As the title of this blog suggests, I believe in gun safety. However, what I think of as gun safety is pretty much the opposite of what anti-Second Amendment organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety think of. In fact, even though it caused me to throw up in my mouth just a little bit, I went through everytown.org (no link because it’s not worth your time) looking for some actual gun safety. Pretty much all I found was half-truths, exaggerations and calls to legislative action that won’t result in anyone being safer. Well, except maybe criminals.
This, I don’t understand. It would make sense to me that with a name like Everytown for Gun Safety, that they would have the four well-established rules of gun safety on their website. Same goes for Moms Demand Action for Common Sense Gun Safety And Other Stuff or whatever they’re called. But I suspect they are not really interested in gun safety. They are interested in control. Of guns yes, but mainly of people.
So, in an effort to bring actual gun safety back into the “national conversation,” I thought it would be good to remind everyone of The Four Rules of Gun Safety. These rules were codified by Col. Jeff Cooper many years ago and promulgated by pretty much every major trainer, instructor and gun organization. What makes the rules so effective is both their simplicity and the compounding effect they have. Each rule is designed in such a way that if you were careless enough to break the one before it, you and everyone around remain safe. You have to break all four at once to put people in jeopardy.
Without further adieu, here are the Four Rules of Gun Safety.
Rule 1: All Guns Are Always Loaded
That’s the “official” wording, however many have amended it to read, “Treat all guns as if they are loaded.” How many times have we read about someone negligently shooting another because one dude was showing another dude his new gun. “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded…” are usually the last words uttered before the idiot points it at his soon-to-be-former buddy and shoots him in the chest. Guns are not toys. They demand to be treated with respect. The first level of respect we give them is to always assume they are loaded when we pick one up.
If you were to go into a gun store with me to look at a gun, you would watch the following happen: I ask to see a gun, a nice Wilson Combat 1911 perhaps. The guy at the counter will take the gun from the case, open the action and visually inspect it to be sure there is no ammunition in the gun. He will then pass it to me, and I will open the action to visually (and probably physically) inspect to make sure there are no rounds in the gun. Only then will I begin to look it over.
Any time a gun is out of my control for even a minute, when I come back to it, I re-check it to be sure it’s not loaded. I don’t expect some gun loading fairy to come along and load the gun while I wasn’t looking. However, I have more than one gun and keeping track of which gun is loaded and which is not can be hard. So I check. Always. Because every gun is always loaded—until I’ve personally visually and physically verified it’s not. Even then, we move on to rule #2.
Rule #2: Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
This has also been re-phrased as, “Don’t point the gun at anything you don’t wish to destroy.” But as I look back at Col. Cooper’s original, I see the wisdom in the wording. Most people—not all, see above—wouldn’t point a gun at ourselves or another person. Unless that person needs to be shot. But, we might accidentally sweep the muzzle over a part of our body or someone else while moving it from one place to another.
This is a really quick way to get disqualified at a match. If you sweep yourself, another person or break the 180 degree rule, you go home. No if’s, and’s or but’s. And it doesn’t matter if the gun is “loaded” or not because why? All guns are always loaded. The other way to look at this rule is to make sure the gun is always pointed in a safe direction. Now, sometimes it’s really hard to find a safe direction. If you live in a second floor apartment in a four story building, you probably have people above you, below you and on either side. So you need to be extra careful where you point your gun.
So far, guns are always loaded, and pointed in a safe direction. Next up…
Rule #3: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
This one drives me nuts. I see people on TV, in movies and in photos handling a gun with their finger on the trigger. The first thing new shooters do when they pick up a gun is put their finger on the trigger. And sometimes squeeze it. DON’T! This is how people who don’t need to be shot get shot. Say you have a gun around for protection and you pick it up to move it, clean it or take it to the range. But when you pick it up, you grab it with your finger in the trigger guard, on the trigger and for some reason, you pull the trigger. Getting a BANG! when you were expecting a click is one of the worst fears for those who care about actual gun safety.
Unless the gun is pointed at something that needs to be shot, keep the finger off the trigger, and out of the trigger guard. Guns don’t magically “go off” by themselves. At least not unless they are a poorly maintained cheap piece of junk. When I read a story of someone whose gun “went off” all by itself while they were “cleaning” it, I say, “Bullshit!” You were playing with a loaded gun and you pulled the trigger. Had you visually and physically inspected it to be sure it actually was unloaded, then pointed it in a safe direction, your now dead friend or family member would still be with us.
Rule #4: Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
This is another one that I see on TV all the time that drives me nuts. It’s usually a cop checking a dark and scary building; they hear a noise, see a shape and BOOM! they shoot their partner in the behind. Everyone laughs all it’s all fun and games. Except in the real world, that dude might never sit down again without excruciating pain. Way too often, we read stories of people who shot a family member (or boyfriend of a family member) because they heard a noise, saw a shape in the dark and touched off a few rounds. When the lights come on, everyone realizes the tragedy. One of my instructors likes to say, “Don’t shoot anyone who doesn’t need to be shot.” That’s some good advice.
Moreover, what is behind the target? This is a good rule to be mindful of when hunting or target shooting in the woods. A bullet can travel a long way. The last thing you want to do is run a 168 grain hollow point through someone’s kitchen window because you missed the deer and didn’t notice the house he was running in front of. That’s a very bad day. Or let’s say you have to deploy your gun in a defensive scenario—can you shoot safely without hitting innocent people behind your attacker? You better! That’s a huge reason I carry hollow-pointed ammo in my carry gun, by the way. It’s way more likely to stay inside the bad guy. There’s a future post about that.
Like Russian nesting dolls, each rule stacks inside the other. You might not treat a loaded gun as if it were loaded. You might not point it in a safe direction. You might even have your finger on the trigger. But if you wait until you are sure of your target and what is beyond, no one gets hurt. If you weren’t sure of your target and what was beyond, everyone is safe because you assumed the gun was loaded and kept your finger off the trigger. See how this works?
I’ve been around guns literally my entire life. My dad never locked them up when I was little. But he did engrain these safety rules into my little noggin. As a result, I never shot myself or any of my friends. If we were to teach everyone these simple rules, and if everyone followed them, no one who didn’t need to be shot would get shot—by law abiding people anyway. We can’t fix criminals.
What surprises me is that the organization with Gun Safety in their name has not a single gun safety rule on their website. Nor have I ever heard them mention the four rules. In fact, I bet Shannon Watts couldn’t even name two of the four rules. I’d ask her, but she blocked me on Twitter. Because that’s how you have a “national conversation about guns.” You shut down anyone who disagrees with you. Real mature.
Since we’re talking about Everytown, an organization supposedly dedicated to gun safety let’s take a moment and learn something from their favorite whipping boy, the NRA. For nearly 30 years, the NRA has been teaching kids what to do if they find a gun through the Eddie Eagle program. If you have young kids, you should be drilling this into their heads.
What do you do when you find a gun, Eddie?
Tell a grownup.
Simple enough. If every child knew that, think how much safer we’d all be. Oddly, I’ve never heard Uncle Mikey Bloomberg recite those simple rules…Hmmm…
Ok, this has gone on long enough. Learn the rules. Practice the rules. Be safe and enjoy shooting! Also, as a bonus, bonus round, I’d like to link to a series of videos done by Caleb Giddings who did an excellent job of explaining why the Four Rules of Gun Safety are more like Guidelines. It’s worth the watch, and I agree with his points.