Firearm Safety At Home

March 1st, 2012

Owning a gun is your right, but storing and handling it safely is your responsibility.

Federal and state laws define the rights of a U.S. citizen to own and bear firearms. But if you own a gun, it is your absolute duty and responsibility to see that it is handled and stored in a safe manner, at all times. Every private citizen who owns or handles any type of firearm, whether it’s a handgun, shotgun, or rifle, should participate in a recognized training program made available in most areas by the National Rifle Association. (Law enforcement and military agencies conduct their own on going training programs.) Once you have received training, practice what you have learned.

This web site is not intended for training purposes, and is not a substitute for proper training in gun handling and safety. However, there are some important general guidelines you can follow to help do your part in the proper safeguarding of guns in your home and your community.

You and your spouse should have professional training on handling the gun, even if there is no intention to use it. If you have children, you have probably already taught them respect for a gun, and discussed the consequences of disregarding your wishes. If not, do so immediately. You may have taught them (or had them professionally instructed) how to use the gun safely, and can trust them implicitly to use it only under your direct supervision. You may have even instructed them to use the gun in case of an emergency, such as home protection. But these are rare circumstances. And what about others’ children, or thrill-seeking youths, or inexperienced adults from outside your own home? They may be in your home when you’re not there. Even some guns on the street in the hands of under-age youths were taken from the home. Add the elements of alcohol and/or drugs and/or peer pressure, and otherwise sensible people, especially the young ones, are prone to changing their normal behavior. That’s when accidents happen. You must be sure your gun cannot be subject to any of these circumstances. And if your child encounters a gun somewhere else, you must be sure he or she knows how to react properly to stay out of danger and out of trouble.

Secure means no one can get to your gun who should not.
Clear your gun by removing all the ammunition and then checking the chamber to be sure it’s empty. For a revolver, look through each chamber in the cylinder. For a pistol, rifle, or shotgun, look into the chamber at the back end of the barrel or barrels, and also look to see that the magazine is removed. Take your time and pay attention to each step.
Lock up your gun in a theft-proof container out of sight, and out of reach of children. Store it in a manner that will keep it out of anyone’s hands other than your own or someone you want to have access to it.
Lock up your ammunition in a different location so that anyone who should not have it can’t get to it.
Some people use gun locks, and some states mandate their use. Gun locks are not as secure as a theft-proof container, so use both when necessary.
CAUTION: Gun locks can give a false sense of security. Some, especially those covering the trigger, do not always fit tightly enough to prevent movement. If they can be moved, the trigger can also move. If the gun is loaded and cocked when the trigger is moved, the gun may fire even with the gun lock in place. A gun lock alone will not prevent anyone from handling the gun, and it will not necessarily prevent them from removing the gun from your home. So keep your gun locked up where no one can get to it.
WARNING: When you leave a gun laying around you are inviting trouble. Kids will look under the bed, under pillows, on top shelves, in nightstands, in basements, in closets, behind clocks, even in the drawers. There is no safe place to “hide” a gun.

A child who finds a gun, at home? In the street, at school, at a friend’s house? Or has one handed to them, may be afraid of it or thrilled by it. Their reaction could save their lives. Prepare them by teaching them these three steps:

1. Do NOT touch the gun. Explain that if they touch it, it may fire and hurt someone.

2. Leave the scene. Explain that this will clear them of the risk of someone else touching the gun.

3. Tell an adult. Explain that an adult can get help quickly to prevent an accident.
A number of states now have laws on the books with which to prosecute people who do not secure their guns adequately. If someone gets your gun and someone gets hurt or killed because you were careless about storing it, you could be held responsible. This can mean added grief to loving parents who have lost their child because of a moment of carelessness.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (N.A.S.R.O.) is taking an active role to curb gun violence in America’s schools. Through an ongoing educational program on topics from gun safety to drugs to alcohol and abuse, N.A.S.R.O. is helping young people make positive choices in their lives.

A quick tour of most households will turn up numerous items that represent a potential threat to personal safety.

  • Kitchen – household cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Bathroom – prescription and over-the-counter drugs and medicines.
  • Laundry area – cleansers and bleaches.
  • Basement/workroom – power tools, sharp devices, and flammable aerosols.
  • Garage/utility shed – petroleum products, power equipment, and pesticides.
  • Patio – propane gas tanks or charcoal lighter fluid.
  • And to take it to an even broader spectrum, think about gas- matches, electrical appliances and outlets.

The fact is, to varying degrees, these and many other items are potential threats to personal safety. But it is also a fact that most people do not consider these items to be an unusual threat. Most people have been taught proper respect, handling, and safeguarding of these items to the extent that it has become second nature to them. Guns require this same level of training and practice in proper respect, handling, and safeguarding.
Do not assume that anyone you are talking with knows proper gun handling and safety. The best practice is to not let others handle your firearms. However, if they do, it is your responsibility to see that the firearm is properly cleared and the action is open before handing it to them. If there is any doubt, instruct them to point the firearm in a safe direction, lay it down and leave it alone until someone with gun-handling knowledge can render it safe to handle.