Gun safety is important for all ages
Q. I'm considering buying a gun to keep in my home for protection, but I'm worried about my grandchildren who visit me. What should I do to avoid an accident that might harm one of the kids?
"Owning a gun greatly increases your risk of becoming a victim of unintentional firearm injuries," says Dr. Arthur Kellermann of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Knowing the facts about firearms is the first step toward safety and injury prevention."
It's understandable that emergency physicians would be especially worried about guns. Gunshot wounds are second only to car accidents as a cause of fatal injury in children. Almost 30 children are injured or killed daily by guns, according to researchers at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
One-third of all families in America with children have guns. More than 40 percent of these families don't keep their guns locked up. Children younger than 8 can't tell the difference between a real gun and a toy, and many 3-year-olds are strong enough to pull the trigger on a real gun. Young children and teens commit more than half of all unintentional shootings.
If you decide to get a gun, there are steps you should take to protect your grandchildren and anyone else in your home. Following are a dozen important recommendations from the National Rifle Association:
1. Think first. Shoot second.
2. Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting.
3. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. This is the primary rule of gun safety. A safe direction means that the gun is pointed so that, even if it were to go off, it would not cause injury or damage.
4. Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun.
5. Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
6. Whenever you pick up a gun, immediately engage the safety device and, if the gun has a magazine, remove it before opening the action and looking into the chamber(s) which should be clear of ammunition.
7. When ready to shoot, be absolutely sure you have identified your target. It is equally important to be aware of the area beyond your target.
8. Before handling a gun, learn how it operates. Know its basic parts, how to open and close the action, and remove any ammunition from the gun or magazine.
9. Remember, a gun's mechanical safety device is never foolproof. Nothing can ever replace safe gun handling.
10. Be sure the gun is safe to operate. Just like other tools, guns need maintenance to remain operable.
11. Regular cleaning is important for your gun to operate safely. Your gun should be cleaned every time it is used. Before cleaning your gun, make absolutely sure that it is unloaded. The gun's action should be open during the cleaning process.
12. Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.
[In our next column, we'll give advice about guns specifically for parents and grandparents.]