Exact numbers from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System won’t be available for at least another week, but by all indications, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of new gun owners. Many could be owners who never held a gun until they stood in line, waited among the crowds and finally got their firearm.
Now, they’re home. They might also be quarantined.
Not to worry. Each new gun owner is now part of the more than 100 million Americans who own and use their firearm safely and responsibly every day. There are practical steps every gun owner can take today, even in quarantine, to learn to use their firearm safely and effectively.
Know the Four Rules
The first thing every gun owner should know, and commit to memory, are the four fundamental safety rules for firearm handling. They are:
- Always point a firearm in a safe direction.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Treat every gun as if it were loaded. Keep it unloaded until you’re ready to use it.
- Know your target and what’s around it, including beyond it.
There are more. NSSF preaches the 10 Commandments of Firearm Safety. After the first four, they are:
- Use correct ammunition.
- If the gun fails to fire, keep it pointed in a safe direction. Unload it, then inspect it.
- Always wear eye and ear protection on the range.
- Before shooting, ensure the barrel is clear of obstructions. Never look down the muzzle end of a firearm.
- Don’t alter or modify your firearm and have it serviced frequently.
- Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of your firearm.
All gun owners must consider safe storage options for their home. Guns, when not carried or in use, must be locked and kept beyond the reach of those should never possess them. That means keeping every firearm inaccessible to children, prohibited individuals and those at risk of harming themselves. NSSF and our partners at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offered a few tips for navigating the stressful times and urge anyone feeling alone or struggling to reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Safe storage options will differ from owner-to-owner and will likely change as lifestyles change. Each gun owner must assess their needs and which method meets those needs. NSSF has videos that will help guide new owners to reach the decision on which method works best for their situation.
The most basic, yet effective method, is to use the cable lock manufacturers include with every new gun. This lock, when properly used, will run through the firearm’s action, rendering it inoperable. NSSF’s Project Childsafe regularly provides firearm safety kits to law enforcement containing a free cable lock. In 20 years of this program, over 38 million kits have been distributed to more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies. If a gun owner needs a lock, they can be found with most police departments or can be purchased inexpensively at a local firearm retailer.
Other options are available too, including lockboxes, small key and digital combination entry safes, biometric safes and traditional upright safes for storing multiple firearms. NSSF urges all gun owners to responsibly store their firearms.
Read the Manual
Gun owners must also read and thoroughly understand the user manual included with the new firearm. If the firearm purchased was used, most manufacturers have their user manuals available on the internet. Read the manual and understand it. It is critical each gun owner knows how to safely load and unload their firearm, engage safety mechanisms and always apply the four fundamental rules of firearm safety.
If local or state orders don’t limit travel, NSSF strongly urges all new gun owners to familiarize themselves with their new firearm. Find a local range and tell those working there of the new purchase. Most range operators want to assist new gun owners to a safe and positive experience with their firearm.
Get Training, Even Online
Find reputable and qualified instruction. This is where local firearm ranges excel. Nearly all of them offer some type of introduction to firearms. NSSF provides many ranges the First Shots program that introduces new owners to firearms. NSSF has resources ready to help at LetsGoShooting.org. It has a section dedicated to New Shooters and an interactive map to learn Where to Shoot.
New owners ordered to stay at home have resources available too. Ryan Cleckner is a well-respected name in the firearm industry. He’s is a former Army Ranger sniper, firearm attorney and author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook. He established GunUniversity.com and recognized that right now, many new gun owners won’t have the chance to get to a range. That’s why Cleckner updated his Gun University’s Gun 101 page so new owners could learn from his blogs and video demonstrations how safely handle a gun, learn about different types of firearms, how to unload them and find qualified training.
New gun owners should know they are welcomed into our community of law-abiding gun owners. We care. We care about growing responsible, passionate and safe citizens who carry and use their firearm lawfully and without incident every day. More information is available on the firearm industry’s Real Solutions for Safer Communities to provide proven and effective answers to firearm safety. Additionally, gun owners can learn more about the community of gun owners at NSSF’s Gun Owners Care.
Joe Bartozzi is the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.