Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Firearm Responsibilities

Firearm Responsibilities

Fort Knox Garrison Public Affairs
Fort Knox, Kentucky

So you got a new firearm for Christmas, or maybe you recently gave your child his or her first BB gun. Whether you’re a first-time gun owner or seasoned firearms enthusiast, you’re in a powerful position of responsibility. As such, you should always be ready to review basic/common-sense firearm information and discuss how you can continue to enjoy your firearm responsibly.

If you're the type of person who only reads the first few paragraphs of an article — I understand completely — I'll say this upfront: practice continuously; be highly knowledgeable of the weapons systems you're using; safety is your new best friend; and do your own research from legitimate sources. Don't rely on what you read on some internet forum. There’s a lot of misinformation out there and, as responsible firearms owners, it’s up to us to dispel myths and rumors and act as role models for all future shooters.

The basics

According to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center’s Preliminary Loss Reports, at least 14 Soldiers have died in privately owned weapon mishaps over the past four fiscal years. No matter your experience level with firearms, the following information applies to you.

Let's start by reviewing the 10 Rules of Safe Gun Handling according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. These rules always must be followed to the letter regardless of the owner’s experience level. Detailed information on each of these rules can be found at https://www.nssf.org/safety/rules-firearms-safety/.

  1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  2. Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use.
  3. Don't rely on your gun's "safety."
  4. Be sure of your target and what's beyond it.
  5. Use correct ammunition.
  6. If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, handle with care!
  7. Always wear eye and ear protection when shooting.
  8. Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before shooting.
  9. Don't alter or modify your gun, and have guns serviced regularly.
  10. Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the firearm you are using. Proper storage

In addition to those 10 rules, I’ve added another: Ensure your weapons are always stored properly. Several years ago, I became a father. With the birth of my son came the responsibility to ensure my firearms were out of his grasp. So, I bought a gun safe (or two). In addition to child safety, safes provide a way to organize your firearms and keep them out of the hands of thieves.

The type of safe you purchase will depend on your lifestyle and what you consider an acceptable balance of preparedness and risk. I have a large safe that contains the majority of my collection, as well as a small, fingerprint-activated safe under my nightstand which houses my home-defense pistol. The pistol is locked and loaded and available to me within seconds if needed; however, there is no way for my son to get his hands on it.

If you don't have children, you may believe you don’t need lockable firearm storage. But consider this: What would you do if you had guests with children over for dinner or the weekend? How do you ensure your firearms stay out of their hands? Children at home or not, a firearm should always be secured so that only the proper owner/operator can unlock it.


Always make sure you are using the correct ammunition for your firearm. Some firearms can accept several different types of ammo. For instance, a .357 Magnum revolver can shoot .357 Magnum and .38 Special rounds; but a .38 Special revolver cannot shoot .357 Magnum ammunition. In a 5.56 chambered AR-15, both a 5.56 mm NATO cartridge and a .223 Remington cartridge can be safely fired; however, a rifle with a .223 Remington chamber will not safely fire a 5.56 mm cartridge.

Normally, the types of ammo your weapon can accept will be engraved on the firearm's barrel. If there is any doubt in your mind, check the owner's manual or call the firearm manufacturer for guidance. There are no stupid questions when it comes to your safety.


An often overlooked safety measure is the proper cleaning and maintenance of your firearm. Besides helping ensure your gun will function properly, frequent cleaning can help preserve it and prevent dangerous situations such as overpressure and various mechanical failures. If done incorrectly, however, cleaning can actually damage a firearm, so it's important to read the manufacturer's directions.

Before cleaning — or even handling — your firearm, there’s one universal rule: Check to ensure it’s unloaded. My father always taught me to remove the magazine and double-check to confirm the gun is unloaded before beginning any cleaning operation. Thanks to his advice, I’ve never had an accidental discharge.

Protective equipment

We’re only given one set of eyes, so it’s a good idea to invest in some reliable vision protection. I can't count how many times I've been whacked in the glasses with a stray shell. When purchasing eye pro, make sure the lenses are rated to withstand an impact — your reading glasses probably aren't — and that they wrap around the face, covering the sides of your eyes. Eye pro can be clear or tinted, and some come with interchangeable lenses. I would also recommend an anti-fog coating for your glasses. Whatever eye pro you purchase, just make sure to wear it.

Good hearing protection is also a necessity. After all, just about every firearm has the ability to cause permanent hearing damage, even repetitive shots from a .22 rifle. There are basically only two types of hearing protection — earplugs and earmuffs. Before you make your selection, check the product’s decibel (dB) rating, which should be located on the packaging or the manufacturer's website.

Why is the dB rating important? Let's say for the purpose of this article that a typical gunshot is about 150 dB. If your hearing protection is rated for 23 dB, it will reduce the sound of the gunshot to 127 dB. That’s not good enough according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's permissible exposure limit of 90 dB. I typically use earplugs and earmuffs simultaneously, which reduces any sound down to a reasonable level.

Other responsibilities

If you recently bought or received a handgun, you might also be considering a concealed carry permit. I encourage gun owners to carry, but only after they are intimately familiar with their weapon, have shot several hundred rounds through it and have received formal training on how to use it in real-life situations. I’m a firm believer that "an armed society is a polite society," but you must be absolutely sure you are ready to handle that responsibility and are familiar with all applicable local laws before doing so.

If you're a gun owner and a parent, it’s imperative your children understand the proper safety procedures required when dealing with the weapons in your home as well as in the homes of others. Just because you keep your weapons locked up doesn’t mean others are as responsible. In addition to discussing the tips I’ve provided in this article, Project ChildSafe, an organization that promotes firearms safety, offers the following advice on its website, www.projectchildsafe.org, regarding what to tell your children:

  • Don't go snooping, or allow other kids to go snooping, for guns in the house.
  • If you find a gun in your house, or anywhere else, STOP! Do not touch it or allow anyone else to touch it. Leave the area and be sure to immediately tell an adult.
  • Even if a gun looks like a toy, don't touch it. Some real guns look like toy guns, so don't take a chance. Again, leave the area and immediately tell an adult.

Additionally, I would recommend parents have a discussion with their children regarding the reality of weapons versus what they see on TV and in video games. Children should understand that even if their gun is a toy, they should never point it at a living thing, unless they actually intend to destroy it. They should also always assume a gun is loaded.

One way to help teach children about firearms safety is to get them involved in shooting sports. Speaking from personal experience, shooting — especially distance shooting — requires discipline, concentration, confidence, precise hand-eye coordination, and math and science skills. It's hard to argue that those aren't some useful skills and traits from which a lot of children would benefit. Range practice is also a great stress reliever. I like to call it “recoil therapy.” Shooting sports can be a great way to bond with your child.


While this information is a good starting point, I would encourage you to do more research on your own about safety and statistics. Make sure the classes you take are from reputable, certified weapons instructors. Read as much as you can on the subject and seek out hands-on training opportunities. Pardon my use of the old Army slogan, but it’s the only way you can “be all you can be.”


Other popular safety devices for firearms include key-operated trigger locks, which allow you to carry the key on your keychain when you’re away from home. Many law enforcement agencies offer them free of charge simply by asking. For more information on firearm safety, visit the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at https://safety.army.mil/OFF-DUTY/Privately-Owned-Weapons.

  • 1 January 2022
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 1476
  • Comments: 0