A reader’s comment about gun use

September 10, 2012
By Nate DeWeerd, Pere Marquette Township
Last week’s tragic pellet rifle injury to 10-year-old Amy Resendez from Wyoming, MI comes as many local sportsmen are beginning to gear up for several different hunting seasons, and unfortunately gives me the perfect lead in to remind the community about the importance of firearms safety.  According to reports from MasonCountyPress.com and Sheriff Fiers, Amy’s 11-year-old brother picked up the pellet rifle and it accidentally fired, striking her below the eye.  A millimeter or two in either direction could have had tragic consequences for Amy and her family.  The first point I want to underscore is, ANY gun is dangerous.  It doesn’t matter if it’s air powered, CO2 powered, or a traditional firearm, they all have dangerous potential.  The National Rifle Association has three basic rules for safely handling firearms:
1. ALWAYS keep a gun pointed in a safe direction.  This is the primary fundamental of gun safety.  Safe direction means the gun is pointed so that even if it were to go off, it would not cause injury or damage.  Think of a laser beam projecting from the barrel out to infinity.  Common sense will dictate the safest direction depending on the circumstances but if this one rule were always followed, it stands to reason that there would be no injuries or deaths from accidental shootings.
2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.  Your finger should be kept straight, alongside the frame of the firearm, and outside the trigger guard until you have made the decision to shoot.  This serves several purposes, chief among them is that the gun shouldn’t fire until the trigger is depressed.  It also aids in aiming, because your gun will point where your finger is pointing.
3. ALWAYS keep your firearms unloaded until ready to use them.  Any gun that is not actively being fired, or carried for personal protection, should be unloaded.  As a general rule, whenever you pick up a gun, keep it pointed in a safe direction with your finger off the trigger, engage the safety (if equipped), remove the magazine (if equipped), then visually and physically inspect the chamber(s) to make absolutely sure it’s unloaded.  Do the same if you’re passing the gun to someone else, or if you’re the one receiving the gun.  If you are unfamiliar with a particular firearm, ask for assistance from someone who is familiar with it.
When it comes to children and firearms, education is key.  Kids will be much more receptive to a learning experience than they will to their parent simply saying “Don’t ever touch a gun”.  Education and information take away the taboo, and instill confidence.  The NRA’s EDDIE EAGLE program is an excellent resource.  The purpose of the Eddie Eagle Program isn’t to teach whether guns are good or bad, but rather to promote the protection and safety of children. The program makes no value judgments about firearms, and no guns are ever used in the program. Like swimming pools, electrical outlets, matchbooks and household poison, they’re treated simply as a fact of everyday life.  In fact, just a few months ago, a fifth-grader in Bradley County, TN who had recently been through an Eddie Eagle presentation found a handgun on his school’s playground.  He immediately identified the firearm, kept other kids away, and yelled for a teacher. 

Finally, sport shooting.  Whether it’s for duck, goose, turkey, deer, squirrel, or just plinking on the range, make sure safety is your #1 priority.  Hunter Orange should be a no-brainer, even during seasons that don’t specifically require it.  As you make your way through the woods, keep your eyes and ears open; we all know that humans make much different sounds than animals do.  Make sure that you have a clear view of not just the animal you’re shooting at (to ensure that it really is what you think it is, and not someone’s dog, or worse), but also what’s beyond.  Pellets from a shotgun, even birdshot, can travel unbelievable distances while carrying enough kinetic energy to cause injury or property damage.  Even the lowly .22LR has a rather flat trajectory, and there are cases of damage, injury, and even death up to a mile from where the shooter was.  Hunting in a group?  Always know where the others are.  Ideally remain within sight of one another, and don’t let yourself get tunnel vision when the game pops up (remember what happened to Vice President Cheney?). 

The bottom line is simple; be smart, and be safe!
Nate DeWeerd is a resident of Pere Marquette Township.  He graduated from Ludington High School in 1998, and spent 13 years as a Military Police Officer and Firearms Instructor in the United States Marine Corps before returning to Mason County with his family.  Nate continues to serve as a Military Police Officer in the Michigan Air National Guard, and is certified by the National Rifle Association as an instructor in Firearms Safety and Personal Protection.

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