My father was a gun owner. Maybe I should rephrase that and say my father was a responsible gun owner who never acted the way I see some gun owners acting now. Mainly, he believed guns were a powerful tool, to be used mostly for hunting.
Almost all of his guns were some sort of long gun, though he did have at least one hand gun.
My father was always very responsible with his guns, and he had certain rules that would be unquestionably obeyed when around guns. I’d like to share my father’s rules for gun safety, though I’m sure there are some I’m missing now, years later. You’ll notice how many relate to hunting, since that was my father’s main purpose for even owning guns.
1. Treat every gun as if it is loaded and the safety is off, even if you know it’s not loaded and the safety is on. A gun is not a toy and should never be treated as though it is a toy. Keep the safety on until you are ready to shoot.
2. Never point your gun at anything you are not planning on shooting. Even if you’re sure the gun is empty. Even if you think it’s funny. Nothing pissed off Dad more than this behavior. Any of this behavior, and it was doubtful you’d be invited back to hunt again.
3. Always know what’s behind your target. Dad would add, if you don’t know what’s behind your target, do not shoot. Period.
4. Keep the first chamber empty until ready to shoot.
5. No guns if you are younger than 10. A rule that Dad decided upon himself, and one I agree with. Going along with this rule is…
6. You will take a gun safety class, usually called ‘Hunter’s Safety’ in Michigan, or you will not use guns. Even adults. I took the class at age 10, not because I had any desire to hunt, but because my parents both owned guns and wanted me to know about them since I was going to be around them. I never had much desire to shoot, preferring archery over guns. But if you were going to shoot with Dad, you had to take the class, or he wouldn’t shoot with you.
7. If you are not using or maintaining your guns, keep them locked up. Dad had a gun safe, which was always kept locked. The key was always physically on him, unless it was on his dresser and he was in bed.
8. Lock up your ammunition. Dad kept his locked up separately from his guns. And he didn’t store his guns loaded. He also transported his guns unloaded, another good idea.
9. If needed, take your gun to a professional for assistance. If my father wasn’t 100% sure how to fix a problem with one of his guns, he had no problem heading to a gunsmith for professional advice. My father also never accidentally shot anyone trying to fix a problem, so I think there’s something to this one.
10. Alcohol and guns do not mix. If the alcohol came out, the guns were put away. It was that simple for my dad. I agree whole-heartedly with this rule.
11. Always wear your hunter’s orange. Make sure others can see you’re a person and the chance they accidentally shoot you, thinking you’re an animal, is reduced. It doesn’t work all the time, though. Just ask Dick Cheney’s friend.
12. Absolutely no shooting in deer camp. Another ‘Dad Rule’. Once you got back to camp, it was time to put the gun away until the next time you went out to hunt. Dad never felt the need to fondle a gun all the time the way some do now.
13. When climbing over a tree limb or other obstacle, set your gun down first, so it doesn’t accidentally go off while you’re maneuvering around.
14. Do not climb up to your tree stand holding your gun. Pull it up after you limb the tree. An easy way to avoid shooting yourself, or a fellow hunter.
And, finally, while it wasn’t a rule Dad ever verbalized, he would never have openly carried his gun around with him the way some idiots do today. If you saw Dad with a gun, there were two possible scenarios; He was on his way to hunt, or he was taking a gun in to be worked on (see rule #9). Dad never felt the need to carry a gun to make himself feel stronger, and carrying guns to shop or eat out would have completely baffled him.
Dad believed that safety and respect for others trumped some gun ‘rights’. Once, when my grown cousin pulled a gun out in camp area and wouldn’t put it away, Dad took it away. It was as simple as that. Dad’s camp, Dad’s rules, and I’m glad he had all the rules he did. It made things as safe as they could have been, though there were and no guarantees these rules will keep you safe.
You are still at the mercy of other idiots who don’t show gun safety the respect it needs.
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