with operating it, and eventually wound up fatally shooting themselves in the chest. Nobody else was present, so the true details are unknown. However, the probable explanation seems to be: The victim attempted to clear the gun by racking the slide, then dropping the magazine. Not realizing there was a round still in the chamber, continued to attempt to manipulate the slide, with a cocked single action pistol with a round still in the chamber pointing at themself.
This is just one example of a tragedy that could have been avoided by always applying the four rules of gun safety anytime we work with a firearm. There have been many more tragedies due to simple violations of the rules. There was the man cleaning his firearm in the bathroom who, thinking the gun was clear, negligently discharged the weapon. The round went through the bathroom wall killing his wife who was in the next room. Unfortunately, the number of examples is endless.
So to keep them fresh in mind we will review them again:
- Always keep the firearm unloaded until ready to use and always assume a firearm is loaded.
- Never point a firearm at something you can’t live without.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target and ready to shoot.
- Know your target and what is in front of, at, and behind it before you pull the trigger.
Since we know that the first 3 were broken in the first example, and all four were broken in the second example, we can see how following all 4 would have avoided needless tragedies in both cases. Also, in always following all four all the time, when we do make a mistake on one, the others will keep the worst from happening. For instance, if we make sure we never point the firearm at anything we can’t live without, and the trigger somehow is manipulated (whether an accidental finger on the trigger, or another object activating the trigger, or a failure of the mechanical safeties on the firearm), the round with destroy something we can live without, such as the dirt in our yard, because we were safely pointing the gun down at it when the negligent discharge happened. Every rule we violate brings us closer to real disaster.
Those in the firearms community often do all they can to bring new shooters on board. We should all equally do our part to make sure people with firearms are constantly reminded of how to be safe at all times. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone handling a firearm for the first time or entering their 30th year in shooting, the safety rules need to be fresh and clear to us all at all times.