New To Guns? Start With Basic Gun Safety, Please

four 4 rules of gun safety

One silver lining of the last three years is the millions of people who have decided to become gun owners for the first time. Rising crime, defunded police departments and “progressive” prosecutors whose biggest priority is something called “restorative justice” rather than prosecuting criminals has convinced more and more people that having a firearm is a very good idea. Adjusted NICS background checks were up for December and the fourth quarter as a whole, so that trend doesn’t appear to be stopping.  

But there are a few things that literally every gun owner should know, and that starts with safe gun handling. If you’re a longtime gun owner, you’ve heard it before, but it can’t possibly be repeated often enough. 

Basic Safety Rules

Different training organizations and government agencies have different sets of firearm safety rules they teach, but they’re all pretty similar. The most common rules taught came from well-known firearms instructor Jeff Cooper, so you’ll often see them referred to as Cooper’s Four Rules.

There simple, was to teach and easy to memorize

  • All guns are always loaded (treat every gun as if it’s lloaded).
  • Never point a gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on your target.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

While these four rules seem simple, there’s more there than meets the eye. They give you a multi-layered safety plan the works every time they’re applied correctly. You have to violate at least two of the rules for something bad to happen. 

Ideally, we’d always follow rule #1 perfectly, but if you don’t, you should at least not be pointing the gun at anything that matters. Even if you fail to do that, you can still prevent disaster by not pulling the trigger. 

If you learn and follow the Four Rules, your chances of getting hurt or hurting someone else drops to almost zero.

Other Things To Think About

Beyond Four Rules, there are some other things to think about when it comes to gun safety.

Keep Guns Unloaded Until Ready To Use

While all guns should be treated as if they are loaded, it’s unwise to leave loaded guns unattended because children or other untrained individuals may come across them. The only time guns should be loaded are when they are being shot (such as at the firing line at a range) or if they’re being safely carried or stored in a ready-to-use condition (such as in a holster or quick-access safe).

How To “Clear” A Firearm (Make Sure It’s Not Loaded)

While you should treat all firearms as if they’re loaded (Rule Number 1) you need to know how to check them and make sure they’re unloaded for things like storage and cleaning. 

To verify that a gun is unloaded, you need to check both the chamber AND the parts of guns that store ammunition. In a revolver, that’s the other chambers in the cylinder. In most semi-auto handguns, that’s the magazine and magazine well. For rifles, there’s also a chamber and a place that stores extra rounds, but they could be in different places depending on the model. Both of these should be empty. They should be checked with both your eyes and with your fingertip to ensure a clear chamber. 

For guns with magazines, it’s essential to eject the magazine before clearing the chamber because closing the slide or bolt could move a new round from the magazine to the chamber. 

Keep Firearms Away From Children and Unauthorized Users

It’s important to ensure that firearms aren’t left unattended and accessible to children or other people who shouldn’t have access to them. This can be done by keeping guns in a safe or by using a locking device. Simply attempting to place a firearm out of reach will not necessarily keep it out of their hands. Kids are incredibly resourceful in reaching places you never thought they could. 

If you’re keeping a firearm off your person in a bag or in a vehicle, it’s important to ensure that it’s secured. If, for example, you leave a purse or backpack with a gun in it unattended, a child or criminal could get ahold of it. If that happens, you can be charged with a crime in some jurisdictions.

Never Use Or Carry Firearms When Under The Influence Of Any Substance

That doesn’t just apply to drugs and alcohol, but any substance that impairs your judgment or sensory perception. That includes things like cold and cough medicine, prescription drugs, or any new substance you’re using when you are unsure of the effects. Never operate a firearm or have one in your possession when you’re impaired in any way, or if you are unsure if you will be.

Know How To Use Your Firearm With the Correct Ammunition

Consult the owner’s manual for your firearm and consult with somebody knowledgeable about firearms to ensure that you are familiar with the safe operation of your particular firearm. Also, be sure to only use the correct ammunition for your gun. This is not just a matter of using the correct caliber, but ensuring that you do not use ammunition in the correct caliber that is loaded to higher pressures (such as +P or +P+) if your gun is not designed to handle such loads.


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