Securing Our Guns In The Home – Firearms Safety And Kids

June 21, 2013

Guns aren’t toys. 

It seems silly that I’d even have to write that statement.  Is there a single one of you reading out there who doesn’t recognize this simple fact? 

Of course, if I were writing this for youngsters I wouldn’t think it silly at all.  In fact, I’d consider myself criminally remiss if I failed to teach kids to treat firearms with the utmost of respect and care.  It’s not about fear of the gun, but fear of what it can do.  I’d feel obliged to demonstrate proper handling, and drill those basic safety rules over and over.  By the time I got done, I’d expect my small charges to be able to quote the manual right back to me.

But even with that training, I know better than to expect them to always make the best decisions.  They’re kids, after all.  While it’s arguable that even some adults aren’t always intellectually or emotionally mature, children have the excuse of their age… and sometimes they do things that, to us grown-ups, seem really, really stupid. 

Like playing with guns.

This is why we as adults… parents, mentors, guardians… need to take special care to never allow children access to our firearms without appropriate supervision.  Does this seem as self-evident as my opening line?  It should, but apparently not all adults get it.  Some folks apparently think their children “know better”.   And too often, tragically, they find out that they were wrong.

Look, this isn’t about capitalizing on recent news stories to pile onto some grieving parents.  It’s about reminding the rest of us that, “hey, it could happen to you too.  And it doesn’t have to.”

I’m all for teaching kids to shoot.  I’m fine with buying your six year-old a Cricket or a putting a .410 under the Christmas tree for your eight year-old.  Learning to shoot can teach a lot of quality lessons, such as responsibility, discipline, and coordination.  It’s a good thing.  But you also have to teach them that these things aren’t toys… they’re not playthings.

The key is supervision.  When the shooting is done for the day, teach the youngster to clean the firearm and put it away with the grown-up guns… preferably in a safe, or a locked closet.  At the very least, store the gun with a trigger lock or cable.  Don’t trust the youngster.

Kids are slaves to impulse.  No matter how well a child is taught, or how well-behaved that youngster may be most of the time, they slip up.  I don’t think they can help it.  For whatever reason, that little sense of right and wrong gets skewed and they do something they know they shouldn’t be doing.  If he sneaks into the kitchen and nabs a cookie before dinner, that’s one thing.  But if he goes into the closet and grabs that slick little .22 to show off to his friends… well that’s another thing altogether.  The consequences can, very literally, be life changing.

And it doesn’t have to happen.

While I firmly believe it is every gun owner’s responsibility to be a  firearms safety expert and advocate, I recognize that some folks might need a little help. 

In 1998, the NSSF created a program called “Project ChildSafe“.  While a big part of the program is education, the organization also worked to provide free gun locks and safety brochures to parents.  Originally, the project was funded with matching money from the federal government, however; as those funds dried up, the shooting sports industry chipped in to keep it alive. 

With recent events and firearms safety and regulation all over the headlines, the NSSF has updated the campaign.  But please, shelve your cynicism.  The Project ChildSafe site is not a political podium.  It’s not layered inside and out with gun rights dogma or propaganda.  It is, strictly, about firearms safety… and especially about safety for our children.  The site offers resources to parents, gun owners, and educators who want to learn and teach more about gun safety… and those resources are free. 

Check it out.  Share the link.  And most importantly… just think.  Kids are kids.  It’s our job, as adults, to protect them.

A Little Safety Note On The Way To Deer Camp

October 19, 2012

Since around the middle of September, I’ve seen a growing stream of pickup trucks, SUVs, and campers coming and going along the caliche road in front of my house.  In the backs of these vehicles, and on trailers, they’re hauling tree stands, building materials, feeders, and pallets of corn.  Rifle deer season is right around the corner, here in the Hill Country, and these folks are obviously gearing up, working on their leases, and sighting in their rifles.

It’s that last one that got my mind to working this morning, as I heard a couple of distant rifle shots down the canyon.  As the guns come out (I know they’re already out in much of the country), I just wanted to offer up a reminder to be safe.  Keep some basic, gun safety commandments in your mind:

  1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded
  2. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
  4. Always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it

There are a bunch more rules, and I’d wager most hunters are aware of them.  If not, I strongly recommend signing up for a hunter safety course or refresher. 

But knowing the safety rules and following them are different things, unfortunately, and every year a handful of hunters and gun owners learns this lesson the hard way… often with tragic consequences.  I tend to agree with some of the hunter ed instructors I know who say, “there are very few firearms accidents, but there are plenty of firearm incidents.” 

The implication is that almost every unintentional shooting is preventable if the individuals involved followed basic safety rules, and I think this is both a true and a fair statement.  Sure, sometimes there are just absolutely freak situations that defy explanation.  But in most cases, the problem comes from a gun that someone thought was unloaded, a muzzle pointed in an unsafe direction, or failure to consider what lay beyond a target.

This last consideration is the one that’s been on my mind lately, as folks begin to show up to their hunting camps and the hills echo with gunshots.  Target shooting is a lot of fun, whether it’s with your hunting rifles or a plinker.  But it’s also important to think about where you’re shooting, and where those bullets may end up.  Even if you’re going to a camp that’s been in the family for generations, remember that while the old place may not have changed, the area around you may have.  Someone may have built a home or put in livestock.  New camps may have been built on adjacent properties.  Stands and blinds may have been set in places where they never were before. 

Point is, just because your target range was safe last year, it may not be this season.  Check it out before you start slinging lead. 

Be safe everybody.

From North Carolina – Be Careful, But Night Shooting Feral Hogs and Coyotes Is Legal

August 7, 2012

A while back, I wrote about the North Carolina Resources Commission’s decision to temporarily allow night shooting for feral hogs, as well as for coyotes.  Keep in mind that coyotes have never been a factor in that particular ecosystem, and of course, hogs have never been a factor in North America.  So night shooting isn’t about hunting.  It’s about depredation… and there really is a difference.

Anyway, all of that said, I just got my latest update from the NC WRC publications.  Along with other things, there’s the reminder for folks in the area around the Alligator River.  Red wolves (recently reintroduced to that habitat) look very similar to coyotes.

Coyotes and red wolves can share the same habitats, particularly in the area of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. The red wolf is a protected species while the coyote is an invasive, nuisance species. If hunters believe they have possibly killed a red wolf, they should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately because prosecution will not be pursued when such events  are unavoidable, unintentional, non-negligent and are reported immediately to authorized personnel.

The two species have similarities in appearance, but there are general guidelines to distinguish a red wolf from a coyote. Red wolves are mostly brown and buff colored, often with a reddish, cinnamon color on ears, head and legs.  Coyotes tend to be light gray with some black on the tips of outer hair.

The key point is, if you think you screwed up, report it.  There’s no penalty for accidentally killing a red wolf while night-shooting coyotes.  Nevertheless, be careful, dummy.

On that same point, the same press release offered some core, night-shooting safety rules.

Day or night, stick to basic firearm and archery safety:

  • Always point a firearm or bow in a safe direction.
  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and never assume a firearm is unloaded.
  • Keep your finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond your target.
  • Take time during an advanced scouting trip to “walk the field” and identify safe shooting zones:
  • Know your field of fire.
  • Do not use a night vision scope to scan a field.
  • Never shoot at movement, noise, color or shapes.
  • If hunting in a group, know where others are at all times and communicate.
  • Make verbal directions specific so that nothing is left to question.
  • Let someone know when and where you are hunting.
  • Have additional light sources and batteries, and consider protective eyewear.


Heading Back To Texas… And While I’m Gone, A Caution

June 15, 2012

After an almost interminable two weeks in CA, I’m heading back to Texas.  Hopefully this will be my last round trip.  Next time I drive down, that should essentially be it.   Color me stoked! 

At any rate, before I go, I wanted to pass along a little cautionary note. 

Star targets are available at places like Cabelas. There are many other brands, and some folks have learned to make their own.

There’s a hot new product out there for target shooters…  exploding targets.  They are usually composed of tannerite, which is basically ammonium nitrate with an aluminum powder catalyst.  Separately, the components are inert and harmless.  However, once you mix them you get an explosive.  The friction of a high velocity bullet causes the mixture to explode with pretty spectacular results. 

These things hit the market last year, and they’ve become really popular.  I have to say, they are pretty damned cool.  They can really add a whole new dimension to a range session. 

It shouldn’t take a ton of common sense to recognize that something like this comes with a few caveats.  For one thing, when the target blows up, it sends small fragments flying at pretty high velocity.  I’ve seen one blow a big chunk out of a dead tree, and the shrapnel destroyed a paper target that was set up about five feet away.  You wouldn’t want to be shooting these things at close range (such as a pistol range). 

It also shouldn’t require a genius to understand that the explosion is caused by the target components’ rapid combustion… aka, burning.  Even though it only lasts a second, the fire is pretty hot and can easily ignite dry grass, leaves, or other flammable material.  There are warnings on the package to this effect, but apparently some folks just aren’t getting it.  According to this article in the Idaho Statesman, at least four wildfires have been attributed to exploding targets already, and it’s likely that there are going to be more. 

It’s summer time, which equates to fire season across the country.  In particular, the west is really drying out fast, and major wildfires are already in the news.  Blowing stuff up can be a lot of fun, but that fun needs to be tempered with some common sense. 

Be careful out there.  Please.

Hat tip to Jesse’s Hunting and Outdoors for posting this up on Facebook.

Friday – California Or Bust

April 27, 2012

I’m heading back to the damned city this weekend, and I’m not real thrilled about the prospect.  After a few days out here, even a drive into the Texas town of Uvalde gets my blood pressure up… getting back to Oakland is going to be a sore trial indeed.

Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure and get in one last note for the week.  So here it is.

A couple of people have forwarded some stories to me from recent news, and asked why I didn’t cover them here on the blog.  Let me respond…

The first story is the sad tale of the guy in Florida who mistakenly shot his girlfriend while after a “wounded” hog.  It’s all over the news, but it came into my feeds the day it hit the presses.  After a quick read, I decided there was no constructive point in writing about it.  Why?

Because it gets a little old to hear all the armchair safety experts and paragons of hunting safety chiming in about what an idiot this guy was and how this should never have happened and it was completely unavoidable and he needs to have his guns taken away… etc. To all of those things, I say, “duh.  Big frickin’ duh.”

Look, I imagine there’s not a hunter reading this blog or others like it who doesn’t know better than to shoot at a sound in the bushes.  My money says this guy knew better too.  And he still did it.  Dumb?  Yeah.  Is he remorseful?  Absolutely.  Does that remorse make it better, or call the bullet back?  No.  I don’t put high odds on the future of his relationship either… but that’s a whole different topic.

And that’s the end of the story as far as I’m concerned.

The second story makes me even queasier.  Ted Nugent, the Mouth from Motor City, made news twice in rapid succession.  First, he said some pretty harsh things about President Obama that resulted in an interview with Secret Service agents.  Stupid.  But he’s known for that.  No news there, just folks focusing on Ted Nugent because it makes for great sound bytes.  That’s politics though, and I don’t cover that beat.

But then he pleads guilty to a poaching charge in Alaska.  When he got busted in CA a couple years back for shooting a spike buck, I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But this time makes it pretty clear he has no concept of or respect for wildlife laws.  Maybe he thinks his fame and fortune can buy him out of real trouble?  Maybe he figures it’s so minor that it isn’t worth worry.  Or maybe it doesn’t matter if he loses his hunting license, because on his high fence ranch in Texas, he doesn’t need a license.  Or maybe he’s really just too dense to understand the regulations.  Whatever the case, I just didn’t feel the need to provide more publicity to someone who, at this point, doesn’t deserve it.  I’m only writing about it now in answer to folks who wondered why I didn’t before.

Enough.  Yes, I’m grumpy because I’m leaving Texas again.  Does it show?



A Cautionary Tale For Hog Hunters

February 28, 2012

Just saw this over at the Field and Stream Field Notes blog, and felt like it’s definitely worth sharing.

Almost every hunter of warm-blooded creatures is at some risk from blood-borne pathogens.  Whether it’s tularemia from rabbits, bubonic plague from ground squirrels, or CWD from deer, we’re warned by “the authorities” to be careful handling game.  By all accounts, hogs are particularly subject to various diseases.  I’ve heard some horror stories from a few hog hunters about mysterious symptoms and illnesses that turned out to have come from handling feral hogs in the field.

Rubber gloves are widely recommended for field dressing and handling wild game meat, and I know a lot of folks use them religiously.  I’ve always been one of the hard-headed guys who won’t use gloves (and I’ve made all sorts of justifications… but I’ll spare you), but that doesn’t mean I’m right.  Sort of like seatbelts or motorcycle helmets, I suppose… you only really appreciate them when you need them.  The rest of the time, they’re  sort of a hassle.

Well, according to the article Chad posted on the Field Notes blog, this hunter in Greenville, SC probably wishes he’d buckled up!

Upstate family and wildlife officials are warning hunters of a hog-bourne illness after a Laurens County man was hospitalized following a hog hunting trip.

“Had we known this, we would have never — he would have never gone hog hunting,” said Renae Hensley, whose 23-year-old son, Josh, was in Greenville Memorial Hospital on Thursday with an undiagnosed illness.

Read more:

The “undiagnosed illness” in this case may be brucellosis, but it could be any of a number of diseases.  Cymptoms include dangerously high fever, muscle and body pain (sometimes severe), nausea, and several other flu-like symptoms.  If it is brucellosis, it can be treated, but the treatment is long-term and potentially expensive.

And all for the lack of wearing gloves…  Food for thought.

Hornady Recall – 500 S&W 300gr FTX Custom

February 22, 2012

I only know two people who actually shoot one of these cannons, but I know there are probably a couple of hardcore, big bore pistol buffs who also hunt hogs.  This is good info, so please pass it around.

Hornady® Recalls 7 Lots of 500 S&W 300 grain FTX® Custom™ Pistol Ammo

Grand Island, NE – Hornady® Manufacturing announced the recall of seven lots of 500 S&W 300 gr. FTX® Custom™ pistol ammunition. Hornady ballisticians have determined that some cartridges from Lot numbers 3101327, 3110256, 3110683, 3110695, 3110945, 3111388, 3111885, may exhibit excessive chamber pressures. Use of this product may result in firearm damage and/or personal injury.
Product Recall Details: Item number 9249 500 S&W 300 grain FTX® Custom™ Pistol Ammunition. These lots were shipped between September 9, 2010, and October 17, 2011.
Item 9249 RecallIncluded Lot Numbers:
  • 3101327
  • 3110256
  • 3110683
  • 3110695
  • 3110945
  • 3111388
  • 3111885
The lot number can be found printed on the lower portion of the box label.
If you own any of these Lot numbers or have any questions regarding this recall, please call 800-338-1242. Hornady Manufacturing Company will make all arrangements associated with the return and replacement of this product.
Any other lot numbers or item numbers are not subject to this recall and require no action.

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