Do the Gun Safety Rules Stop at 3?
At the heart of all NRA firearm education is the promotion of safe handling, use and storage of firearms. Its fundamental rules of gun safety have been adopted by practically every other organization that engages in firearm training, from the most basic of courses to advanced defensive tactics. NRA’s Fundamental Rules for Safe Gun Handling are:
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.
- Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
We all have been taught these paramount safety rules to prevent injuries, and they should be observed by anyone who comes in contact with a firearm, no matter their level of firearm experience.
Some organizations have built on the foundation created by NRA. My favorite list of safety rules comes from Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona. These rules can be found posted throughout the vast property, including in the training classrooms, bathrooms and various outposts:
- All guns are always loaded.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything which you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Always be sure of your target.
These rules have kept me safe and responsible with my firearm, but I learned recently that perhaps there are additional measures that I can choose to employ. The Firearms Security Alliance (a project of Joinforge.org) is doing its part to educate on the rest of the story. Some other so-called “gun safety” groups often advocate against gun owners by asking for stricter gun control laws or banning guns altogether. Here is a gun safety group that is working with us to promote gun safety. Stolen guns are the ones most often involved in crimes—a statistic that amounts to 400,000 per year. This is a chilling number. The thought of others having their hands on my gun without my supervision hits every wrong nerve.
The mission of the Firearms Security Alliance states “Protect What Protects You.” So what are the extended safety rules?
- Bring It. Don’t leave your gun in your car unless absolutely necessary.
- Be Aware. Use situational awareness to see who is watching you secure your gun in your car.
- Secure It. Use safes and locking devices.
- Be Discreet. Stickers and decals on our cars can give away that we are gun owners. Criminals may then target your car.
Additional measures such as quick-release locking devices or storing your guns disassembled in separate places in your home are also an option, although many will rightly debate your ability to immediately defend yourself in the event of a home break-in. If you want to get involved, spread the word, talk about gun security when training others, join this organization as a partner, and practice security.
Another project of Joinforge.org is Overwatch. The suicide rate among veterans and active-duty military members is tragic—20 plus every day—and the rates have only increased during the pandemic. Many of the suicides are impulsive, so it makes sense that someone who is struggling may not want immediate access to guns. Overwatch encourages others to reach out to those who may be struggling. A phone call, an outreached hand and a voice that offers support are great tools to use in this battle to help our service members.
The project mission is called, “Just F…ing Ask.” When you see someone struggling, start a conversation. One way to do this is to simply let the person know that you are worried about them. If they seem willing, it doesn’t hurt to offer to store their firearms for them until they’re no longer contemplating suicide. There are many testimonials of those who have been on the receiving end of this question and are grateful that someone asked. Overwatch does not advocate for the taking of lawful gun owners’ firearms, especially without due process the way many of the so-called “Red Flag” laws do. It is only about offering help, which may include making a plan to thwart any impulsive actions. Go to Overwatchproject.org to learn more about what to do if you find yourself in this situation.
Most of the folks I talk to about defensive training say that they own guns and train to be able to save lives. They do so because they believe that they are responsible for their own life and the lives of their loved ones. Here are two more opportunities to save lives. The Firearm Security Alliance and Overwatch are programs to do just that. They both can save lives. Don’t stop at the 3 safety rules. If you want to be a responsible gun owner, let’s consider safety beyond the range.
About the Author: Samantha Mann, MA, is a W.Va. Licensed Psychologist, Licensed Professional Counselor WV, and Nationally Certified Counselor. Raised in West Virginia, Samantha was the youngest (and the only female) of six grandchildren who were raised to love the outdoors and hunting. She has hunted from Texas to Africa, and believes that while Superman gets his power from the sun, her power comes from the outdoors. Samantha lives in southern West Virginia with her supportive husband, who doesn’t mind showing off her trophies to his buddies. She balances her time in the office helping others with time in the outdoors, focusing much of her career on helping children and adults who have been abused, neglected and mistreated.