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The Rexburg Standard Journal reports that a teenage boy shot himself in the foot whilst checking to see if his .22 rifle was unloaded. News flash: it wasn’t. “Capt. Randy Lewis of the Rexburg Police Department said the boy was a passenger in a pickup truck on Second East and First North when the accident happened. He said the boy and a young man had just returned from target shooting and the boy decided to check the .22 caliber rifle he was holding to make sure it was unloaded. Lewis said the boy emptied the magazine, but there was a round in the chamber, and when the trigger was pulled it fired and the bullet lodged in the boy’s foot.” Note: not “when he pulled the trigger.” Note: triggers don’t pull themselves. I’d also like to point out that one should never point a gun at one’s foot or any other part of one’s anatomy. Or anyone else’s anatomy. Unless you intend on killing them. With trigger control and muzzle discipline, accidents that may happen don’t turn into tragedies. Period. And one more thing . . .

When it comes to firearms safety, routine is both your friend and your enemy. On one hand, when a safety process become automatic, you do it the same way every time. Call it “muscle memory,” neurological programming, subconscious stimulus response or training. Do it right every single time—the same exact way—and eventually you will be programmed to be safe.

Generally, ritualistic safety is a good thing. The biggest problem: interruption. Something happens in the middle of your routine and you forget where you are in the process. You assume you did step A when you most emphatically did NOT do step A. (Step A in this case being emptying the chamber.) Rather than hit restart, you continue. You end up limping for the rest of your life.

Adam down at American Firearms School told me of a soldier who cleaned his gun as per usual, got distracted, put a full magazine into the gun and blew his friend’s head off.

The best way to avoid brain dead becoming dead dead: limit the stimulus. In other words, don’t talk during the safety process.

Put your game face on. Concentrate. Safety check the firearm immediately before and after firing. Every time. All the time. Don’t say ANYTHING until it’s done. And don’t unpack, pack, clean or handle your weapons until you are in a safe, low-stress environment.

Good gun safety is routine. Right until it isn’t.

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  1. Same mentality as the “Sterile Cockpit Rule” for pilots – “… requiring pilots to refrain from non-essential activities during critical phases of flight”. You can easily substitute “pilot” with “gun owner”, and “flight” with “weapon handling”.

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