Firearm safety: What to remember this hunting season

Shelby Alexander, Minot

As hunting season commences, it is important to refresh on proper firearm handling. Firearm-related deaths have been on the rise over recent years. Suicide and homicide make up for most of this rise, however, there have been an increase in accidents with the use of firearms as well. Safe handling of firearms will prevent accidents that can result in injury to yourself or others. In addition, proper storage of firearms will prevent accidents at home.

While carrying a firearm, remember these main points:

1. Treat every firearm like it is loaded.

2. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

3. Be sure of your target and what is around it.

4. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Treating every firearm like it is loaded means to never assume a firearm will not fire. To be sure a firearm is unloaded, open the action immediately upon handling it. Check the chamber, receiver, and magazine to be certain there is no ammunition. Whenever a firearm is handed to you, check for yourself to be sure it is unloaded. Remember to unload your firearm when not in the field or actively at the range.

Keeping the muzzle of your firearm pointed in a safe direction may take practice but can easily become habit. To keep the muzzle pointed safely, have it facing a direction where there is nobody in the line of fire. Remember to never point your firearm at anything you would not shoot. This practice prevents accidentally injuring yourself or your fellow hunters.

A responsible hunter knows their target and what is behind it. Only fire at a target if you are sure of what it is. Observe the target carefully by using a scope or binoculars to know what exactly is being aimed at. Ammunition does not always stop at the target; sometimes the ammunition can pass through the target and hit other objects behind it, possibly causing injury to other hunters or surrounding people. Remember to never shoot towards someone’s home or vehicle, as damage could occur to that property or anyone that is inside of it. Bullets and ammunition can ricochet off your target, so be sure to observe if there are other hunters nearby. To stand out to other hunters, wear orange. This makes you more visible to other humans without standing out to deer.

Keeping your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot will help prevent an accidental firing. Firearms are manufactured with a device called a safety, which is meant to prevent firing until turned off. The safety feature should not be considered a reliable form of averting firing. If your finger is kept off the trigger until ready to shoot, there is less chance of accidentally pulling it as a result of tripping or bumping your hand.

There are many reasons why our country is seeing a rise in firearm-related deaths. Suicide and homicide make up for most of this, but our country has seen a rise in firearm accidents related to hunting or sports as well. These accidents contribute to our rise in deaths when they could be easily prevented. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm accidents account for 16.7 percent of injury deaths in the United States. The CDC also reported that in 2017, there were 133,895 nonfatal firearm accidents in the United States, and in 2018, 38,658 people died from firearm-related accidents.

According to Patricia Howard (The Journal of Emergency Nursing, 2019), promoting safe storage and responsible gun ownership is especially important right now. Health care providers are now striving to include education on firearm safety and storage during visits due to firearm-related accidents being a public health epidemic. Howard recommends to her patients that firearms are kept locked in a gun safe at home when not being used. In addition, ammunition should be stored in a separate locked container. Keep the keys and passwords to your safes in a secure location that only you and your responsible loved ones know about. Never leave a firearm accessible to children. It is also important to know if you are living with someone who is suffering from anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, as they may be at risk for harming themselves.

Firearm safety is important for your wellbeing and those around you. If you follow these steps on safe handling and storage, you are less likely to experience a firearm-related accident or injury during hunting season. If you’re lucky enough to be coaching a youth hunter, make sure they understand the importance of firearm safety. Firearm safety is a simple yet important topic to discuss if being a gun owner interests you. Life is valuable, and improper safety can lead to unwanted results. Take an action in the protection of you and your family, and practice correct firearm safety.