The cardinal rules, the 10 commandments of gun safety
So, you’ve bought a gun and want to be a responsible owner, its time to learn Cardinal Rules of Family Gun safety or the 10 Commandments as you may have heard. You want to protect yourself, loved ones, and others from harm, but don’t know the right way to do that.
Well, read on to learn some very simple rules to safely own and use your firearm. Cardinal rules, commandments, safety tips, they’re all different names for the same core concepts every gun owner must learn. Below are the most important precautions to learn and follow today.
10 Commandments of gun safety
Like the Biblical commandments from which they get their name, the ten commandments of gun safety present a guideline for how to live life with your gun. These apply to firearms of any type.
1) Treat every gun as if it is loaded.It is important never to get complacent with this commandment. Accidents happen all the time, even with the safety on. Thus, every time you have a loaded firearm in your hand, you should assume that it can and will discharge.
2) Point the gun in a safe direction.
A safe direction is one where no injury would occur to anyone or anything if the gun were to accidentally discharge. As mentioned in the first commandment, when holding a firearm, it is safest to always act under the assumption that it will fire. When you pick up a gun—especially if it is not your own—you should always assume that it is loaded until you check the chamber yourself. Pointing the gun in a safe direction will ensure that neither you nor anyone or anything else gets hurt.
3) Only point the gun where you want to shoot.
This commandment is quite similar to the one above. If we always assume that the gun will fire, then the safest place to point it is at something we don’t mind taking a bullet. This applies to us as well. Never pull a gun towards your body by the muzzle, just in case it accidentally discharges.
4) Never climb or jump anything with a loaded gun.
A fall while climbing or jumping could cause the gun to fire accidentally. Also, falling with the gun could cause dirt, mud, or water to get into the barrel, which creates a dangerous situation—see commandment 5 for more information. If you encounter an obstacle while out plinking or hunting, it is best to hand a loaded gun to a stationary companion. If you are alone, you should unload the gun while climbing or jumping, and then reload after crossing the impediment.
5) Remove obstruction from the barrel and action before firing.
Anything lodged in the barrel can create a buildup of pressure during firing, which could cause the muzzle to explode. Proper cleaning can help solve this problem. Also, before firing you should get in the habit of quickly checking to ensure that nothing has gotten into the barrel. Along these same lines, you should always make sure that you have proper ammunition for your type of gun. Using the wrong ammunition for your firearm could cause major damage to an expensive piece of equipment. It only takes a second or two to check the cartridge as you load it into the gun.
6) Confirm the target before shooting.
Don’t shoot blindly at an unconfirmed target. You may hit what you think you are aiming at, but you may not. Or you may hurt or kill something behind your target. Once the bullet is out of your gun, you have no control over it. So, always make sure you have your shot lined up. It is not worth the risk of tragedy to do otherwise.
7) Never shoot at a flat, hard surface or water.
The bullet could ricochet off of these surfaces and come back towards you or move in an unexpected direction.
8) Unload guns when they are not in use. (this is the safest method)
We will discuss the controversy around this commandment down below. We know that some people keep firearms for self-defense, which might necessitate keeping them loaded. But, intended use aside, the acknowledged safest way to store your gun is unloaded and locked. This prevents any unauthorized person from shooting the gun if they happen to come across it.
9) Separate guns and their ammunition in storage.
Maybe not the most popular, understandably, but still, the safest way to ensure that unauthorized people cannot quickly fire your weapon is to store the firearm and ammunition in separate locations. If you have multiple types of guns, your ammunition should be stored by type in separate boxes or bags, which will prevent any mix-up.
10) Avoid alcohol or drugs before and while using firearms.
Like most dangerous activities, you should have all of your faculties at their best. Alcohol and drugs delay reaction times and impair judgment, neither of which is a good thing for gun safety. To be blunt, ITS JUST PLAIN STUPID to mix!
Family gun safety
The best thing that you can do to keep your family safe is to follow the ten commandments of gun safety listed above.
Additionally, you should always make sure that your firearms are secured at all times. It is not safe to leave a loaded gun outside of your control. You then have no ability to keep unauthorized persons and children from touching the firearm and potentially harming or killing themselves. The many different options for securing your firearm are elaborated upon below.
Are you prepared to protect your family?
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IWB (In the Waistband Holsters)
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Here’s the controversial aspect of this article. As you may have picked up on, gun storage and safety are a highly fraught issue for many people. Especially when gun safety affects children. Most people, no matter their political or gun regulation leanings, agree that responsible gun owners always secure their firearms when they’re not in use. However, how and where this securing takes place is often vehemently argued.
Probably the most controversial of the gun storage options, trigger locks are a device that fits around the trigger of your gun. They supposedly stop anyone from being able to pull the trigger and thus shoot the gun. Trigger locks are now given with each new firearm purchase, thanks to an effort from Project ChildSafe.
The locks have to be secured when the gun is unloaded. This—of course—makes the gun ineffective for home defense, as it will take too long to remove the trigger lock and then load the gun. Trigger locks can be put on the firearm when it is loaded, but this can be unsafe, considering your finger will be touching the trigger as you put the lock on, potentially firing the gun.
Additionally, many experts claim that trigger locks are ineffective. They have shown to be easily removed from guns, even by children. Remember that most children, even those as young as three years old can pull the trigger of a gun. So, if you’re like the many Americans who use a trigger lock on a loaded gun and your child breaks into it, there could be tragic consequences.
Because of their ineffective design, many people argue that they provide the illusion of safety without providing any.
Not actual gun locks
Cable gun locks are slightly more secure than trigger locks. These locks use a long cable that is passed through the barrel, into the chamber, and through the magazine of your firearm with the safety on. You then lock the cable together with a padlock.
Cable locks are harder to break through than trigger locks. However, the cable can be cut, and the owner still must unload the gun—making it unusable for home defense. Finally, cable locks do not work on all types of guns. The cable is not long enough to fit on firearms like a break action shotgun or bolt-action rifle.
Trigger lock law
Because of pressure from groups like Project ChildSafe, the federal government and some states now have safe storage laws. The federal law requires that dealers provide a gun storage or safety device with every gun they sell. There are various exceptions, including “transfers to other federal firearms licensees, law enforcement officers, and federal, state or local agencies.”
Only Massachusetts requires that a firearm be locked at all times when not in use. Three other states (California, Connecticut, and New York) require that a gun be locked only in certain scenarios, such as when a minor is present. Seven other states (Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) have laws related to safe storage. But, these laws vary in coverage and consequences.
For a more detailed look at the different safe storage laws, visit here.
GUN SAFE storage options
As mentioned above, many people argue that the only way to protect children and teens from guns is storage. The best type of storage to use is still up for debate, but all types will be discussed in detail below. There are many ways to store your gun that do not rely on either trigger or cable locks. You have gun cases, strong boxes/security cases, steel gun cabinets, or gun safes to choose from. Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages. See also 25 Gun safe reviews.
Gun cases are the lightest and cheapest options for gun storage. They are just cloth or plastic cases that you can slip your gun into. One gun goes into one case. Being light, they travel well. You can also slip a padlock or other device on the outside to secure the case. Unfortunately, gun cases do not protect against theft, as their lightness makes them easy to steal. They are also easily breached with a sharp object, making them less secure than other options.
Strong boxes/security cases are a step up from gun cases. They are a small container that can be placed next to your bed or in a desk, allowing for easy access to the gun. They are especially good for smaller model guns like pistols. Some are also designed for travel.
Steel gun cabinets that lock are fairly secure but do not provide the high-grade steel and fire protection of the gun safes described below. However, they will provide a location for your guns that protect their finishes (the guns are stored on racks in the case which allows air to circulate), makes stealing difficult, and deters most unauthorized people from touching the firearms.
Gun safes are the most secure and safe option for any gun owner. These boxes can be bolted directly to a concrete slab, which makes them nearly impossible to steal. They also come with various locking options, that securely keep unauthorized persons—especially curious children—from accessing the guns. However, they tend to come with a hefty price tag.
For more on the pros and cons of various gun storage options go here.
Gun safety can seem like a complicated issue. There are multiple laws you have to follow—depending on your home state. In addition, there are several options for both gun securing and storage. Finally, many people present differing opinions about the best ways to practice gun safety. However, don’t let this discourage you from owning a firearm. You can be a responsible and safe gun owner if you
- Always follow the ten commandments of gun safety described above.
- When they are not in use, secure and store your guns in a way that works for you.
- Teach your children never to handle guns without adult supervision.
 Justin Peters, “Trigger Locks, the Dubiously Effective Safety Measure the Gun Control Advocates Love,” Slate (July 18, 2013), http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/07/18/trigger_locks_the_dubiously_effective_safety_measure_that_gun_control_advocates.html (accessed 2/7/18) AND Carl Donath, “On Trigger Locks,” www.donath.org, http://www.donath.org/Rants/OnTriggerLocks/ (accessed 2/7/18).
 Suz Redfearn, “Gun Safety with Kids in the House,” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/gun-safety-kids#1 (accessed 2/5/18).
 “Everything You Need to Know about Gun Cable Locks,” FTC (Firearm Training Center) (2015), http://www.ftcenter.org/everything-you-need-to-know-about-gun-cable-locks/ (accessed 2/7/18).
 “Safe Storage,” Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, http://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/child-consumer-safety/safe-storage/ (accessed 2/7/18).