A Guide On Gun Safety Rules: How To Practice Responsible Firearm Use
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A Guide On Gun Safety Rules: How To Practice Responsible Firearm Use
Brian Zerbian Last Updated 28th December,2023

Gun safety is one thing that sticks with you for the rest of your life. When you pick up a firearm, those principles echo in your mind.

At least, they should.

If they don’t, and your hands don’t automatically do what they are supposed to when you pick up a gun, then you should sit and practice proper gun safety before you go carrying or hitting the range.

Don’t worry. After a while, you gain muscle memory, and it becomes second nature always to have your finger off the trigger and the firearm pointed in the same direction.

Like anything else, it takes time.

But before any of that, you must know what gun safety is, and I’m here to explain that.

To sum it all up, which is hard for a topic as important as this one, your firearm should never be a danger to anyone or yourself, and gun safety is the precautions you take to ensure that it is never a danger to anyone.

What are the precautions? There are more than four. I’ll tell you that.

Let’s dive into it.

gun safety class

Importance of Gun Safety

You don’t need someone to highlight the obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to follow basic principles. There are millions of different places where you can make mistakes. Firearm ownership is not one of them.

If you mess up, you or someone else can die.

Kids have accidentally killed their siblings because gun safety wasn’t being practiced. Husbands have accidentally shot their wives while cleaning their firearms. Now imagine how much longer those individuals could have lived or the things that they could have accomplished if proper gun safety had been established.

When one becomes a firearm owner, one takes on a specific responsibility. A gun is different from anything else you carry with you on a day-to-day basis.

You wouldn’t throw a firearm on your bed like you would a phone, would you? I hope you’re starting to see my point.

Now, let’s talk about how you can prevent this from happening.

Basic Rules of Gun Safety

The basic rules of gun safety have existed for a long time. They apply to everything you do with a firearm.

  1. Your finger should never be on the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot.
  2. The barrel of your firearm should never be pointed in a direction where it could harm someone.
  3. You should always know when there’s a round in the chamber.
  4. Always know what you’re aiming your gun at. You should not shoot if you can’t see it.
  5. If you’re shooting at something, know what is beyond it and make sure your bullet will not over-penetrate or miss the target.
  6. Never leave your firearm unattended or where someone else can grab it.
  7. Even if there is no round in the firearm, treat it as if there is a full magazine with one in the chamber. Every firearm is “loaded”. I don’t care if the gun is in New Jersey and the ammo is in Washington State. It’s loaded.

Here are some examples and real-world scenarios to help clearly understand those rules.

Your firearm should never be pointed behind, to your left, or to your right when you’re at the range. It should be pointed safely downrange toward the target, even when it’s not in use.

If your firearm has a manual safety, it should be placed in “safe” when not in use.

If you’re pulling your firearm out of the safe, your finger should remain off the trigger and pointed at the interior of the safe. Angle it straight down once you pull it out far enough to clear the safe.

But if you live in an apartment and know that people live downstairs, but no one is upstairs, you can point it up.

And if you aren’t using your firearm and don’t plan to keep it on your person, and there are other people around, put it away. You don’t want any unintended person to be able to gain access to your gun.

These are basic examples of safe firearm handling rules. While I could include the handbook definitions of gun safety, I find explaining them this way is better.

Gun Safety Training

Basic Handling

There are many ways to learn and practice basic handgun safety and handling.

  • Your local range may offer in-person courses for new gun owners, such as basic pistol handling or AR-15 handling. If they do not, it’s likely others in your area do. We highly suggest you seek out professional firearms training.
  • There’s YouTube. Take, for example, this video on Handgun Basics from Navy SEAL Travis Kennedy.
  • There are a ton of great online resources. I mean, you’re reading this excellent article about gun safety already!

Advanced Training Programs

  • Your range should also offer advanced firearms handling courses, like advanced pistol handling and AR-15 handling. Again, if they do not, plenty of others probably do in your area.
  • Once more, YouTube exists. Here’s a video about Advanced Pistol Handling and one about Moving and Shooting with your AR-15 as examples.
  • Look online for when certain training groups are coming to your area. Many professional trainers travel far and wide to share their knowledge and skills.

Gun Safety Equipment

Ear and Eye Protection

psa jakl at shot show 2023 brady kirkpatrick

Being able to hear is a beautiful thing. You know what isn’t beautiful? Tinnitus…that ringing only you hear when it’s really quiet.

Luckily, protecting your hearing is not difficult. There are many types of ear protection, from basic in-ear foam tips to electronic ear buds to over-the-ear ear muffs.

When shooting indoors, you can play it extra safely using in-ear foam and over-the-ear protection. Outdoors, you can get away with one or the other, but I usually just use electronic ear protection to hear what’s going on around me and have conversations, but still have loud noises canceled out like gunshots.

Another beautiful thing is the ability to see. If you like being able to see, then consider some eye protection. I’ve been in many situations where I definitely would have had a bad day if I hadn’t had them on.

So now I always wear them. I bought a bulk pack on Amazon since these things get lost easily or scratched up.

Ear and eye protection are not optional. Protect yourself and take care of your body.

Shooting Gloves

While shooting gloves are not necessary, they can come in handy in many scenarios.

If you’re shooting in woods or mountains, your hands scratch and rub against many things. Branches, rocks, tree trunks, you name it. So, to limit the number of cuts on your hands, wearing shooting gloves is a great way to protect them.

Gloves can also protect you from burns and the extreme heat that radiates from some handguards.

They also protect your hands from the cold and wet environments that can quickly freeze up your fingers and make finger mobility impossible.

Having a pair of gloves is never a bad idea. You don’t have to use them all the time, but to maximize effectiveness, make sure you train with gloves on if you’re going to be using them frequently.

Safe Storage Solutions

Safe Storage Solutions

The best way to keep your firearm from being accessed is in a metal safe bolted to the ground.

Unless it’s a Liberty Safe, it’s best to avoid those.

The most common type of safe you’ll find is made of steel and opens up with your fingerprint or a combination.

If you’re wondering which is better, it depends on your situation. But, I typically recommend biometric safes since they are faster to open and can’t be guessed like a combination can. No one else has your fingerprint, so no one else can get in your safe.

Combination safes are acceptable, too, but be sure to practice entering the combination and opening the safe often.

There are also car safes, which are wise if you have to leave your firearm (which I would never recommend). You can find safes that fit in your center console, under your seat, or in your glove box.

gun ownership

Background Checks and Carrying Laws

Paperwork is always required when purchasing or taking ownership of a gun. The amount may vary depending on where you live, but it must be done regardless. 

Everyone must fill out a form 4473 when buying a firearm, no matter where they live. Thankfully, the process shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. You do have to wait to “pass” the background check, but the paperwork is straightforward.

But if you live in a state with waiting periods, you may not be allowed to leave with the firearm the same day.

If so, you can ask for a Brady date from your FFL. A Brady date is a period of days, usually three, that allows you to pick up your firearm if they don’t hear back regarding your background check. It is up to the FFL to provide this option, though.

The Brady law stops the ATF and FBI from sitting on your paperwork and delaying the process.

Getting a concealed carry permit is a little more complicated than that. Well, if waiting is hard for you, anyway.

In Washington, where I live, getting a concealed carry permit is easy as long as you are patient. It takes a month after you fill out the initial paperwork before it comes in the mail.

Other places may require training classes, annual tests, additional paperwork, etc.

Of course, you have to pay the required fee and get fingerprinted. But as long as you don’t have any prior convictions, it should be smooth sailing.

As with everything else, it varies from state to state. I don’t think I can keep you interested long enough to read them all, so just look them up beforehand.

Licensing Requirements

Each state varies in the amount of licensing each person must have before taking ownership of a firearm.

Places like New Jersey require a permit to purchase a firearm. You can’t just go in and buy one; you have to get a permit for every firearm, take a training class, and have all documents notarized. And you can’t buy more than one pistol in 30 days.

Referring to your local laws is always the best way to learn how to own a firearm, but generally, be prepared to complete a background check and potentially take a class.

Those with felony convictions need not apply.

Age Restrictions

Age restrictions vary state by state. For example, Colorado requires you to be 21 years old to purchase any firearm, whereas in Louisiana, the minimum age is 18.

More often than not, you must be 21 years or older to buy a handgun and 18 years or older to purchase a long gun.

Emergency Procedures

Accidental Discharge Protocols

This is what we call an ND or a negligent discharge.

If you ND, immediately put your gun’s safety on (if applicable), unload the gun, place it down, and pointed it in a safe direction. Then, assess your immediate area and everyone within it as quickly as possible. Is anyone home? Are they in the direction where the bullet went? Go check on them.

If everyone is OK, attempt to find the bullet. In the best-case scenario, the bullet is stuck in one of your house’s walls. If it went through your wall(s), continue ensuring that anyone who could have been in the bullet’s path is safe from harm.

Try to understand how it happened and learn from it. Do everything in your power to never have it happen again.

First Aid for Gunshot Wounds

Disclaimer: We are not trained medical professionals and any medical decisions should be made based on your knowledge and assessments.

Say you did shoot a neighbor or a family member. What now? First thing, call 911 and tell them you need an ambulance and give them your address.

Depending on where the bullet hit, you’ll need a tourniquet, gauze, and medical tape.

If the bullet hit a limb, like an arm, and the bleeding will not stop, then you’re going to want to put that tourniquet at least two to three inches above the wound. Tighten it until the blood stops. Apply pressure, pack the wound with gauze, and tape the wound.

If it hits the torso area, time is against you big time. You can’t use a tourniquet here, so you must remove the shirt and find the wound. If it’s in the stomach, apply pressure with gauze. If it’s in the chest, you must seal the wound.

Look for an exit wound as well.

If you don’t seal the wound, air could get into the chest cavity and kill the injured person. Sucking chest seals are the best for this, but you can get by with tape and a zip-loc bag.

If there’s an exit wound, do the same to the other side.

Sucking chest seals must be applied when the patient has fully exhaled. This allows for the seal to… seal.

There is more to this, but we don’t have the time to explain it all. Every gun owner should take courses in Stop The Bleed and CPR.

Child Firearm Education and Safety

Child Firearm Education and Safety

Children have a way of getting into and doing things that they are not supposed to. Owning a firearm with a child in the home can be scary, but not if you teach them right.

Educating Children About Gun Safety

Kids should be introduced to firearms early on in life. They should be taught what they do, how dangerous it can be if one is mishandled, and why they are not allowed to touch them unless permitted.

It’s easier than it sounds.

This is, of course, not an all-inclusive list, but here are some tips on speaking about guns with your child:

  • Introduce the child early to remove the mystery and satisfy the child’s natural curiosity
  • Show the firearms to the child so they understand what it looks like
  • Inform the child about what firearms are and what they do
  • Inform the child to tell an adult if they find one and not to pick it up
  • Allow them to ask as many questions as possible
  • If they are old enough and all parties are comfortable with it, teach them how to use the firearm
  • Continue to repeat and reinforce all firearm safety rules

No child is the same, and these bullet points can continue forever. This is simply a basic list of topics and ways to teach your child to respect firearms.

Child-Proofing for Guns

This is a short and simple section. Keeping firearms out of reach of any children is the best way to avoid any mishaps. Use your common sense, and don’t leave your firearms sitting out. Even if they understand how to use guns and respect them, accidents can still happen.

The simple solution: keep your guns securely locked in a safe or on your person at all times. 


Hopefully, by now, you understand how vital firearm safety is. You don’t want to end up being a statistic, nor do you want to hurt anyone.

So practice, practice, practice. Build muscle memory, and be a responsible gun owner.

Be good and take care.