The Cornered Cat
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The Four Rules
  1. All guns are always loaded.
  2. Do not point the firearm at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target.
  4. Be sure of your target (and what’s beyond it).

There’s a tragic story in the news this week about a man who was cleaning a firearm, and accidentally shot and killed his own son. Although the article doesn’t mention what type of firearm was involved, the usual online chatter has already begun. It’s all the gun’s fault, of course. A faulty design, no doubt, probably one of those which require the user to pull the trigger as a preliminary step to disassembling the gun. But this mishap wasn’t the gun’s fault. In order for this tragedy to happen, the man in the news had to violate not just one, but all four of the safety rules.

So let’s discuss: how do you clean a gun without violating the Four Rules?

Rule One means that you never do anything with an allegedly unloaded gun that you would not do with it if you knew it was loaded. This is the cardinal rule, and all others follow naturally from it. So when you pick your gun up for the purpose of cleaning it, you treat it with every ounce of respect you would give it if you knew it was loaded and knew for certain that it would fire if the trigger were pulled.

Rule Two means that when you carry your gun to the cleaning area, you maintain constant awareness of where the muzzle is pointing. Just because you are preparing to clean the gun does not mean that it is no longer a gun. Rule Two also means that when you are ready to disassemble the gun, you do not point it at your dog, your left hand, your firstborn child, or at the expensive widescreen TV you cannot afford to replace. You never allow the firearm to point at anything you are not willing to destroy, nor at any human beings who aren’t on your better-dead list.

Rule Three means that even after you have removed the magazine and made sure the chamber doesn’t contain a live round, you still do not put your finger on the trigger until you have deliberately picked out the optimal spot for a bullet to land. The firearm must not be pointed in some random direction when you pull the trigger. Rather, you have deliberately considered which spot in the area would be the most acceptable place to put a bullet, and you point your firearm at that spot and at that spot only before you ever allow your finger to rest upon the trigger.

Rule Four means that when you choose that spot, you’d darn well better remember that interior walls don’t stop bullets. If you need to build a solid backstop in order to have a safe place to disassemble firearms in your home, you do so.

And that’s how you disassemble a gun while obeying the Four Rules.