If you have ever taken a basic handgun safety course or perused the NRA’s website, you should be familiar with them. Actually, if you have been around the firearms world at any greater length or depth than only topical interest, you should be familiar with them. They’re the four golden rules of firearms safety and although there are multiple versions thanks to varied wording, the gist remains the same: 1) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are on target, 2) Treat all guns as though they are loaded, 3) Know your target and what is beyond it, and 4) Never point your gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
On a recent mountain lion hunt in the Sierra Nevada range I was once again reminded of the importance of these rules as well as the fact that many people seem to see them not as strict rules to adhere to but as suggestions made in shades of gray. For example, muzzle awareness. Although some people may see the point of not aiming a loaded gun at a person they may not give a second thought to aiming it at, say, a dog. Or perhaps they have no problem aiming a supposedly unloaded weapon at a person, however briefly (or at length). Or – to make things even more interesting – they walk around apparently unaware of their surroundings, stepping directly in front of the gun you had pointed in a safe direction or otherwise undermining your attempts to observe the rules of safety.
So when it comes to muzzle awareness, is it an issue painted in shades of gray or one with clearly defined lines? Does the person holding the firearm bear 100% responsibility at all times, no matter what, or is it also the responsibility of those around firearms to pay attention to where they’re being aimed?
One thing is for sure: accidents happen, as does blatant stupidity. When it comes to firearms, is there such a thing as being too careful?