Useful Notes: Gun Safety

A common rule of gunsmiths is that there are only two classes of firearms owners: those who have had an accidental discharge, and those who will have an accidental discharge.

Disclaimer: This page has been provided for informational purposes only. The authors of TV Tropes can take no responsibility for any accidents that may result should you neglect proper training on the assumption that reading this was sufficient.

There are many ways to handle a gun. Most of them are wrong. Here are some basic rules for handling firearms safely.

The Short Version

The below gets into details, but there are four commonly quoted universal rules of gun safety, to which we have added two others of similar generality:
  1. Treat a gun as if it's always loaded, especially when it's not.
  2. Do not fire if there is anyone or anything next to or behind your target that you are not willing to hit.
  3. Keep the safety on and your finger off the trigger until you're aiming at your target.
  4. Never point a gun at anything or anyone unless it is your absolute intention to pull the trigger.
  5. Don't tamper with or misuse firearms or ammunition.
  6. If intoxication, exhaustion, or any other physical or mental state would make you a danger to yourself or others, stay away from firearms. (See also bottom of page.)

Before you start...

1) Recognize that guns are weapons.

  • Guns are not toys; they are tools designed to efficiently kill things.
  • Guns don't make their holders invincible; the only reliable way to survive gun-combat is to avoid it.
  • Never aim a gun at anyone or anything unless you understand and are willing to bear the moral and legal consequences of killing or destroying that target.
    • Be aware of your state's or nation-state's self-defence laws. In most of the USA's state courts, pleading self-defense does not magically equal a "get out of jail free card". For example, a murder charge may just be downgraded to manslaughter charge.note 
    • In common-law countries, pointing a gun at someone also constitutes the crime and tort of assault with a deadly weapon: the person who you pointed the gun at can both file a criminal complaint and have you prosecuted for a serious felony, which means prison time if you are convicted—even if you never pulled the trigger and never intended to. In some countries this applies even if what you were pointing at them wasn't actually a firearm - if the threatened party believed that the object was a weapon, you will be charged as if it actually had been one. If that doesn't work out, or even if it does, they could sue you to Hell and back for both compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages just because. To quote from a gun safety instructor:
    If you don't know 100% how to use your handgun and simply wish to threaten people with it, you deserve fully for your opponent to take your handgun by force and beat you over the head with it.
    • A gun should not even be drawn if a potential attack is obviously nonlethal and/or can be thwarted by evasion or physical force. While in some locales, police officers may be able to get away with shooting someone who is unarmed aside from bare fists/a bottle/a held object/a stick/mace or pepper spray (and in some very controversial US court cases, the occasional civilian has) many judges and juries (not to mention the public in general) view someone who responds to a likely nonlethal assault with lethal force as worthy of criminal punishment and social sanction.
    • Firearms are not reliably capable of causing non-lethal injury. Pulling the trigger means that you have decided you are willing to accept the legal and moral ramifications of killing the person or animal you are firing at. This bears repeating: A firearm is a lethal weapon. Never, under any circumstances, point a firearm, loaded or unloaded, at someone you are not willing to kill.
  • Because, as all of this has made clear, a gun is your last resort for self-defense, be sure it is not your only resort. It's much better, both for practical and legal reasons, to invest in much better home security such as gates, high fences, better locks, alarms, and the like. Most opportunistic criminals will simply move on if they can't get in. If a criminal is more determined, it'll buy you precious time to act.
  • Know the laws about ownership, what paperwork needs to be filled out, and any registration requirements. Also, if a gun you own is stolen, report it to law enforcement immediately with all the pertinent data (make, model, serial number, etc.). Failing to report a stolen weapon can be used against you if the stolen firearm is used in the commission of a crime as an accessory to the crime.

2) Know your limits.

  • Use a gun only if you are comfortable with it.
    • If you are scared of wounding or killing others with firearms, or feel too inexperienced to use them, you shouldn't use them.
    • By corollary, if you don't feel you can handle a given firearm, you shouldn't buy it, lest you be tempted to try in some kind of 'emergency' (like a burglary).
  • If you have no experience with guns, do not touch one unless properly supervised. Accept no substitute for proper instruction. TV Tropes does not count as proper instruction.
  • If you have experience with guns and come across a new one, find out how it works thoroughly, either from its instruction manual or an experienced user, before using it.
  • Do not use a gun after drinking alcohol, when taking medication, or using recreational drugs with known mental side effects. Ask your doctor when being prescribed medication if you have doubts.

Using Guns

1) Do not shoot non-targets.

  • A gun should always be pointed in a safe direction. In a shooting range, this means down range. In the field, this means toward the ground, unless in a building with thin floors. Just always be aware of the direction where the gun is pointed and what it would hit if it went off.
    • This rule is just as important even when a gun is not actually being used. Be wary of unconsciously waving a gun around while standing or walking around, and be conscious of where a gun is pointed when placed down.
    • A useful trick: if you need to turn to one side, holding your gun in the other hand (right if you're turning left and vice-versa) makes it easier to keep it pointed downrange.
  • Know what is behind and what is to the side of the targets and assume they will be hit. Many bullets are still traveling fast enough to wound or kill even after penetrating something like a sandbag or a wall. Trying to shoot past somebody risks having them walk into your line of fire (or you walk your line of fire into them).
    • In the USA in 2012, a man who had a gun and a (firearm) 'Carry(ing) Permit' was trying to stop a man with a gun trying to murder random people in shopping centre. He was criticised for not shooting the madman sooner, but he was merely waiting until he could kill him with no danger of hitting the people behind him.
  • Related to the above: know where your bullet will end up if it misses or passes entirely through your target. The most important component of any gun range — formal or informal — is the backstop: a wall, berm, or hillside meant to absorb the bullets fired there. If you are setting up a range, you need to know that there won't be bullets passing through or ricocheting off of your backstop, and if you are shooting at one, you need to leave any round which might at home.
    • A common trick in rural areas is to set up targets in a valley between two hills, so that the shooters can stand on one and fire downwards. This offers two layers of safety: first, the vast majority of bullets will bury themselves in the soil, and second, the land beyond the range is sparsely populated (meaning even a freak ricochet or stray shot is unlikely to kill).
    • Both of the above are why many security experts will tell you that, if you absolutely must have a home defense gun, your best choice is not something like an AR or AK rifle, but a pump-action shotgun. The reason being, if used in such a close situation with proper ammunition, the shotgun will be far less likely to overpenetrate and kill/wound far beyond the target. These are also advised because the characteristic sound of loading them itself, in many jurisdictions, qualifies as warning an intruder to leave - and often is heeded as such before you even have to fire.
  • Take precautions against ricochets, spalling (shrapnel), and other such hazards.
    • If you look at any box of ammunition, it will tell you: never shoot at a hard surface. If you've ever bounced a rubber ball off a hardwood floor, you know that a solid projectile won't lose much speed when it hits a solid barrier unless either it breaks or the barrier breaks — put two and two together, and you can see why a stunt like shooting a steel plate at point-blank can easily be fatal. (YouTube also has video of a Real Life incident when a .50BMG bullet fired at a steel plate 100 yards out bounced back to hit the shooter on the side of the headnote .)
    • One of the hard surfaces that you might not have thought of: water. In real life, at bullet velocities, Soft Water is sufficiently averted that a trick shooter with .22LR bullets can intentionally ricochet off the surface.
    • If you spend any amount of time shooting, you'll see the strangest things happen — on one shooting trip, a bullet fired at a polycarbonate slab (that is to say, a hunk of plastic) a dozen feet away came back uprange to bounce off of one of the people at the field. No matter how careful you and your friends are, always wear eye protection whenever people are shooting, because it can make a difference between telling a story that ends with, "It was the damnedest thing" and telling a story that ends with, "So that's why I'm wearing an eyepatch".
  • Identify your target. You don't want to shoot something you thought was a threat, but instead was someone innocent. The number of people every year accidentally killed when paranoid homeowners have shot at suspected prowlers, or when hunters have mistaken people for animals, is depressingly high.
  • Know the kickback/recoil force of the gun and be sure you or the person firing can keep it under control.
    • The size or weight of a gun does not tell you how much kick it has. The truth is closer to the opposite, in fact: if two guns fire the same round, the larger or heaver weapon will be more stable. This is especially important with non-shoulder fired guns (which the unaware/inexperienced user is more prone to drop) and automatic or automatic mode guns (which may keep firing even if the shooter's aim is lost or the gun is dropped). That being said, there are certain guns that are both very heavy and kick like a mule, with Desert Eagles being particularly infamous for this; when dealing with guns like that, be extra cautious with anyone who wishes to test them out despite having never fired one before, especially if they're small and light in build. The kickback is enough to prove a serious problem even for large, strong individuals - more diminutive folks run the risk of literally being knocked off their feet or fracturing bones from it.
    • There have been at least two fatal incidents involving Uzis being fired by minors because — while the Uzi is a lightweight enough gun for someone of relatively small stature and strength to use — its light weight makes its kickback far more pronounced, and the results of kickback + a panicked or inexperienced shooter + full-auto mode are deadly.
  • In countries where shotguns have been far more common than rifles for hunting over decades, people have the tendency to treat them as nearly harmless due to their short range. Shotgun range increases dramatically when firing modern aerodynamic slug types, and the large slugs (nearly .70 caliber by comparison to rifles) are almost as deadly as a small artillery shell.
  • There are two ranges for firearms: maximum range and maximum effective range. Maximum range is the farthest the bullet will travel given the right circumstances. Maximum effective range is as far as the bullet can travel and still wound or kill. Even if you cleanly miss a target, the bullet can still kill someone over a kilometre away. One source to read further on this subject is the Gunwiki article on Effective Range.

    As a corollary, never, under any circumstances, fire into the air (especially not in celebration, i.e. when there are crowds standing outside). That bullet will come down somewhere, travelling fast enough to wound or kill. It's also a waste of perfectly good bullets.
  • Obviously firing blanks is a different situation, although you should be aware that discharging a firearm in city limits is often a crime whatever the type of ammunition. If your line of work deals with discharging firearms within an earshot of the public, you must call your local police department and inform them what you're doing. However blanks are not guaranteed safe. There have been numerous cases of individuals being killed by the discharged wadding from a blank cartridge, such as the late actor Jon-Erik Hexum. Treat blanks the way you would a live round.

2) Do not fire by accident.

  • The best way to keep a firearm not in use is in a case. If you intend to carry it outside of a case, make sure the safety is on and is in a proper method of carry (holster for pistols, strap for rifles). Keeping a gun on your pants waist is a very bad idea by the way.
    • Keeping a firearm under your pillow risks sleep-shooting/half-asleep shooting on instinct of yourself or an innocent person. If you feel you absolutely must keep a home defense gun by your bedside/in your bedroom, it should be in a locked drawer or gun safe with an additional trigger lock. This won't compromise your safety (if the intruder has already awakened you in your room, it's too late to safely defend yourself with a gun half-asleep anyway) and it will protect you from sleep-shooting as a result of sleepwalking or sleeping pill side effects as well as from instinctively shooting an innocent person who awakens you while half-asleep.
  • Always carry your firearm in such a fashion that you can control where it will point if you stumble or fall.
  • Do not put your finger near the trigger until you are ready to fire the weapon. Keep your trigger finger either securely on the guard or on the grip with your other fingers.
  • Always ensure the safety is in use and enabled until ready to fire. Do not, however, use it as a substitute for proper handling and trigger discipline. A broken safety cannot cause an accident but it can fail to prevent one.
    • Many pre-World War One weapons either have a safety that's hard to use or an nontraditional safety (such as the half-cock position in pre-1870s guns). A lot of these basically prevent the hammer from dropping. This should not be an excuse to ignore trigger discipline or otherwise.
    • Many firearms have safety mechanisms besides the manual safety switch, such as a grip safety or a magazine release safety. (Some, including pre-2003 Glock pistols, have multiple automatic safety mechanisms, but no manual switch.) Never assume any random gun has any given safety mechanism, and never use such mechanisms as a substitute for the manual switch when one is present.
  • The US Army does not refer to accidental discharges, instead using the term negligent discharges. Why? Because the onus to prevent an unintentional discharge is entirely on the user. You are always 100% responsible for everything, from inspecting the weapon and ammunition, bringing mechanical problems to the attention of someone qualified to deal with them, maintaining the weapon, safely handling the weapon, and making sure the weapon is never touched by an unauthorized person. No exceptions. Which segues neatly into the next rule:

3) Always treat guns as being loaded, even when they are not.

  • In the Famous Last Words of Terry Kath of Chicago fame: "Don't worry, guys. It isn't even loaded. See?"context  (Lest you laugh: this 1991 study found 23 percent of fatal gun accidents resulted from people treating loaded guns as unloaded.Dallas Gun and Knife Show Jan 5th 2014 )
  • If you are done shooting for any reason, unload the gun completely (see the next bullet point) and set it down, pointed in a safe direction.
  • Part of understanding the proper operation of a given firearm is knowing how to unload it completely.
    • For most firearms with detachable magazines, you unload by removing said magazine, pulling the slide/bolt back to eject any cartridge in the chamber, locking said slide back, and visually confirming that the chamber is empty. These steps must be done in that order; if, for example, you were to pull the slide back on a semiautomatic firearm (ejecting the round in the chamber) without locking it back and then remove the magazine, the top bullet from the magazine would be in the chamber — having been loaded there when the slide closed.
    • The final step of unloading any firearm is always being able to confirm that it is fully unloaded. The reason why the above procedure ends with locking the slide or bolt open is that many guns are closed bolt. Even if the gun has no magazine inside, there can still be a bullet in the chamber, ready to fire. (For some firearms — e.g. bolt-action tube-fed rifles — experts recommend cycling the bolt multiple times as the final step in the unloading process.)
      • Do this even with an open bolt gun. Most of them allow you to lock the bolt backe.g., , even though the bolt being forward means it shouldn't fire note .
    • For ease of inspection, you can also purchase flags that stick into the chamber and come out the ejection port or its equivalent.
  • If you are doing a dry fire test (after reassembling the weapon), remember to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction as if it were going to fire a round.
  • When receiving a firearm from someone, even if you saw them unload it and engage the safety, ensure for yourself that it is safe to handle (magazine ejected, chamber cleared, bolt/slide locked back) before doing anything else with it.

4) Make sure of everyone's safety when using firearms with others.

  • If someone shouts "CEASE FIRE", you stop immediately. No questions, no finishing what you're doing, just stop.
  • Make sure that someone knows the basics of gun safety before allowing them to handle any firearm. Most ranges have short lists of rules (akin to the list at the top of the page) posted; if the person you are talking to cannot paraphrase such a list, do not entrust them with a weapon.
  • Always ask someone if they know how to operate a given firearm before handing it to them. If they don't know or you suspect they are bullshitting you, do not allow them use of the firearm until they are informed of:
    • Where the safety is, how to operate it, and what's "safe" and "not safe".
    • How to insert and eject a magazine or rounds.
    • What to do in case of a misfire.
    • The force of the recoil, particularly if it's substantial, especially with non-shoulder fired guns (as the user may be more prone to dropping the gun).
  • When handing a weapon to someone, empty and clear the weapon before handing it over grip or butt first.
  • If somebody is uncomfortable with handling a gun, whatever the reason, don't make them do it. Never try to force them to do so, or try to reassure them it's safe — even if you are 100% sure the gun is unloaded and perfectly safe. If you do so, you make them a danger to everyone.
  • Do not try any "tricks", anywhere. The life that your stupidity ends may not be your own.
  • Do not leave a firearm unattended where untrained or unauthorized persons can reach it. Even if it's unloaded. Even for 'just a minute'. Especially if kids could get a hold of it.
  • If you find an abandoned firearm by accident (for example, left in your car trunk or thrown into your yard or in a piece of used furniture...), do not touch it or even think of keeping it, even if you know how to use it. It may have been used in a crime and you may well be charged with the crime or with evidence tampering if you so much as disturb it from its place, or (in some cases) if you even call the police directly to report finding it. The proper course of action is to immediately call a criminal defense lawyer, tell the lawyer what happened, and let the lawyer take custody of the gun and turn it over to the cops — protecting you as the finder via attorney-client privilege. This goes double if you could be assumed to know the gun was used in a crime. Yes, this will set you back anywhere from $500 to $1000. Your legal defense if you were arrested would be far more than that. note 
  • Do not put yourself in anyone else's line of fire.
    • Do not go downrange while anyone else is shooting.
    • During hunting season, be aware of where people may be hunting, and wear bright colors to make yourself visible and clearly not a target — because many animals have limited color vision, you needn't worry about this as it won't spoil anyone's fun (as opposed to the massively unfun experience of someone getting shot).
    • An ignorant (of firearms-safety) person with a weapon is a danger to themselves and others, and must be re-educated. Failing that, they should be avoided by everyone.
    • A murderous person with a weapon is also a danger to themselves and others, and should be reported to the police immediately. (There are a number of sources that can be found discussing what to do when faced with a gun-wielding maniac, but like in all self-defense situations, escaping is the preferred option.)
  • Accidental Suicide by Cop is another problem. This happens when police officers see a gun and feel threatened. Always ensure that:
    • If you are defending your home or yourself with a firearm, holster it or drop it the second police arrive.
    • If you are hunting, make sure to have proper permits, not to carry your weapon anywhere people might feel threatened, and possibly to dress in standard hunting gear rather than street clothes.
    • If you are wearing costumes with unloaded or prop guns or using prop guns in filming, make sure you have proper permits for filming, that when not on camera all weapons have proper safety bonding and are checked into storage, and that nothing is carried off set. Consider leaving out guns for cosplay and Halloween costuming, where you may have to enter public areas, because authenticity isn't worth your life.
    • If you have a gun and are legally carrying it when approached by police, hold out your hands from your body in such a way that it is impossible to reach for the gun (generally straight out in front, palms up, or the Crucified Hero Shot pose - arms straight out to each side away from the body). When the officer feels out of danger (usually when he or she has removed the gun from you), only then mention your concealed carry permit.
    • Open carry, despite the debates around it and its becoming a political point, and sometimes being less regulated is generally a bad idea for all of the reasons mentioned here, including people feeling threatened who don't need to feel so. If you choose to participate in open carry to make a point or because you are a hunter and hunting guns generally cannot be concealed, the firearm should be unloaded and/or holstered or carried in such a way that it cannot be immediately made usable.
    • Even if you don't have a weapon, never reach into your clothes unless directed or under your car seat around police - these are behaviors of actual shooters before they kill cops. This is also why you should not keep your driver's license and insurance information under your seat or in your glove compartment - instead, place both in the overhead visor if there is one, or in a transparent pocket/holder on the dashboard or around your neck while driving.

Other Safety Tips

1) Ammunition safety

  • Remember, "guns don't kill, bullets do." Employ as much or more care to safety of storing and handling ammunition as you would to anything. Keep it away from children or anyone you wouldn't trust with a loaded gun. Do not, ever, "play" with ammo or do any dumb "tricks" of "roasting on a grill" or "Ass Shove" variety.
    • Please note that while loose ammo has significantly less destructive force than chambered ammo (as investigated by MythBusters), this is not an excuse to treat loose ammo any less carefully.
  • Misfires and jams happen, even with proper maintenance, in more ways than you can imagine. Know how to safely clear a firearm.
  • There are three kinds of misfires: hangfire, dud, and squib.
    • Hangfire means the cartridge has a delay before firing. This is anywhere from the time you pulled the trigger to about 60 seconds.
    • A dud is when the cartridge won't ever fire, at least if left alone under proper storage conditions.
    • A squib load occurs when there is insufficient expanding gas to expel the bullet from the barrel.
  • What to do in case of misfire:
    • If a cartridge does not fire, keep the gun pointed in a safe direction for 60 seconds in case of a hangfire. Then eject the magazine, pull the slide/bolt back to eject the cartridge, look at it to see that all of the bullet is still attached, store it in a steel container, and dispose of it properly at a later time. Dud cartridges should be treated as a live, and care should be taken when handling them. (Firing ranges should always have safe receptacles for these. If a prospective range does not, choose another.)
    • If there is light or no recoil, odd sound, or failure to cycle (with semi-automatic firearms), there's a good chance of a squib. Proper procedure if you think you have a squib fire is to cease firing, unload the weapon, and check whether the barrel is clear. (For weapons you cannot open to easily look down the barrel from the breech, a cleaning rod or similar object should be used.) If the barrel is not clear, clear the stuck bullet from the barrel with a cleaning rod or similar object, clean any unburnt powder out of the firearm, and ensure that there are no other issues.note  If you believe someone else had a squib fire, immediately call a cease fire and inform them that you believe they had a squib.
  • If there's a bullet in the casing, it's live. Even if there's a dent in the primer (dud rounds will often have a dent where the primer is).Related 
  • Always ensure that your ammunition is designed for use in your gun. The fact that two rounds look similar, or that a given round will physically fit in a given firearm, is no guarantee of good results.
    • One of the examples most frequently mentioned is the contrast between the 5.56mm NATO and .223 Remington. The rounds are almost identical except the pressure generated and the gun's chamber shape. Specifically, the 5.56mm NATO specification gives a maximum pressure of 430 MPa vs. a little less than 380 MPa (specifically, 55,000 psi) for standard .223 Remington. Because of this difference, .223 guns not designed to handle the higher pressure may react badly.
    • Videos of people firing the wrong round out of a gun are not impossible to find on YouTube: this video shows three examples. (Note how in all three cases the weapon fails to cycle properly.)
  • Know where your ammunition came from. Random gun show reloads might be cheap, but replacing missing fingers is not.
  • Do not fire dirty or damaged ammunition. Leaving aside probable fouling of the firearm, for a bullet to fire correctly requires that the pressure generated by the burning of the powder be uniformly directed towards pushing the bullet down the barrel — if instead the path of least resistance is tearing wide a weak point in the casing, the results are unlikely to be to your liking.
    • Cheap military surplus ammo with steel case may be decades old when purchased, and if some moisture crept into the cartridge, the powder cements together and may explode uncontrollably. Which would ruin your day, your rifle and possibly yourself.
  • Blank cartridges are not harmless, even if you are certain that they are blank. Depending on the type of weapon, it is possible for some combination of a jet of flame, particles of propellant, wadding used to seal the gunpowder into the blank cartridge, fragment(s) of brass from the cartridge itself, and/or a foreign body in the barrel to strike a person with enough force or heat to cause severe injury or death. This is what caused the death of Brandon Lee on the set of The Crow, and the death of Jon-Erik Hexum on the set of Cover Up. Never fire a blank cartridge directly at another person, or in close proximity to them. The probability of these type of accidents is why movie and TV actors today undergo actual firearms training before shooting even flash-paper non-guns on set.

    A case in point: Russian 5.45/7.62x39 blanks (for AK/AK-74) have massive plastic wads that are designed to be used with special barrel attachments that fragment them and ensure that there's enough pressure for the action to work. When, for any reason, these devices aren't present, these plastic wads become plastic bullets — and there's been cases of people being fatally injured by them.

    Likewise, many pre-WW2 European blanks have wooden bullets, the intention being to ensure they would feed just as well as regular ammo. The ones most commonly seen today are surplus Swedish Mauser blanks. Originally the Swedish Army used them in training under the assumption that the wooden bullets would be harmlessly destroyed before they even left the barrel. It was soon determined that these wooden bullets were, in fact, potentially lethal out to about 100 feet. Thus, an adapter was created that shredded the wooden bullets into sawdust.

2) Maintenance & Modification

  • A new gun bought from the manufacturer will come with a manual as well as some cleaning tools. Familiarize yourself with both.
  • Always ensure your gun is properly cleaned and maintained after firing. Cleaning kits are normally cheap and can prevent accidents and jams. Be aware of proper cleaning procedures if you are using corrosive ammunition.
  • Only use cleaning products that are safe for use in your weapon. For example, ammonia based solvents will damage nickel finishes and other products should be used instead. Check the manual or contact the manufacturer if you are unsure if a product, tool, or technique is safe and effective to use on a particular firearm.
  • Before firing, double check to make sure the firearm is in good condition and properly configured.For example 
  • If there is significant damage to the gun, do not try to fix it yourself unless you are a certified and licensed gunsmith. Either send it back to the manufacturer or take it to a certified and licensed gunsmith for repair and any major maintenance.
  • Do not customize your weapon yourself unless you are knowledgeable enough to be sure that you have done any modifications safely. If you are unsure about a given modification, take it to a professional gunsmith and ask a professional's opinion as to the viability and safety in doing so.

    To clarify, this rule is about doing something such as working with the gas system, the safety, or headspacing. As a general rule, the external modifications such as adding slings and accessories is fine. It's the internal modifications you need to watch out for.
  • When your gun is not in use, keep it unloaded, and at the minimum, locked in such a way that it's unable to fire. Better, keep it in a gun safe (which has the secondary feature of being an actual safe). Even when a gun is intended for home defense and you wish to keep it loaded, you must think very carefully how you'll store it so nobody else can easily access it. First, quite a few deaths have resulted from children finding a loaded gun and accidentally firing it while playing with it; second, the fact that you intended the firearm for your own use cannot prevent whoever broke in from stealing it.

3) When firing

  • Always wear hearing and eye protection. Depending on the gun being fired, your everyday glasses can be used to protect your eyes. Earplugs are sold at all gun shops and should be enough to protect your hearing. If you've only ever been exposed to gunfire from a distance, or in television/movies, the actual concussion of a gunshot is about 100 times greater than you might imagine. Even one shot is capable of causing serious hearing damage, especially in an enclosed area. And only people in the movies get to use silencers (which aren't really silent, anyway).
  • Even if you are at an indoor range, always wear closed-toe shoes. For ladies it's also recommended to not wear low-cut shirts, and men shouldn't go bare-chested. Discharged casings can be extremely hot and can burn if they land on exposed skin.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back. You need to see where you are aiming.
  • If you are with another person at the range, be careful of the casings from their weapon. They won't kill you, but they can leave bruises and burns. That's why there's usually a divider between shooters. Never enter another shooter's "personal space" for this reason.
  • Firearms operation is likely to leave you and your clothing covered in residue from bullets, propellants, and primers. Never eat at the firing range, wash your hands before eating or handling food after leaving the range, and wash your clothes soon after the trip. (Some sources recommend having a separate change of clothes to wear while shooting.)
  • Similarly, when cleaning and maintaining your firearms, take precautions to avoid breathing harmful fumes or leaving residues on household surfaces. Wearing disposable nitrile gloves and working on a non-permeable and/or disposable surface can help here.

Mental Health

  • Some 90% of suicides are impulsive, spur-of-the-moment decisions. Shooting yourself in the head with a gun has a less than 10% survival rate. More than half of the USA's suicides are with guns, and some three-fifths of the USA's firearms deaths are not murders, but suicides. Owning a gun means you or someone in your family are ''vastly'' more likely to succesfully kill themselves. So please, if you believe that you or anybody you know is at risk of taking their lives, we insist you get help. Please, put the gun away somewhere safe, and talk to somebody.
  • If you notice that someone who you know to have a gun appears to be undergoing major life stresses (especially relationship-related, especially if they are in a situation of domestic violence or a nasty divorce), appears to be suffering a psychotic break or manic episode, appears to make even "joking" threatening comments or especially serious threats, or seems to be expressing either extreme anger/hatred/resentment and/or a complete lack of feeling and empathy, try to get them to proper psychiatric help and get the firearm out of their possession. This could be as easy as just having a serious talk with them (e.g. if it's a situation where you know the person and they are angry/despondent over a work or domestic situation but not floridly psychotic) and asking to keep the gun/have them store it at a range or pawn it or whatever for a while until they feel better, all the way to contacting law enforcement and informing them of the threatening behavior (as a last resort, if you believe violence is truly imminently possible, as a police visit itself can result in violence or death).
  • This is also why, if you suffer from a mental illness or developmental/brain disability, you should seriously consider not owning a gun, even if you have sane, legitimate needs for hunting or protection or sport shooting. Something like being on the less severe end of the autism spectrum or dyslexia/similar learning disabilities or an IQ below 100 but above 70 might not be a problem if you are otherwise capable of ordinary adult functioning, suffer no other illnesses and can follow safety rules and understand the gravity of firearm use. Epilepsy is much the same as driving: if you have had no seizures for five years and you are not compromised by your anticonvulsive medication itself, operating/owning a gun may be safe if a doctor signs off on it, but otherwise it's not safe at all. If you have depression or bipolar even if it is treated, however, you probably shouldn't own a gun, because your life could be at risk from it as above. If you have schizophrenia or traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer's, you likely most certainly should not. There are alternatives to guns (for protection, mace or pepper spray, martial arts, staying in groups; for hunting, "photograph hunting" where you have a camera and your objective is to photograph the animal or bird, and for sport/marksmanship/target, Airsoft, archery, paintball, and video games) that can provide equal or even better experiences (becoming a black belt in karate, for example, is a far more difficult and yet rewarding achievement than being able to aim a semiautomatic) without posing their dangers.
  • There is an unfortunate culture of paranoia amongst gun owners, from the nutjob who stockpiles his house full of weapons because he’s worried The Men in Black are after him, down to the average joe who is convinced that his gun is the only thing protecting his family from a home invasion. To those living in fear, please know that the fact of the matter is crime rates are the lowest they've been in years, and they’re continuing to drop. Currently crime in the United States is the lowest it's been in 40 years. Even as gun sales are on the increase, gun related crimes are plummeting. Crime rates have gotten so low in fact that you are actually more likely to commit an act of suicide or homicide with a firearm than you are to use one in self defense. And the vast majority of burglaries happen when nobody is home anyway, so the chances of you ever needing to defend yourself from a home invasion are very slim. Robbery or rape defense on the other hand, especially for those who work graveyard shifts or in isolated spots (such as late night convenience store workers or truckers), or defense against non-human dangerous animals (for hikers or others who are in areas that have bears/mountain lions/snakes/other dangerous or predatory wildlife) is a slightly more legitimate reason to own a firearm, but even there, there are a variety of less lethal or non-firearm alternatives that could also be employed.
    • And of course, if you suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from paranoid delusions, we insist you immediately seek professional help. Please put the gun somewhere safe and talk to somebody.
  • Finally, if you sell/trade/repair guns or are in a situation where someone asks to borrow a weapon (something you should not normally allow them to do), you may be the last line of defense against a homicide or suicide. Take the time to learn the signs of someone who is a danger to themselves or others as a result of a mental health or life crisis, educate yourself in the warning signs of a sociopath, and take the time to talk. While you probably aren't a mental health professional and aren't expected to be, educating yourself won't hurt anyone and may definitely save lives. Some highly specific red flags are as follows:
    • As noted in the links and above, if someone seems emotionally distraught (crying, rage), showing symptoms of a mental illness (the rapid, pressured, fast speech that is a hallmark symptom of bipolar mania, appearing to be hearing voices or acting in a paranoid manner), or obviously under the influence of alcohol or drugs (especially stimulant drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine), they do not need a gun.
    • Anyone who "just wants a gun, any gun" should be assumed to possibly be having bad intentions. Hunters, sport shooters/marksmanship/target shooters, and even most people looking for self-defense weapons usually know exactly what type of weapon they need/want and have researched it in advance, whereas people who are suicidal or homicidal often don't care, because any gun can kill. Of course, a more Genre Savvy suicidal person or killer might use one of these as a glib excuse - in which case, be aware if the gun matches the alleged need. If it doesn't, that's even more of a red flag than "oh just give me anything." This is mostly limited to countries with unregulated gun trade like the USA, as in European jurisdictions any gun license released is specific to the category of weapon - as in rifles or shotguns for the hunter, handgun for self-defense, specific types of rifle or pistol for the target shooter and so on.
    • Related, someone who doesn't truthfully say what they are going to do with the gun upfront - or especially who doesn't even say so if actually asked. If the answer to "what do you need this for" is silence, subject change, Blatant Lies, or a glib, quick excuse that doesn't seem to make sense, watch out.
    • Multiple guns in one purchase/trade is a warning sign, especially if they are very different kinds. It might be plausible that a hunter or sport/target shooter is buying, say, three slightly different long guns (in case of jams or breakage, to try something different, for different stages in the event), and similarly a new concealed-carry holder might buy two handguns, one for home and one for car/body carry. Someone seeking to acquire an AR-15 semiautomatic, two handguns, and a sniper rifle, on the other hand, should be taken with major suspicion.
    • No Kill Like Overkill is also a very major warning sign. Usually this can be spotted with ammunition - know how much an average shooter needs, and start asking questions if someone is buying far more. This is a red flag for both paranoia and mass casualty shooters. This also ties into the gun itself - if someone is seeking, say, an AR-15 for "home defense," you can and should consider trying to steer them toward a handgun or a pump-action shotgun instead - and see their reaction when you try. If they acquiesce, they may have just been thinking unrealistically, but you should still monitor them closely. If they try to sidestep the issue, come up with an excuse, or suddenly grow defensive or even outright rude or hostile (e.g., if your attempts to gently redirect them are met with a reply of "I don't recall asking for your fucking opinion" or something along those lines), you have an absolutely massive red flag on your hands and should act accordingly.
    • Unsolicited comments disparaging specific minority groups, that sound suspiciously like the rhetoric of known extremist groups, or that have an aggressively militaristic anti-government bent should also serve as a warning sign. Given the very heated nature of the gun control debate in the US, anyone who works at a business that sells firearms will most certainly hear anti-government sentiment from customers on a fairly frequent basis. As such, you should instead listen to the tone of the sentiment. Are they lamenting a loss of freedom and expressing fears of a police state, or do they sound as if they're preparing for a war or have an overly bellicose demeanor? If it's the latter, definitely listen closer to their speech to see if what they're saying matches up with the rhetoric of extremist groups. For those in the US, sovereign citizens are probably the most commonly encountered extremist group; listen for things like explicit or thinly-concealed anti-Semitic and/or Masonic sentiment, anti-banking or Federal Reserve comments (something along the lines of "Wall Street is going to be the death of this country" is nothing to worry about; on the other hand, something like "fucking Jews are using our corporate shells as collateral" should make your spider-sense tingle), comments about the government being illegitimate or fraudulent (rather than just corrupt or power-drunk; sovereigns genuinely believe that the US government is a sham), and an overwhelmingly arrogant or contempt-filled attitude (as they believe that they are enlightened by their knowledge of a massive, labyrinthine conspiracy that most Americans are simply too stupid and gullible to understand or believe), and look for things like odd license plates (if their vehicles are visible), oddly-punctuated names, or strange addresses; lastly, if they try to pay with currency that you have never seen before and that does not match any known legal tender, that's almost assuredly a sign that you're dealing with them, especially if it has something like "Republic of Texas" or "Little Shell Pembina Band" emblazoned upon it (in case you're wondering, this currency is not recognized and should not be accepted under any circumstances).note  While the average sovereign citizen will never engage in violence and will mostly just be a colossal pain in the ass for law enforcement, the court system, government employees, and the odd landlord or property owner who is unlucky enough to have gotten into a squabble with one, there are enough high-profile cases of sovereign citizens engaging in violence that you should be on the lookout for them. Second to sovereign citizens are Neo-Nazis or various other white supremacist groups - this symbolism combined with a hatred of minorities (especially Jews or African-Americans) is a major red flag there.

Ignore those that decry these rules; you will outlive them.

Disclaimer: While we have done our best to make the above information clear, concise, and comprehensive, there is no substitute for actual training with firearms. Such training can be had from many sources, ranging from major organizations like the US National Rifle Association to local shooting clubs, and just about any gun store or range will be happy to refer you to a qualified instructor. This page is not intended to be used as a substitute for said training.

Disclaimer: While we have done our best to ensure that the above information is accurate, useful, and sufficient, Wiki Magic is inherently an amateur operation, and editing TV Tropes does not require expertise, certification, or knowledge of any kind. This page provides neither authoritative reference material nor legal advice.