For many gun owners, responsible ownership is a cornerstone to respecting their firearm, whether they own it as a hobby, a collectible, or to protect their family. As safe ownership becomes routine, it’s easy to fall into bad habits if you’re not regularly checking yourself and keeping up with standard safety guidelines.
If following these rules seems like a hassle, maybe owning a gun isn’t for you. Remember, you’re owning a dangerous weapon that hurts thousands and kills hundreds of Americans every year through accidents alone, and many are children. That’s why it is imperative to follow standard safety guidelines and be a responsible gun owner.
Gun Storage and Handling Rules
When it comes to responsible gun ownership, there are some key rules to follow, no matter your age, how many guns you own, or your reason for owning the guns. We can break them down into two simple groups — storing and securing and handling and use. Between both sets of guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to being a responsible gun owner.
Securing and Storing Your Guns
Whenever you’re not using or maintaining your firearms, it’s important that you have them stored in a safe and secured place. The pinnacle example is a gun safe or cabinet that is protected by a password, code, or lock and key. Make sure this code is known only to you or other trusted adults in the household to prevent children or others from getting inside. When storing your firearms, it’s also critical that you unload the gun before putting it away. If you do choose to store your gun loaded, use a trigger or cable lock system to prevent it from going off accidentally.
It may sound expensive to house your guns safely, but if you’re going to own guns, it’s a commitment you really need to make.
You may also want to store records of every firearm you own, either with the guns, in a safe place, or in your computer. You should record the makes and models of the guns and the serial numbers, along with any other important information about the gun like date and location of purchase, the caliber, etc. Finally, you should always store your ammunition in a separate, but still secure, location. It may sound expensive to house your guns safely, but if you’re going to own guns, it’s a commitment you really need to make.
Safe Handling and Use
Similarly, knowing how to safely handle and use any guns you own is critical to responsible ownership. To aid with this, you may want to research and try firing whatever type of gun you’re purchasing prior to buying. This can be done by either renting a similar gun at a gun range or trying it out at the firearms store. Beyond that, there are five golden rules that we haven’t discussed, though some firearms have more and they are certainly worth following.
- Always treat a gun as though it is loaded.
- Always point the gun in a safe direction and away from people.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you intend to fire.
- Always know what’s beyond your target in case you miss or the bullet breaks through the target.
- Wear protective eye and hearing gear.
In addition to these five rules, there are other essential handling methods to follow, like always using the correct ammunition, handling a gun that failed to fire correctly with extreme care, and not relying on the gun’s safety. The more you know about your gun and the more the practice with it, the safer you’ll ultimately be.
Specific Safety Tips for Seniors
Those rules and guidelines can, and should, be followed by gun owners of any age, but what about seniors specifically? As we age, the health and well-being factors that can come to define our lives can change drastically. The worry with senior gun ownership chiefly concerns accidents and self-inflicted violence. Seniors are much more likely to harm themselves with a gun than someone else, with gun-caused suicide being the most common form for senior men.
If you’re among the 13 percent of gun owners who collect guns, but firing them isn’t as important, you can take further precautions by getting your guns deactivated or plugged.
Mitigating the health factors of age is often use-specific. For example, if you’re a hobby shooter, you can follow standard handling and storage safety rules, unless health factors begin to cause issues, like weakening eyesight. Depending on your situation, you can fix the issue with specialized gear, like shooting glasses or a specialized sight. If you’re among the 13 percent of gun owners who collect guns, but firing them isn’t as important, you can take further precautions by getting your guns deactivated or plugged. This means the mechanisms to fire the guns have been removed or blocked. This way, you can safely display your collection without worrying that it may accidentally discharge or be used to harm someone.
When to Get Rid of Your Guns for Safety
Finally, it’s important to know when it’s time to get rid of your guns, either giving them to someone you know and trust or selling them — in both cases, following all local, state, and federal programs. This may be difficult for some people but still the correct choice. If you’re not using your guns, they may just be a potential risk in the home. If you live in a senior facility or group home, you may not need it for protection, especially since guns used for self-defense is a rare phenomenon. Also if you or someone in your household is suffering from dementia or beginning to show early signs of the condition, it’s likely a good idea to remove the guns from the house or at the very least secure them comprehensively.
There are ways you can soften the blow of giving up guns, like joining a gun club or visiting a shooting range.
This decision can be extremely difficult, especially if gun ownership is a major hobby or portion of your identity. But, it’s also one that you don’t have to make on your own. Talk with your family and friends, as well as a trusted authority figure like your local police department, before making up your mind. Keep in mind that there are ways you can soften the blow of giving up guns, like joining a gun club or visiting a shooting range and renting a gun to shoot.
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Guns have a strong culture surrounding them, but it’s equally important to remember that they are not toys. As we noted earlier, thousands of people are harmed every year after accidentally being shot. That’s not the only risk, either. In 2020 alone, an estimated 300,394 guns were reported stolen and as many as 34 percent of rural burglaries involved stolen firearms. Whether you’re a hobby shooter, a collector, or have a gun around for personal protection, it’s essential to treat the gun with the respect and caution it requires.