May 13, 2016 Firearms are tools that, when used correctly, are invaluable in protecting oneself. Treated incorrectly, though, they can create tragedy, and give rise to both criminal and civil liability. Because of this, owners of guns must strictly adhere to safe practices when handling and storing them. No person should own or attempt to operate a firearm without, at least, some basic training. Also, no firearm should be handled before the handler reads the owner’s manual first because different firearms have different loading, shooting, and safety characteristics of which even knowledgeable practitioners may not be aware. The following basic rules of firearm safety are designed to work in conjunction with one another, and must all be followed with exacting compliance. Humans inevitably commit errors; therefore, layers of safety must be implemented to protect against an unintentional breach. Injury or damage resulting from a negligent discharge can arise only out of failure to adhere to more than one of the following rules, and constitutes either negligence, recklessness, or criminal conduct. Handling Rules All guns are treated as real and loaded Never assume a gun is unloaded or fake and therefore safe. The most dangerous gun is the one believed to be unloaded since such mistakes can lead to a false sense of safety. Always handle any firearm as if it is loaded and therefore capable of firing. Also, never assume a gun is a toy, fake, made safe for training, or otherwise inert. Again, treat all guns as real, loaded, and ready to fire. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot Triggers can be pulled involuntarily under a variety of circumstances. If a person becomes startled and has a finger on the trigger, that trigger is likely to be pulled. Likewise, if a person strains muscles, as when lifting, crouching, breaking a fall, etc., that person is likely to pull the trigger by sympathetic reflex in which the straining of one muscle group leads to the tensing of muscles in other groups (including those controlling the index finger.) Under all circumstances, the finger of one handling a gun has no business touching the trigger unless the handler is prepared to shoot, for whatever reason. Never point the firearm at anything you are not prepared to destroy The muzzle of the firearm should never be pointed at anything the operator is not currently intending to shoot. This seemingly simple directive also encompasses a sub directive: while the handler of a gun should never purposely aim the firearm at anything he is not currently prepared to destroy, he also has an affirmative duty, for each and every millisecond he holds that gun in his hands, to ensure that the muzzle is pointed in the safest direction, i.e. away from people. Be sure of your target, and what is beyond it Whatever the reason for shooting, the operator of a firearm has a duty to evaluate the target at which he aims and shoots, as well as what is beyond. Persons and property in the immediate direction of or behind an intended target must be considered before shooting. A shooter is responsible for each and every bullet fired, whether it hits the target, misses it, or penetrates through and continues to cause destruction, injury, or death. Get Legal Help If you or a loved one has been involved in an incident associated with the discharge of a firearm, whether shooter or injured victim, protect your rights. Mishaps with guns are considered criminal acts punishable by lengthy prison sentences, and can create costly civil liability. Contact the criminal defense attorneys at The Nahajski Firm at (206) 621-0500 for a free and confidential initial consultation.