Things You Should Never Do as a Legal Gun Owner


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Americans love guns. They love to point them at a target and squeeze off a few rounds, whether to eliminate stress or just to see what happens when a bullet traveling at high velocity shreds a Budweiser can. Indeed, the numbers prove it – there are 393 million firearms owned by civilians in the U.S., a number that’s higher than the number of people in the U.S.


As much as Americans love guns, they can sometimes be a bit forgetful when it comes to the rules. That’s a sorry state of affairs because those rules are there to ensure that everyone goes home safe and sound after a day at the range. Here’s our list of rules, guidelines, and advice for what you should never do as a gun owner.

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1. Don’t Carry Without a Permit

This may seem obvious, but many rules seem obvious, and people flout them anyway. So we’re going to start off with a no-brainer that we implore you to take seriously – if your state requires a permit for carrying concealed or open, take that permit with you if you’re going to do some shooting. Think of it the same way you would always carry your license if you want to drive.

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2. Never Point a Gun at Something You Don’t Mean to Shoot

Again, this may seem obvious, but the headlines are full of tragic stories of people who inadvertently ended someone else’s life because they were absent-mindedly pointing a gun in some random direction. If you don’t want to turn up on the six o’clock news or be found guilty of criminal negligence, don’t point your gun at anything you don’t plan on shooting.

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3. Get the Background Check

Background checks vary from state to state, with some requiring longer waiting periods than others in order to make sure someone buying a gun doesn’t have a long history of violent crime. While you may have never committed a crime in your life, you still don’t want to dispense with background check, which is part of making sure that every aspect of your gun ownership is done by the book and to the letter.

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4. Never Leave Your Gun Unsecured

This should really go without saying, but apparently, a lot of people never got the memo, so please pay attention to the following statement – never leave your gun unsecured. Store it in a safe, a locked cabinet, any other place with a mechanism that prevents access without a key. This is especially important for anyone with children, particularly small children who like to get into every cabinet and drawer in the house and ask, “What does this do?”

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5. Educate Your Household

If you’ve bought a gun, or several guns, it’s important that you sit down with your entire household and explicitly discuss the safety protocols with everyone until it’s clear to you that you’ve been understood. Even if you have someone in your household who is 100% against guns and never intends to touch one, make sure you educate them as well. You never know.

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6. Never Use Alcohol or Drugs While Handling Guns

Maybe the easiest way to demonstrate this rule is by comparing it to driving. If you wouldn’t steer a two-ton metal object down the highway at 95 miles per hour after a few drinks, then you should likewise not start playing with a gun under those circumstances either. You’re not okay to shoot, any more than an inebriated motorist is okay to drive.

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7. Don’t Brandish Your Weapon to Intimidate

First of all, there are laws against waving a gun around to threaten somebody, even if you have no intention of firing it. Second of all, guns can go off accidentally if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you likely don’t want to be sitting in prison for the next 20 years because your gun went off while you were trying to make a point. So please, only make gestures with your index finger.

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8. Never Assume a Gun is Unloaded

This is one of the first things that’s taught in gun safety courses – never assume that a gun is unloaded. In fact, perhaps it’s safer yet to assume it’s loaded unless you see some kind of ironclad evidence to the contrary. Treat every gun like a loaded gun until you’ve personally checked it and made sure it’s not a danger to anyone, including yourself.

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9. Don’t Shoot Without Knowing What’s Behind Your Target

If you’re shooting at something, it’s important to remember that you’re not just shooting at a target. You’re also shooting at what’s behind that target. Bullets can go through walls, windows, and many other things that your target may be in front of, so be aware of what lurks behind whatever it is that you’re pumping full of hot lead.

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10. Control Your Emotions

Just as you shouldn’t drive angry, you shouldn’t shoot while you’re angry. It’s also not such a hot idea to shoot when you’re consumed with despair. Basically, if you’re going to handle a gun, make sure your mind is clear and your emotions are cool. The prisons are full of people who got momentarily upset and made a choice in the heat of the moment that can never be undone.

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11. Don’t Dismiss the Importance of Mental Health

Sometimes, when a horrifying story about a shooter makes the headlines, the shooter has been in the throes of an untreated mental illness that makes it hard for them to tell right from wrong. If you’re a gun owner and you feel like you may be struggling with such common mental health issues as depression or anxiety, seek out medical help sooner rather than later, so it doesn’t turn from a treatable mental illness into something much worse.

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12. Never Use a Gun to Solve Personal Problems

The headlines are full of stories about people losing their lives to gun violence. Sometimes, it was all over a property dispute, a noise complaint, or some other small-time nuisance that could have been resolved without violence, and the aftermath can be devastating. Firearms advocates are clear in their belief that guns should be used for protection and defense only, not for resolving personal disputes.

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