Firearms are a highly controversial subject, especially within the context of current events.
One thing everyone should be able to agree on is that they are indeed in our community and will continue to be so for some time. With that fact in mind, it is essential for individuals and families to take steps towards creating safer communities.
One strategy for accomplishing a higher level of security is through firearm safety education. Many programs exist, but all have the same aim of educating the public on proper firearm handling and use.
Bill Pearch of the Alaska Gun School suggests the need for universal firearm education. He emphasizes that basic firearm education is not just a gun owner skill, it is a life skill. Because the possibility exists of encountering an unattended firearm in a home, parking lot, greenbelt area or other accessible space, the knowledge of how to properly act and react can make a lifesaving difference. This author once crossed paths with a lone pistol on the Crow Pass trail, so you never know. Preparedness is key.
Pearch recommends that everyone – regardless of intent to own a firearm or not – take a gun safety class. These are readily available and usually run 2-3 hours. Participants can expect to learn how to handle firearms, determine if they are loaded, and how to make them safe, among other skills.
Students should also learn Cooper’s Four Rules of Gun Safety:
- All guns are always loaded – Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
- Identify your target, and what is behind it.
There are also classes specifically for children available. One of them is the Eddie Eagle Program created by the National Rifle Association. This training program also uses four rules, but they differ significantly from those above. If a child encounters a firearm, they are instructed to do the following:
- Don’t touch.
- Leave the area.
- Tell an adult.
These rules are basic, easy to understand and could be lifesaving. Some surveys show that half of non-gun owning parents have not talked to their children about gun safety. With rules this simple, it is very much worth the time to have children memorize them.
If firearm safety rules and guidelines are important for non-gun owners, they are even more so for gun owners. Because there is no competency test in order purchase a firearm, it is up to the gun owner to ensure a good working knowledge of their firearm and how to use it. Taking a class, again, is highly recommended.
Precautions that gun owners should take with firearms in their homes are many. Guns should be stored – unloaded and separately from their ammunition – in locked cases. There are many options available, from obvious cabinets to secret safes.
Many people are interested in becoming gun owners for the cause of personal and home security. Pearch mentions that home invasions are rare, but they do happen. One way to be prepared is to store the firearm in a biometric safe, which opens only via a fingerprint scan.
For those who may want to keep a gun in their car, there are better – and safer – options than storing it in the glove box or under the seat. Special safes are available that attach to the frame of the car. These are more discrete and secure and provide a level of protection in case of a car theft or break-in.
Similarly, Pearch comments that a purse is a poor place to store a firearm in the case of concealed carry. It can too easily fall into the wrong hands. Concealed carry firearms should be kept in a rigid holster that prevents any unintentional access to the trigger.
Overall, Pearch emphasizes that the ability to know how to use a firearm correctly, to identify if it is loaded and to make them safe are the most important steps in firearm safety.
Discussing gun safety with children has better outcomes than avoiding the topic and rendering them mysterious – and therefore of high interest.
As with most controversial subjects, education is key to accident prevention.
Bill Pearch and the Alaska Gun School can be reached at (907) 301-5695.
Sara Kennedy is a special education teacher in the Anchorage School District. She likes to swim, bike and run around Alaska, and camp and fish with her family. To reach Sara, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.