In light of the Trayvon Martin case, the Newtown massacre, and a handful of other devastating instances of gun use gone awry in recent years, a discussion of the risks and responsibilities of gun ownership is probably in order. According to statistics on Table 18 of the CDC’s National Vital Statistics Report, there were 606 accidental deaths by firearm in 2010, and firearms play a role in more than 200,000 injuries annually in the United States. Gunshot wounds are an extremely uncommon form of nonfatal accident, but are also far more common in the United States than in other developed countries.
The following article will not comprise an attempt to couch the data in some particular standpoint framed as a discussion, but it will contain some suggestions on how to keep gun accidents from adding to the list of casualties. Gun accidents are among the most preventable tragedies if you only follow a few simple rules.
1. Maintain your firearm.
Regular cleaning does more than make a firearm shine like a solar flare; it prevents the sort of gun accident that can lead to injuries. Built-up sediment, accreted rust, etc. can interfere with the passage of a bullet down the shaft and send it in a direction other than forward (putting more than just a target at stake). Once a gun is fired, the bullet is going to go somewhere, whether that somewhere is forward, sideways, or backward. An unpredictable gun is a greater risk than cleaning it is an inconvenience.
2. Never leave a gun unattended.
“All guns are always loaded” is the proper approach to gun handling. As anyone who has ever lost a sock to the wash can attest, just because something (i.e., socks or a bullet) has every logical reason to be in one place does not mean that it will not find its way into another. You probably don’t keep track of every single sock while it is going through the rinse cycle, and you cannot surveil your firearm 24/7. You never really know whether your gun is loaded or not, so you should always treat it like it is. Don’t leave it lying around for anyone with a tenuous grasp of consequences to pick up, don’t point it at things you aren’t willing to lose, and don’t fidget with the trigger.
3. Wear protective gear.
The force of a capsule traveling down a metal chamber quickly enough to blast a hole in something is naturally going to produce some noise. Also, in accordance with Newton’s Third Law that every action be accompanied by an equal and opposite reaction, a pulled trigger will trigger some backlash, flying debris, and even the odd ricochet bullet. Hence, you should always wear shooting glasses and ear muffs/plugs when out on a range.
4. Always know exactly what you’re shooting.
Once you know that your gun is loaded and that you intend to pull the trigger, you should ascertain that the coast is clear of anything or anyone except what you intend to fire at. Make sure that no one is behind the target or about to wander into the range, and see that everyone in the immediate area knows when you are about to start shooting.
5. Teach about the risks and consequences guns entail.
Since the late ’80s, a character named Eddie Eagle has taught children in public schools what to do upon finding a gun. In his cartoon, Eddie would fly about in search of guns and teach any kids who happened to be within earshot a rhythmic recitation of “Stop, don’t touch, leave the area, tell an adult.” In addition to the no-touch standard, children should be taught that guns accidents can take place more easily than they realize and what can happen if they do.
6. Store guns and ammunition properly.
Of course, the best way to prevent accidental gun discharges by children is to keep them far out of reach at all times. Firearms should be kept under lock and key in a place apart from their ammunition, with the keys stored in still another location. In so doing, you make it virtually impossible for someone to simply stumble upon a gun and set it off.
Communication with neighbors, relatives, etc. regarding your concerns about firearms can also help foster a safer community. However, this cannot always guarantee that others will do their part. If you or a loved one are injured because of someone else’s irresponsible gun use, you have recourse to personal injury damages. To learn more about what your rights are following a serious injury caused by negligence, call Christensen & Hymas for a free initial consultation at (801) 506-0800.