The Interview

You’ve survived a deadly or violent encounter and have been confronted by the police or other law enforcement officers, who at this point are trying to gather answers and other information about the incident so that they can close their case. You must remember that not all cases or investigations result in criminal charges being filed and as long as you were justified in using force to defend yourself, and as long as the information you provide is truthful, it is unlikely that any charges will be filed against you.

NEVER, EVER, EVER underestimate the power of politics however, and the influence of the news media on a case. Part of your trial, that of ‘public opinion’ begins now. As the news media begins to report on the incident, if that occurs, the public will begin to form its own opinion of your guilt or innocence based largely on what information they receive from the news media. You can’t prevent this but you can minimize the damage by being aware of what you say and the way you act in front of others, especially when the media is present (more on media later). The most important aspect of this phase of the investigation, however, is your interview that is about to be conducted by law enforcement.

By this point you should have already made your brief statement of fact as discussed earlier, now come the questions about specific aspects of the incident. These questions can seem pointless, but every question asked by “trained” investigators has a purpose. Sometimes that purpose might be to lure you into admitting guilt or involvement at some level. There are some important things to remember here: 1) contrary to what you see on TV, many police officers are not gun enthusiasts and many even believe that only the police should have guns; 2) it is the investigators job to collect evidence; trained investigators use a variety of techniques to obtain this information; 3) contrary to what you may see on TV the police are not always required to “read you your rights;” 4) YOU HAVE RIGHTS and it is your responsibility to protect them.

Let’s talk more about your rights, or what people seem to think is a mandatory reading of your rights when the police contact you or arrest you. These “rights”, commonly referred to as your ‘Miranda Rights’, are a list of rights that stem from a US Supreme Court decision (Miranda v. Arizona). You’re probably familiar with them, but essentially they include your right to remain silent and have an attorney present with you during questioning. The important thing here is the level of custody that you have been placed in by law enforcement, because Miranda only kicks in during cases where you are not free to leave – that is you have been arrested or detained and you cannot simply get up and walk out. Keep in mind the police don’t have to tell you that you’re free to leave. So, when in doubt, ASK. More importantly, however, before answering any questions beyond your initial statement of fact, ASK FOR AN ATTORNEY.

Invoking your right to have an attorney present may seem intimidating, and is likely to be met with some hostility from the police. I’ve actually heard investigators make the statement, “If you don’t have anything to hide you shouldn’t need an attorney.” These statements from investigators actually disgust me and have for most of my time as a police officer. If invoking your right to an attorney is somehow a ‘dirty’ thing or considered to be taboo, then why is it that when a police officer is involved in a shooting, or other violent encounter, oftentimes the first thing they do afterward is ask for their lawyer and/or union representative before they even talk to their own supervisors? Because it’s the smart thing to do, that’s why! My point is that you don’t want to let the police intimidate you into not asking for an attorney.

So, now you’re being interviewed. These interviews can be conducted in a variety of ways, from as simple as you sitting at an investigators desk or in a police car, to actually being placed inside an interrogation room complete with audio/visual recording and maybe even a mirrored wall. You must remember, if you choose to make a statement of any kind it is being recorded and once you say something it can’t be unsaid. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to have an attorney present with you if you choose to make any type of statement even if it is a written description of what happened. Many investigators will use the written statement method of getting information from you as a way to get you to open up because it may feel less intimidating than sitting in a room answering questions.

Another issue that I’ve had come up during interviews is when an attorney shows up at the police department demanding to see his or her client. While this looks cool and adds lots of drama on TV cop shows, in reality it doesn’t work that way. If you find yourself stuck in a room being asked questions and you know, or even think, that your attorney is on the way, don’t even begin to think that they have some magical power that will stop the interview just because the attorney demands it. No, what actually has to happen is that you have to stop or delay the interview and verbally demand your attorney. Your attorney CANNOT invoke your rights for you, you have to do it yourself! Now, your attorney can rant and rave or threaten the police with legal action of all types, but it is all just a dramatic show, at least until you demand to speak with your attorney. It is also important that you remember once you ask for an attorney, don’t answer any questions or provide any information until an attorney has been provided.

There is no way to determine before hand what questions or what tactics will be used by investigators to gather information from you during your interview. There is no tactic that will protect you if you have used a weapon illegally. That’s not why I offer you this information. I offer it to help protect yourself in the event you have legally defended yourself. Remember this, the interview process and how much information you provide the police is the only part of the investigation that you have any control over. Use your head, protect your rights, and let the police do their job. If you were justified in using force the evidence will determine so, but words you provide without thought, or without the advice of an attorney, can cause you problems both in court and in the media. BE SAFE, BE SMART, and BE SECURE.

The First Hour After

BANG! BANG! BANG! You’ve just defended yourself from a knife wielding (or any other dangerous weapon) bad guy who was intent on hurting you while you were walking to your car in the parking lot (or possibly even inside your home). Congratulations, you were prepared to do what needed to be done to protect you and anyone who might have been with you. Most likely though, you aren’t prepared for what is coming next.

To begin with, your body has just had what is probably the most intense adrenaline dump it has ever experienced and there are some physiological things that you’re going to notice over the next several minutes to several hours. We may each find that our bodies handle the stress differently, so what I describe here are effects that have been described by different people who have been involved in violent encounters. Your body has done the first part by handling the adrenaline dump and allowing your brain to start the defensive process that allowed you to defeat your opponent. You’ll probably start to feel light headed or as if you are viewing everything through a fog. This can be different from the tunnel vision that you might have experienced during the encounter as your brain kicked in and focused on your opponent and the weapon he or she was intent on using against you. As you start to notice this fog you may begin to feel dizzy and you might even notice that your breathing and heart rate are elevated; you’re possibly even getting weak in the knees and may have the feeling that you need to puke your guts up. These are all normal reactions experienced by many people who have survived an attack.

At this point, you must force yourself to remember that just because you’ve put your opponent down doesn’t mean he or she is completely out of the fight, or may not have friends or accomplices nearby that might continue the assault. You may find that you feel like you need to walk around to clear your head, but this is not advisable under the circumstances. You’ll be better off at this point to put your back to something solid, like a wall or a vehicle. Doing so will ensure that your back is protected and lessen the opportunity for other bad guys to come up behind you. It will also allow you to keep tabs on your bad guy to make sure that he doesn’t get up to hurt you. If possible, sit down, this will help alleviate the weak knee feeling and allow your body to start returning to a normal condition (i.e. breathing, heart rate, vision, etc).
Sitting down also helps you when the police arrive. It is important that you remember, you have no green light showing over your head that alerts the police that you are the good guy. You’re about to be treated like a suspect –  that is, you’re about to have guns pointed at you and be placed prone on the ground and handcuffed with your hands behind your back….DO NOT resist this…DO NOT take it personal. The police also have a desire to protect themselves and go home at the end of their shifts to their families. This, coupled with the fact that they have no idea who the good guy is and who the bad guy is, requires that they treat everyone like a suspect initially.

After the scene is secured the police should give you the opportunity to make a statement (more on this later) as they sort out the facts of what happened. You can expect to be taken to the police department for questioning and possibly booked into jail and required to post a bond before you may be released. It is important here that you remember it isn’t the responsibility of the patrol officer to prove your innocence or the guilt of the other guy, rather it’s the patrol officer’s responsibility to gather evidence that supports the probable cause required to make arrests or initiate further investigation. Whether you are arrested or not, buckle down, you’ve got a long night ahead of you.

You’re going to be confronted and questioned by several different police officers who are going to try to intimidate you into saying what they think needs to be said before they can close their case. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disconnect between the responsibility of the police to serve the citizenry and the actions of the police. This is not to say that all cops will act this way but many of them seem to forget that you have rights provided to you by the US Constitution and that the police have the responsibility to protect those rights.

As I said earlier, you’re going to be asked to make a statement. This will likely be when the patrol officer says, “Can you tell me what happened?” You need to take this opportunity to make a brief statement of fact, something like, “he came at me with a knife and I drew my weapon and shot him.” Such a statement is fact and, if true, will not harm your defense, despite what your attorney might tell you. If you simply refuse to speak, you will, in all likelihood, be arrested because all the police have to go on are the facts before them, a weapon with your prints and a dead or severely injured suspect. Remember, however, I’m talking about a brief statement of fact, not an admission of all the details of the case. Once you make your brief statement, invoke your right to remain silent and RESPECTFULLY advise the police that you would like to speak with your attorney before answering any other questions. Keep in mind you will still be required to answer questions that pertain to your personal identification (name, address, date of birth, etc.), but after you invoke your right to an attorney don’t answer any other questions about the case.

If you’re arrested don’t panic, this doesn’t mean you’re guilty, it just means the police where you’re located are doing what they are told by the higher ups. You will be given the opportunity to post bail and after you’re released you can seek out an attorney. The most important thing is that you (and possibly your family) are ALIVE.

In the next post I will talk more in depth on the questioning process and what you can expect. Until then take care!

“Surviving After” Series

Introduction

Over the past several years as both a police officer and firearms instructor I’ve had the opportunity to answer many questions, from both perspectives, in regards to what happens after a person uses a firearm to defend themselves. In answering these questions, I’ve always felt an obligation to give the best that I had to offer from my personal experiences and from the knowledge I’ve gained in talking with others who have been in similar situations. I’ve always felt, as difficult as it may be to defend oneself, that real difficulty often comes in the aftermath of those instances when a person is called upon to justify a particular course of action, or lack thereof. It’s to those who have been smart enough to ponder the hard questions prior to the incident that I dedicate the upcoming posts.

Over the next several weeks I’ll be posting several topics relating to the aftermath of violent encounters. These posts will draw upon my experiences as a police officer over the past 18 plus years and as a criminal investigator for over six of those years. I understand there are plenty of books and other websites that offer various opinions on topics such as physiological and psychological aspects, as well as many that offer, “the best tactics,” or legal advice, what I’m going to offer here is a more practical view. In doing so I plan to offer less advice and more knowledge on what can actually take place during different aspects of the post self-defense incident.

Now the disclaimer…I’m not an attorney, nor do I claim to have any license to practice law or offer legal advice in any manner. I’m not a medical doctor or a psychologist and I don’t claim to have any experience offering medical opinions or any type of scientific based mental health advice to help you feel better about yourself. I’m not a professional speaker, nor do I gain any profit from any organization for giving pep talks to people about their potential and how important they are to our society. I don’t claim that the knowledge I have is the best available, nor do I present it as the only way to do anything.

What I am and what I do have to offer is this…I’m a veteran police officer and criminal investigator with over 18 years (as of 2014) experience in law enforcement. I’ve been involved in several cases that resulted in one party violently assaulting another party and I’ve personally questioned hundreds of victims, witnesses, and suspects. I also feel obligated to point out that during my time as a police officer I’ve always paid special attention to the rights of all parties involved and have never arrested or attempted to file charges on anyone unless I was completely sure that the arrested party had in fact committed the crime. I will also say, not to boast but only to drive home my previous point, that during my time as a criminal investigator I filed many cases and my conviction rate during that time was 100%. This is not to say that all the cases I investigated were filed, rather only a fraction of the cases that I was assigned were actually closed with filing. Many of these un-filed cases were determined not to be criminal in nature and many weren’t filed because of a lack of evidence in the case.

Beyond my experience as a police officer I’m an experienced firearms instructor and have taught the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act course to several hundred, if not over a thousand, students. Additionally, while not one to offer medical or legal advice, I’ll tell you what I think and what I’ve seen that works. I’ll do my best to offer the information in these postings in a straight forward and objective approach that will allow you as the reader the opportunity and ability to determine what will work best for you.

I look forward to providing you this valuable information and I’m confident it will be beneficial to you if you’re ever involved in a violent confrontation.

Welcome to a new team member

At Arbuckle Firearms Training we’re always looking to improve the quality of our training and increase the value we provide to our students and the people who visit our website. In keeping with that goal, we’d like to welcome Dr. Christopher Perkins to the Arbuckle Firearms Training team.

In addition to being a professional firearms instructor in both the civilian and law enforcement arenas, Chris is a veteran police officer and criminal investigator with over 18 years of experience. Over the next few weeks and months, Chris will draw on his professional experience and author a series of posts covering what you might expect in the aftermath of a self-defense shooting. The topics will cover legal issues, as well as the physiological and psychological effects of shooting in self-defense.

Chris is going to show you what the police will likely do, what the court will likely do, and what your own body and mind could possibly do. This series of articles will be of great benefit to you if you’re ever involved in a justified shooting.

Welcome aboard, Chris.

2013 State of Oklahoma Legislative Summary

A good year for the 2nd Amendment in Oklahoma

Overall, supporters of the 2nd Amendment had a good year in the Oklahoma Legislature. Several good bills were passed in the legislature and signed by the Governor. You can find a detailed wrap-up of the legislative year at the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association website. A special thanks to them for all the hard work they put into getting some good bills passed and at least one bad bill defeated. Here’s a quick rundown of what happened:

  • SDA instructors will have more flexibility in their fee schedules and in obtaining instructor licenses.
  • Any business, employer, or house of worship that allows concealed and/or unconcealed carry is immune from any liability arising from that decision.
  • Carrying in a business with a “no guns” policy will be a simple trespass violation. The current law is unclear on this subject.
  • County sheriffs will be able to issue temporary handgun carry permits to people who have a Victim’s Protective Order and have completed an SDA class. Temporary permit holders will have to apply for a regular license, but won’t have to wait for the regular license to be issued in order to protect themselves.
  • The administrative fine for license holders who don’t notify the police when they are carrying was removed. WARNING: Criminal penalties for this violation still apply.
  • Private K-12 schools will be able to set their own firearms policies and they will be immune from liability for allowing weapons on school property.
  • “Meetings of government officials” was removed from the list of prohibited places. Be aware that meetings held inside government buildings will still be prohibited places since government buildings are still on the list.
  • The above changes will be effective November 1, 2013.
  • Additionally, 2nd Amendment supporters killed an unnecessary and misguided bill that would have added parks and other recreation areas where a youth sports activity is taking place to the list of places where carry is prohibited.

Many thanks are owed to the citizens who called their lawmakers and made their pro 2nd Amendment voices heard and to the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association for everything they do to organize and promote the defense of the 2nd Amendment in Oklahoma.

Carrying concealed on school property spells Trouble!

Former Oklahoma teacher pleads guilty to possession of firearm on school property.

You can read the whole story in the Lawton Constitution, but here’s basically what happened according to the story. Former Lawton Ike High School teacher, William S. Trice II, who has a license to carry a handgun, apparently forgot he left his pistol in his briefcase and ended up taking it to school. When Trice opened the the briefcase another teacher saw the pistol and reported him to authorities. Trice says he immediately took the pistol to his vehicle and secured it. It was later found by police. Trice subsequently plead guilty to the felony charge.

The Bottom Line

Oklahoma State Law is very clear about carrying firearms on school property. From OS Title 21 § 1280.1:

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to have in his or her possession on any public or private school property or while in any school bus or vehicle used by any school for transportation of students or teachers any firearm or weapon

 

D. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), and imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not more than two (2) years. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this section after having been issued a handgun license pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act shall have the license permanently revoked and shall be liable for an administrative fine of One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) upon a hearing and determination by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation that the person is in violation of the provisions of this section.

It’s a felony in Oklahoma to possess a firearm on school property. Period. As a handgun license holder, Mr. Trice was educated about Oklahoma Law in the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act Course he was required to take to get his license. I don’t know if Mr. Trice intentionally violated the law or not. If so, he got caught and will have to pay the penalty. If he really did forget he had a gun in his briefcase that is as bad, if not worse than, intentionally violating the law. Not knowing the gun was in the briefcase implies that he didn’t know the whereabouts of his deadly weapon. Those of us who own firearms have a responsibility to ALWAYS know where our guns are, because we are responsible for how they are used or misused. Even more so if we have been trusted to carry guns in public. It makes all gun owners look bad when people who should know better violate the law, intentionally or not.

Home Gun Safety and Gun Storage – public perception and your responsibilities

Public misperception about guns

Maybe you heard the news recently that gun related homicides have decreased by 39% from 1993-2011. In fact, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, violent crime in general has decreased by more than 40% over the same period. A Centers for Disease Control report “Deaths: Final Data for 2010” indicates that gun related accidents account for about 0.5% of all accidental death causes.

That’s right, gun accidents account for one-half of one percent of all accidental deaths and are the least common cause of accidental death, and yet public perception seems to be that gun crime is on the rise and that every child is at risk of being killed in a gun accident. You might be asking yourself, “If gun crime is down, and gun accidents are relatively uncommon, what’s causing this misperception?” You may have already answered, “The media.” And you would be correct, at least partially. It’s true that the “Mass Media” skews public perception. Here are a couple of reasons why.

First, tragedy and controversy have always “sold the most newspapers” and reporting has become more sensationalized over the last couple of decades. Guns are a controversial subject and even one accidental or criminal gun death is tragic, so guns ARE going to make the news whenever they are used improperly and somebody dies because of it. One the flipside, the proper and good use of guns will hardly ever be reported by major media outlets – it just doesn’t sell as well.  

Second, the whole world is connected through the internet and satellite. News is often reported within minutes of, or even during, an event and people are able to consume more news from more locations than ever before. Due to these capabilities, people read and hear about events they never would’ve known about 20 years ago. So, because people know about more gun crimes and accidents, many of them perceive that the rates are increasing.

While many of us can agree that the media sensationalizes events, reports inaccurate information, possibly has its own social agenda, etc., etc., we as gun owners are still responsible for how our guns are used. Any time a gun owner unintentionally shoots himself or somebody else, or lets a child or criminal get access to their gun and it’s misused, the gun owner is fueling these sensational stories and public misperception about guns. The fact is, guns are deadly weapons and gun owners have a responsibility to make sure their guns aren’t misused.

The gun owner’s responsibilities in all this

If you’ve ever had formal gun training, you were probably taught that you can be held criminally responsible and civilly liable for any misuse of your firearms. If you’ve never had professional training, I recommend you get some as soon as possible – it will go a long way to increase your proficiency and safety with a gun.

Obviously, you’ll be held accountable if you misuse a gun, whether intentionally or unintentionally. What you may not know is that you can also be held legally responsible for improperly storing your guns if another person gets them and has an accident or commits a crime. Since you are morally and legally responsible for safely storing your guns, it is essential that you know how to store them properly.

What is the proper way to store guns?

In order for a gun to be “stored properly”, it has to be kept in a location where unauthorized and/or untrained people can’t access it, and it has to be kept in a condition that an unauthorized and/or untrained person can’t operate it. The Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training puts it this way – the gun has to be made “inaccessible and inoperable to unauthorized persons.”

Note: If you aren’t familiar with the Four General Rules of Gun Safety, please familiarize yourself with them before you handle any guns.

Making the gun inaccessible

You should store your guns someplace out of sight where unauthorized people can’t get to them. This could be a vault, lock box, or safe with one or more locking devices. I don’t suggest using gun cabinets or cheap metal cabinets to store your firearms, as the locks on these types of cabinets can be easily defeated. Unless the gun is in a lockbox, it is unacceptable to store guns in nightstands, dresser drawers, under the bed, etc., since all these places are easily accessible by unauthorized persons. After you have a secure place to store your guns, you should only give the key or combination to people you can trust to handle the firearms responsibly.

Store your guns unloaded and in separate locked containers from your ammunition. It makes it a lot harder for kids and snooping guests to misuse your guns if the guns and ammunition are in separate locked boxes.

Note: Your defensive gun obviously needs to be already loaded or you need to have the ability to load it quickly. I prefer to keep my defensive pistol in a lock box such as the GunVault MiniVault or the Fort Knox line of pistol safes. With just a little practice, you will easily be able to open either one of these boxes in the dark. You will have to assess your home and family situation and determine the best method to balance availability and security. I will address some considerations and methods in an upcoming post.

Making the gun inoperable

Since 2005, it’s been Federal law that all new guns be sold with either a locking device or lock box. The most common type of security device included with guns is a lock. Some manufacturers have designed internal locks in their guns and some fulfill the requirement by putting a padlock/cable lock or trigger lock in the box. Even if your gun didn’t come with a lock, you can secure it by purchasing a cable lock or trigger lock to meet your needs.

Here’s how you use the different types of locks to make your gun(s) inoperable:

(Remember the Four General Rules of Gun Safety and unload the guns first!!)

Use a padlock or cable lock to disable a revolver by opening the cylinder and securing the lock around the top strap of the frame. This will prevent the cylinder from closing and make it impossible for the gun to fire.

A revolver disabled with a padlock.
A revolver disabled with a padlock.

To disable a semi-automatic pistol, remove the magazine and lock the slide to the rear. Run the cable through the open ejection port and magazine well, then secure the lock. This will prevent a magazine from being inserted and prevent the slide from closing completely. It is impossible for the gun to fire when locked with this configuration.

A semi-automatic pistol disabled with a cable lock
A semi-automatic pistol disabled with a cable lock.

You can use the two methods above to make any gun inoperable as long as you can get the lock through the action. If you can’t lock the action with a padlock or cable lock you will have to use a trigger lock. If you use a trigger lock make sure you secure it tightly and according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Trigger locks do not prevent most guns from being loaded and improperly installed trigger locks can cause the gun to fire if it happens to be loaded.

Note: The storage techniques discussed above are designed keep curious people such as children and guests from gaining access to your firearms. These methods most likely will not prevent a determined thief from gaining access to your guns. The only exception is a very high quality safe, and even those aren’t 100% effective if the thief is determined enough.

Conclusion

Remember, if you own guns safe handling and safe storage of firearms is your responsibility. You must practice all safety rules until they are engrained in your subconscious. If you violate gun safety rules and somebody is injured or killed you will likely suffer severe civil consequences and possibly criminal consequences. So do the right thing and practice safe gun handling and storage. You might save a life and you won’t contribute to the unfortunate misperception that many folks have about guns and gun owners.

 

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States that Recognize Oklahoma’s Handgun Carry Permit

Before you travel with a gun, learn the states that recognize Oklahoma’s Handgun Carry Permit

Are you getting ready to travel with a firearm? You need to know the states that recognize Oklahoma’s Handgun Carry Permit. Here’s a list of states that honor the Oklahoma Handgun License. As the license holder you’re responsible for obeying all laws related to carrying firearms. This responsibility applies whenever and wherever you’re carrying your gun. I recommend you review the laws of any jurisdictions you’re planning to visit BEFORE you travel.

States that Recognize Oklahoma's Handgun Carry PermitTo make it easier for you, the list below is hyper-linked to each individual state’s reciprocity page. You can visit the links to verify that the states you’ll be visiting still recognize Oklahoma’s Handgun Carry Permit. Most of these sites also have links to the state’s firearms laws.

 

(Some links may require Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

 

Another place to check states that recognize Oklahoma’s Handgun Carry Permit

Another great resource to find information on states that recognize Oklahoma’s Handgun Carry Permit is handgunlaw.us. This site has a ton of comprehensive information about gun laws throughout the United States. Just remember, when we’re travelling with firearms we’re responsible for making sure the information we have is accurate. For that reason it’s best to follow up with the state where you’ll be travelling to make sure you know the law.

* Links verified and updated on 10/30/2015

Note: Oklahoma honors ALL states’ concealed handgun licenses/permits. Oklahoma also allows residents of Alaska, Arizona, Vermont, and Wyoming to carry under their states’ permitless carry laws, so long as the individual is eligible to carry under the laws of their home state. People who are carrying and are from a permitless state, must keep their weapon concealed at all times. Non-residents who are carrying with valid permit from their home state can carry either openly or concealed. For more information about Oklahoma’s reciprocity law, see O.S. Title 21 § 1290.26.

Basic Gun Safety – The four rules

Why is gun safety and firearms training important?

We regularly see tragic stories in the news about people being killed due to somebody mishandling a firearm. More often than not, these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if basic firearms safety rules would have been followed. Unfortunately, many people handle guns when they have no knowledge about basic gun safety.

Everybody can benefit from knowing basic gun safety rules. If you already own a gun, or are planning on buying a gun, you have a responsibility to learn how to safely handle a firearm. If you don’t like guns, you can benefit from learning how to safely handle firearms as well, in case you ever unexpectedly encounter a gun somewhere. I believe the best way to learn gun safety is through formal firearms training, such as an NRA Basic Pistol Course or Oklahoma Self-Defense Act Course (or similar courses in other states).

In the meantime, if you have a gun it’s essential for you to learn some basic gun safety rules until you get formal training. I’m going to explain the Four Rules of Basic Gun Safety. These rules are simple, and will save lives if followed.

The Four Rules of Basic Gun Safety

Colt Gold Cup - Basic Gun SafetyColonel Jeff Cooper is credited with introducing the four rules of basic gun safety. You might see these rules written differently in various places, but they all mean the same thing. You should follow these rules religiously any time you handle a gun. Practice them until they become second nature.

The four rules of basic gun safety are:

1.       All guns are always loaded.
2.       Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3.       Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target.
4.       Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

1. All guns are always loaded.

A common statement from people who accidentally shoot someone else is “I didn’t think it was loaded.” Every time you handle a gun you should treat it like it’s loaded, even if you just unloaded it yourself. Obviously, a gun is capable of inflicting deadly injuries. Therefore, it should be treated with the respect that its destructive capability demands. You should follow all four gun safety rules any time you are handling a gun, whether its loaded or unloaded. You should NEVER “play” with a gun or treat it like it’s a toy.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

If you don’t know, the muzzle is the end of the barrel where the bullet comes out. Cover simply means “point at.” So, Rule #2 could be stated, “Don’t point a gun at anyone you’re not willing to kill.” Imagine that a death ray is coming out of the hole in the end of the barrel and will destroy anything or kill anybody in its path. The only way to keep that from happening is to keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target.

Another common excuse for accidental shootings is “I thought it was on ‘safe’.” Your trigger finger is the “primary safety.” Countless accidental shootings would be prevented if Rule #3 were followed.  Mechanical safeties can fail, but properly maintained modern firearms will not fire unless the trigger is pulled. You should keep your finger outside the trigger guard and straight along the frame until your sights are on target and you are ready to shoot.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

Always make positive target identification and be aware of what is behind your target. Bullets can travel a long distance. You’re criminally responsible and civilly liable for every bullet that leaves your gun. Make sure your shot won’t hit an unintentional target before you shoot.

Conclusion

Safe handling of firearms is a primary responsibility for people who own or use guns. Thousands of tragedies could be prevented every year if people would simply follow the Four Rules of Gun Safety.  You should learn safe gun handling before you ever concern yourself with marksmanship or tactics. The rules listed above will help you be a safe gun handler. Remember to practice them every time you pick up a gun and try to find a basic gun safety course if you haven’t taken one.

Photo Credit: Colt Gold Cup by M&R Glasgow (CC BY-ND 2.0)