Gun safe? (courtesy eastidahonews.com)

As part of its campaign to focus attention on the importance of safe and responsible firearm handling and storage, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announced its Top Ten list of safety tips. Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with the list. Specifically, I’ve got nits to pick. Starting with “Always keep the firearm’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction.” According to the gun industry lobby group, a ‘safe direction’ means that the “gun is pointed so that even if an accidental discharge occurred, it would not result in injury.” The problem here . . .

Sometimes there isn’t a safe direction. No matter where you point your gat someone could be downrange of the muzzle. For example . . .

I’m currently living on the top floor of an apartment building. Down is out. Up is out (what goes up must come down). I’m surrounded by other apartment buildings and office space; sideways ain’t safe. So I can only point the gun in the safest direction.

When it comes to the muzzle pointing rule, the safest option is to remember that bullets travel a long, long way. No direction is perfectly safe.

Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use. Whenever you pick up a gun, such as when removing it from or returning it to storage, remember to point it in a safe direction and make sure it is unloaded.

C’mon. While gun control advocates would have all guns unloaded whenever they’re not under the owner’s direct control (as per Massachusetts law), we all know that gun owners aren’t going to store their [primary] self-defense shotgun, pistol or rifle unloaded. Other than their desire to follow the letter of all applicable gun laws, why would you?

The NSSF is big into this unload your stored guns message. The first question of the Project ChildSafe website quiz stresses the rule.

(courtesy projectchildsafe.org)

I understand the NSSF’s desire not to rile the horses. But a realistic view of firearms safety is more effective than PC lip service. It’s better to train your kids about gun safety than it is to believe that storing your guns in an unloaded condition, with the ammo locked-up separately, is a failsafe protection against a negligent discharge.

Store your firearms in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault or storage case when not in use, ensuring they are in a location inaccessible by children and cannot be handled by anyone without your permission.

Nope. Kids are clever. You can never ensure that your children—and don’t forget that we’re also talking about teens—won’t access your firearms. You can only ensure that you train your children about gun safety. And then keep training them.

To be fair, the NSSF tips offers this self-same “teach your children well” tip not once but twice. “Make sure young people in your home are aware of and understand the safety guidelines concerning firearms” and “Educate everyone in your family about firearms safety.”

Even so, perpetuating the myth of the impregnable gun safe does new gun owners and their kids no favors.

48 Responses to Two Problems with the NSSF’s Ten Firearms Safety Tips

  1. Yer kids are safe crackers (er, I mean safe breakers)?

    Waddya make of those “Your safe has been opened!” apps? I think they’re kinda over-the-top, but then I don’t have teenage crackers.

    If you can train a dog, you can raise a kid. Consistency, consistency, consistency.

      • When someone talks about storing a firearm unloaded, I think of it in the same way as storing a motorcycle. If you have no plans to use it in the near future, then keep it clean and empty for its own sake. If you might get it up and running at any given moment, keep it gassed up and ready to go.

  2. Generally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with this article. Specifically, I’ve got nits to pick.

    When they say to point the gun in a safe direction, I’m assuming, that they are assuming that your intelligent enough to pick the safest direction to point the firearm. It also lends it self to build responsible handling more so than actually literally applying it, as unless the firearm you are handling is for defensive purposes, then what the hell is it loaded for in the first place.

    Also, how many times does that pistol on your hip point strait at someones head, as you walk around your top story apartment. Do you over think it then too?

    Moral: The gun won’t just go off. Don’t be a moron, act responsibly, everyone will be just fine.

    • Hmmm… you could have traps in several convenient places – in the jon, by the T.V., in the kitchen et cetera. Then you could keep your firearm always pointed at a trap or sweeping from one to the next.

      😛

    • A holstered pistol is equivalent to a cased one (if the holster covers the trigger.) Doesn’t negate Law One when handling it holstered, but does allow things like appendix carry “You’ll shoot your junk off!” “No, not unless I squeeze the trigger instead of something else.”

  3. Despite the flaming I’ll get: I’m always puzzled (at best) when I read a news report that a child gained possession of a handgun, pulled the trigger, and the gun went bang. Carrying with one in the pipe is practical. Leaving a house gun with one in the pipe or even a loaded magazine inserted seems egregious when the gun’s owner is elsewhere. It is so simple to either take the magazine with you or at least place it elsewhere and discretely. Ditto with a speed-loader for one’s revolver. I’ve done this for years. I’m not interested in making the above into a law, but why on earth would an adult not follow the practice? Any gun a kid can get to a home invader or burglar can get to easily.

    • I place all of my firearms in Amber status in my house that I keep loaded. The mag is in and no bullet in the chamber. I only place weapons I have direct control of in Red with a bullet in the chamber. Most of my handguns do not have an external safety so it it just one more safeguard incase someone like my wife grabs it the wrong way. She is still in training.

    • If kid is not a moron by the time they can reach the top of the _______ they can understand YOU DO NOT TOUCH. So by the age of 3.

      A handgun with no magazine inserted is just a poor excuse for a hammer.

  4. The only problem with the NSSF iniative is that it has 6 too many rules. Maybe even 7 by some old-timers’ reckoning.

    • A liberal friend was ranting on FB about “Everytown for Gun Safety.” I asked him to go to the website and look for the Three Laws. I told him I’d accept Four Laws if that’s what they had.

      Of course, he didn’t find them. He was chastened (a bit). I’ve offered to take him to the range. He’s just not interested, but he’s not as loud anymore.

  5. Most of my guns are unloaded when stored. My daily work firearms are stored loaded, some nights they are not stored at all, one kept in a pocket holster atop my gun cabinet, the other kept in the bag I carry to and from work right next to it. The foremost rule in my home for safe firearm storage is well trained children who understand the utility and danger of firearms, and who have never been trained to fear them, but to respect them. My kids- 12 y.o. daughter, 18 y.o. son know while guns can be fun, they are not toys, and hence not to be played with or handled without direct supervision by yours truly. For those times I am not home, and they may be tempted, after all kids are kids-all guns are in a locked steel gun cabinet which is inside my bedroom closet. The keys to the cabinet are kept in a secret compartment inside another combination locked tool cabinet also inside my locked bedroom. They would have to break into my room, break into my tool cabinet just to get to the keys to open the cabinet, and fortunately I do not have problematic children hence I have no fear of break ins. I consider myself fortunate for my children who have learned to love and respect firearms the same way I do, and have also learned that due to society’s love hate relationship with guns, our possession of these is a closely guarded family secret, not to be spoken of in school or bragged about with friends or neighbors.

  6. Why store ammo away from the guns? The most secure place in my house is the gun safe. That’s where the ammo is, right next to the guns.

    Use a gun lock on my guns? If someone can get in the safe, I don’t think a gun lock is going to slow them down.

    Also I try to clean guns when I get home, but can’t always. I put them in the safe dirty. You could read this rule as don’t put the guns in the safe until they are clean.

    In general not bad rules, but could have used just a little more thought, or a good proof reader.

  7. I believe your colleague Mr. Leghorn had a solution for your first nitpick… have a body armor plate to point the firearm at. Then you have a much safer direction.

      • A five gallon bucket of sand will stop about anything, but it will make quite a mess from the splash. The Yankee Marshall did a video of it just a short time back. Stood over the bucket, pointed dead center, and fired into it from about two feet, muzzle to sand. I think it was a 9 mm, may have been a .40. Stopped within a half inch of the surface, just ordinary play sand.

  8. Another possible nit to pick from what I’ve been reading: the use of the phrase “accidental discharge.” The appropriate term is “negligent discharge.”

    • Absolutely true. Laws and rules never seem able to capture everything we want to protect…unfortunately if you improvise, then you get called reckless!

  9. I would consider locked in a safe inaccessible to all but the most skilled and determined children. Teaching your kids gun safety and keeping your guns locked up makes it even less likely that something stupid happens.

    • Yes, this is something that always puzzles me. If you have a large, quality safe – not the Gander Mountain $500 forty gun special – I’m not seeing how a kid is going to access your safe. I have owned several safes of varying quality. All had combo locks. Some had a three digit combo and some had a four digit one. Plus, you have to know which direction to start turning the lock in – they were different on my safes.

      If the gun is safely secured in a quality safe, I simply don’t see the kids (or anyone else without a crowbar and a fair amount of time) getting their hands on it.

      • I agree with this. What I don’t get is the people who leave the gun loaded in a drawer, or cupboard, or in a safe that they don’t bother to lock because their PD shift starts in an hour, and so on. I have not heard of a child shot, or shooting a sibling, with a gun that was locked up, or left with no magazine in it. There was one “he snuck it out of my pocket while I was talking to someboy else” case. I never believed the story.

  10. I see two issues here, separate but distinct. The more carefully we keep them apart, the more clear and sensible our appeal that people keep and bear their guns safely.

    Issue number one: Is the gun safely handled when in your immediate possession? No negligent discharges. No downrange consequences. (This is bearing, as in keep and bear arms.)

    Issue number two: Unauthorised hands. (This is keeping.) Of course you can invent a weird scenario in which a safe cracker baby (a creepy-ass cracker baby?) obtains the codes for your safe through the Internet, and shoots his kindergarten, but if your household is that much like a Stephen King novel, you probably live in New England and ought to move away.

  11. You left the master collective hive in the Northeast and moved to Texas just to live in a multifloor hive??????

  12. NSSF is there to protect and limit liability/criticism of the firearms industry. NOT TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THE SECOND AMENDMENT. NOT TO PROTECT OR DEFEND YOU. So IMHO the NSSF is irrelevant to any gun discussion.

  13. Thank you very much NSSF for your accurate and truthful instructions or guidelines for firearms safety in the house. So be secure, unload your weapons. There is a big arrangement of care that have to be taken.

    The NRA has magnificent preparation line up for gun managing and protection…I desire additional citizens be familiar with this and capture benefit of them.

    Find the related Article about :Best Firearm Safety Tips”
    http://www.gunholstersunlimited.com/blog/best-firearm-safety-tips/

  14. Re loaded storage. I think the best description of how to store firearms comes right from the NRA’s Basic Pistol class. I’m paraphrasing: Always store your gun unloaded when not in use”. As an instructor, we are then to clarify that a defensive firearm is always “in use”. So it comes down to a very common sense thing.

    If your gun is not a defensive gun, always store it unloaded. Good advice.

  15. Um… I store my primary home defense gun unloaded because I don’t want to fatigue the magazine spring.

  16. Sounds like you need a 5 gallon bucket of sand in your apartment. Point the gun down at the bucket when loading or unloading.

    If you want to dry fire, get an old kevlar vest or other material to point at while dry firing.

    “Sometimes there isn’t a safe direction. No matter where you point your gat someone could be downrange of the muzzle. For example . . .

    I’m currently living on the top floor of an apartment building. Down is out. Up is out (what goes up must come down). I’m surrounded by other apartment buildings and office space; sideways ain’t safe. So I can only point the gun in the safest direction.”

    • If you want to dry fire, get snap caps. Or just dry fire. Same rules as when cleaning; remove all ammunition from the room, check again to make sure the weapon is clear.
      A full bookshelf will trap any handgun round.

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