Responsible gun ownership: Safety tips anyone with a firearm needs to follow

'Think first, shoot second,' NRA says


ORLANDO, Fla. – Following safety tips and guidelines is not only a necessary part of being a responsible gun owner, it also could spare lives.

In 2017, there were 2,035 unintentional shootings across the country, 22 of which were in Florida, according to the nonprofit GunViolenceArchive.org.

Many accidental shootings could have been prevented if the firearm owner had abided by simple rules designed to ensure that their gun is handled correctly and inaccessible to children, reducing the chance of it discharging unintentionally.

Below is a list of safety requirements anyone who owns a gun needs to follow, provided by the National Rifle Association, Project Child Safe and other resources.

- Before purchasing or using a particular firearm, make sure you know how to use it correctly. Read the instruction manual for the gun so you know how to safely handle it, load it, unload it and shoot it.

- Guns should always be pointed in a safe direction away from any people, pets or anything else that could be harmed if the gun were to accidentally discharge. Treat every gun as if it's loaded.

- Make sure a gun is cleaned and safe to fire before using it. An obstruction in the barrel, even something as small as excess lubricating oil, could cause the barrel to bulge or burst when it's fired, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Using only the correct ammunition and regularly having the firearm maintained can help ensure that it's safe to use. If you think there's something wrong with your firearm, take it to a gunsmith to be checked out.

- Only shoot when it's safe to do so. Check that the area is clear of people in case you miss your intended target. Never fire a gun toward someone. "Think first, shoot second," the NRA recommends.

- Make sure you're protected and in a clear state of mind before firing a gun. Alcohol, narcotics and even certain medications can alter judgment and perception, making it unsafe to handle a gun. Earmuffs and goggles are also recommended to protect ears and eyes from loud noises and any potential debris or hot gases.

- Keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire. Experts recommend resting your finger outside the trigger guard or along the side of the gun.

- Unload a gun immediately after using it and before putting it in storage or transporting it. There's no need for a gun to be loaded unless you plan on using it.

- Always store firearms in a safe, secure location where children cannot access them. Ammunition should be stored in a separate locked location. A gun locking device is recommended in addition to a gun safe or cabinet.

- Family members and housemates should also know gun safety procedures. Children should know to never touch an unattended firearm and to contact an adult immediately if they find one.

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