Safety: A Matter of Character

(Trigger warning: this post isn’t specifically about 10/22s.)

A couple of things happened recently whose combined effect led to this post. First, I just celebrated my 50th year of involvement in the shooting sports – with zero safety incidents. Second, in the local shop where I work part-time as a salesman, I asked a customer to leave for unsafe handling of a firearm.

This fellow wanted to buy a pistol. As with every customer and every gun, I cleared the firearm, looked around the shop to see where other customers were, handed it to him, and pointed to an empty corner, saying “This is your safe direction.” He immediately tried to close the slide by pressing the slide lock lever without pulling the slide back. I explained to him that this isn’t good for the slide lock, as it can round over the corner of the lever, and it would be easier if he pulled the slide back. He glared at me. The first time he swept me with his finger firmly on the trigger I pointed out the safe direction again. The third time he held the muzzle directly at my gut with his finger on the trigger, I advised him again and he gave the excuse, “But it isn’t loaded.” My reply: “Sir, that doesn’t matter. If you are not willing to follow the basic principles of firearm safety, I can’t sell you a gun. Please shop somewhere else.” As they say, if looks could kill… He put the pistol down, and walked quickly out the door. I’m not going to help a man who behaves that way to obtain a firearm, regardless of whether he can pass a government-imposed background check.

You can tell a lot about a person from the way he handles a firearm, especially one he does not own. As with all of our freedoms, the right to bear arms carries the moral responsibility to do so safely…and courteously. To handle a gun in public with disregard for safety isn’t only dangerous; it is rude to everyone in the area. The rules of firearm safety are not “rules” imposed by a government agency; they are principles derived from the Golden Rule. An honorable man pays attention to what he is doing at all times, and consistently applies the principles. I think this is true in all things, not only for firearms. How we handle ourselves expresses quite clearly the content of our character. We are what we do.

If I can’t trust someone to handle a firearm safely, how can I trust him about anything?

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2 Responses to Safety: A Matter of Character

  1. John S Landbeck Jr says:



  2. cstone says:

    The Boy Scouts of America had a slogan a few years back that I found so compelling that I found a shirt with it printed on the back and wore it often. Character Counts. Your post is a reminder that a man of his word is observed through his actions. May we all live up to higher ideals than we expect from others.


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