The title of this article is intentionally blunt and slightly snarky, but I still mean it. Every now and then there is a news story about some person who accidentally shot themselves while "cleaning a gun." It's mind boggling to me. When I saw the story the other day of a 19 year-old man in Mitchell who shot himself in the leg while practicing a quick draw I immediately shook my head.

I've spent a fair amount of my spare time as a handgun instructor over the last two years. Basic firearm safety is something that must be done correctly all the time. There is never a time when you can be lax with the rules.

Firearm accidents are caused by one of two things, ignorance or carelessness.

If you don't know how to properly handle and use a firearm (ignorance) you are more likely to have an issue. Carelessness comes in when someone who should know better but doesn't follow through with using the proper procedures you also run into issues.

It is not difficult to not shoot yourself or others. While there are other things to keep in mind, following the four rules of gun safety are the foundation of being safe.

1 - Always treat firearms as if they are loaded and ready to fire. If you know you checked to make sure your pistol was empty when you put it in it's case, when you take it out of the case you check it again immediately, even if you know it's unloaded. I'm guessing Mr. Quickdraw did not check his revolver before drawing.

2 - Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. This is the rule I see broken most often by people I teach. There is never a reason for your finger to be on the trigger until you are about to break a shot. You can't be ready to break the shot until the sights are on the target. In the photo above of me shooting a match, you can see as I'm reloading (not shooting) I do not have my trigger finger on or near the trigger.

3 - Don't point the muzzle at anything you aren't willing to destroy. This one is simple. What comes out of the end of the gun destroys what it hits. When handling a loaded firearm, pointing it towards the ground a few feet in front of you is safest. But even when handling unloaded firearms they should never be pointed at anything you aren't willing to blow up because, as referenced in rule 1, what if you were careless and forgot to clear the firearm? I had a loaded hunting rifle pointed at me last year at a local range. Had that guy not followed rule 2 I might not be here. (Yes, I loudly educated him on this.)

4 - Know your target and what is behind it. If you are shooting tin cans on farm, before you start shooting, or even set up the cans, stop and think about what the bullets are going to hit after they hit or miss the cans. Is there a house behind it? Buildings? People? Almost every deer hunter I know has passed up a shot on a deer because of what was behind the deer. A buddy of mine passed on two different opportunities to shoot the same buck because at one point I was 600 yards behind the deer, and then his truck was behind the deer, right in the crosshairs. He waited and eventually had a safe shot and got the buck.

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