Can you name the four basic rules of firearm safety?
Before you’re tempted to read ahead, I’ll bet most of us can trot out the first two – treat all guns as if they’re loaded, and never point your weapon at anything you don’t want hurt.
They’re familiar refrains from our childhood – dads instructing the younger generation to assume there’s always one up the spout, and mums interrupting the cops and robbers play to berate you for pointing that toy gun at your little brother/sister.
Sensible as they are, they fail to incorporate all the elements that are needed that help keep you safe.
Wracking your brain? Read on.
- Treat all firearms as if they are always loaded
- Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to see destroyed
- Keep your finger off the trigger until the firearm is pointed at the target
- Always be sure of your target and the area behind it before you fire
We take it for granted that people who have used rifles, shotguns, handguns, or semi-automatic weapons as a tool in their daily work routine are well aware of these, and most are, but it’s complacency that’s killing us.
That’s the view of Shooters’ Union of Australia president, Graham Park, who said people that are round firearms all their life tend to lessen their vigilance for the basics.
“Some of the people who’ve had accidents with guns are very experienced,” he said.
At the same time, there are relatively few accidents involving firearms, and the number is dropping.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there were 338 hospitalised cases in 2013–14 and 209 deaths in 2012–13 as a result of firearm-related injuries.
Over a third of hospitalised cases were the result of unintentional injury, one-third resulted from assault, and in almost one-fifth of cases, intent was undetermined.
In contrast, over 79 per cent of deaths resulted from intentional self-harm, while over 17pc resulted from assault (homicide).
Most people injured by firearms were male—93pc of hospitalised cases and 91pc of deaths resulting from firearm-related incidents.
Rates of firearm-related injuries for both hospitalised cases and deaths fell between 1999–00 and 2005–06 from a starting rate of 2 cases per 100,000 population to 1.5 per 100,000 for hospitalised cases, and 1 per 100,000 for deaths in 2013–14.
“It’s a good news story these days – accidental injuries with firearms has dropped dramatically in Australia in the last 50 years,” Mr Park said. “It’s a combination of a few things – guns are safer nowadays, and there’s better training.”
While courses are a requirement for people wanting a weapons licence, Mr Park said they were just generally a good idea.
“Parents have been taking their young people along and sitting in on the instruction, and you can see it’s a good reminder for them.”
Mark Costello, the principal of Asset Training, Queensland’s largest training agency, said they filled every course they scheduled, both in Brisbane and regional areas.
This amounted to around 5000 people a year receiving instruction, which Mr Costello said was a mix of property owners, sporting shooters, collectors, people who wanted to go hunting, and pest controllers.
Ages ranged from 11 to 94.
Mr Costello was complementary of Queensland’s licensing system, saying that it was only a day in length but was comprehensive.
“It leads to high standards,” he said. “We’re seeing a trend in people being more conscious of safety with their tools.”
Mr Park summarised it with the following: “If you understand basic safety, all you’ll have is embarrassment, not tragedy.”