The parents' responsibility

The prime responsibility for a child's safety rests squarely on his or her parents. In a home where guns are kept, good par­ents must be careful to display (and insist that others dis­play) safe gun-handling, responsible use and good gun man­ners. Whether gun owners or not, all caring parents have the great responsibility of ensuring their children's safety by teaching them about the dangers they may encounter - whether from a stranger, a hot stove, a bottle of paraffin, fire, electricity ... or a firearm.

Talking with your child about gun safety

A good time to introduce the subject may be the first time he or she is old enough to show an interest - even if in toy pistols or rifles. Talking openly and honestly about firearm safety is much more effective than simply ordering your child to "Stay away from guns". Such statements may just stimu­late a child's natural curiosity to investigate further. Explain the rules and answer his or her questions to promote proper understanding and respect - the core of safety. Any rules set for your own child should also apply to any visi­tors to the home - your friends as well as your child's visitors. This will help keep your child from being pressured into show­ing a gun to a friend.

Toy guns vs. real guns

It is also advisable, particularly with very young children, to discuss the difference between real life and `acting'. Firearms are often handled carelessly in movies and on tv, and so many `shot and killed' actors reappear on screens that chil­dren can be forgiven for thinking that gunshot wounds and `deaths' are not permanent. Make sure your child knows the difference between being `killed' on tv and in reality. If your child has toy guns, you may want to use them to demonstrate safe gun handling and to explain how they differ from genuine firearms.

Safe storage

Make sure your `real' guns (including BB and pellet guns) are inaccessible to unsupervised children.

Be a good role model

Set the right example for your children by making your good gun manners and safety procedures clearly obvious even to the casual onlooker. `Slick handling' by an experienced gun owner may be all very well (and safe) but your first objective when in the presence of others - especially your children - should be to show them that you respect your firearms and that there are no exceptions to safety rules.

Pellet guns and air guns

Pellet guns have been the traditional 'first gun' of many a child but now that air guns have been 'deregulated' you may be considering the more powerful option. Whichever `first gun' your child handles please make sure that it is treated with the same caution and respect as your own .375H&H. Safety begins with the first gun.

What to tell your children

Shooting for BB and pellet gun safety

BB and pellet guns provide hours of enjoyment. They are also a good way to get started in a lifetime of shooting recre­ation and sport. Through air guns, boys and girls can safely learn the basics of good shooting. These basics can take you into any number of other shooting activities, including all the way to the Olympics.

Always with an adult

Before handling any gun, always get permission from your parents or another responsible adult. If this is your first BB or pellet gun, sit down with your parents and discuss under what circumstances the gun can be handled.

Always follow the safety rules

Gun safety is a simple but continuous process. You develop safe handling skills only through proper, supervised practice.

Always learn how first - Before you start shooting, learn what it takes to shoot safely and successfully.

Study the gun operations guide with your parents or another adult. Be sure you understand all of the manufacturer's instruc­tions.

Always find a knowledgeable adult to teach you safety and proper shooting techniques.

The most important safety element is your attitude - knowledge and skills are of little value unless you really use them. Being safe means that you always con­sciously keep your gun under control.

Remember too, that a gun's mechanical safety device is never foolproof - nothing can ever replace safe gun handling.

Always on a safe shooting range

Whenever you shoot a BB or pellet gun it is essential that you use a safe shooting range. A safe indoor range can be set up in many places: in your home, community hall, recre­ation centre, etc; or outdoors in a backyard or farm - pro­vided animals or people cannot cross your line-of-fire. To have a safe range three things must be present:- a safe area, a safe distance and a safe backstop. A local gun shop can usually tell you how to contact a nearby shooting club.

FIREARM SAFETY DEPENDS ON YOU! (Make no mistake about it!)

STOP! Don't Touch • Leave the Area -Tell an Adult

What should you teach your child about gun safety?

If you have decided that your child is not yet ready to be trained in gun handling and use, you should explain that he or she must never touch a gun unless you are present and have given permission. As it is possible that your child could come across a gun outside the home, you should also teach him or her to adhere to the following basic safety instructions:

STOP!

Don't Touch

• Leave the Area -Tell an Adult

The initial steps of "STOP!" and "Don't Touch" are the most important. To counter the natural impulse to touch a gun, it is imperative that you impress these steps of the safety message upon your child.

In today's society where adult supervision is not always possible, the direction to "Leave the Area" is also essential. Under some circumstances, "area" may be understood to be a room if your child cannot physically leave the flat or house.

Tell an Adult" emphasizes that children should seek a trustworthy adult - neighbour, relative, teacher - if a parent or guardian is not available.

All shooters must know these basic safety rules The three rules on this page are fundamental in any situa­tion. Whether or not you own a gun, it is important to know these rules so that you may insist that others follow them.

Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction Whether you are shooting or simply handling a gun, never point it at yourself or others. Common sense will tell you which direction is safest. Outdoors, it is generally safe to point the gun toward the ground, or, if you are on a shooting range, toward the backstop. Indoors, be mindful of the fact that a bullet can penetrate ceilings, floors, walls, windows, and doors.

•    Always keep your finger out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot

When handling a gun, people have a natural ten­dency to put their finger on the trigger. Do not touch the trigger unless you are actually preparing to fire the gun.

Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use If you do not know how to check to see if a gun is unloaded, leave it alone. Carefully secure it, being certain to point it safely and to keep your finger off the trigger, and seek competent assistance.

JOIN SAGA TODAY!

More Basic Shooting Safety

Be sure of your target, and what's beyond it Be sure that your bullet will not injure anyone or any­thing beyond your target. Firing at a movement or a noise without having positively identified it as a legal and legitimate target could have tragic consequences.

Use correct ammunition

It takes only one improper or incorrect cartridge to wreck your gun and cause you serious personal injury.

If your gun fails to fire ...

If the trigger is pulled and the gun fails to fire, WAIT for a full ten seconds. Exercise EXTREME care. With the gun pointed in a safe direction and your face away from the breech, carefully open the action, unload the firearm and dispose of the cartridge in a safe way.

Always wear ear and eye protection

Shooting noise can permanently damage your hearing. Shooting glasses guard against escaping gases, ruptured cases, ricochets and other hazards.

Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions Before you load your firearm, open the action and be cer­tain that no ammunition is already in the chamber, mag­azine or cylinder. Check that the barrel is clear of any obstruction - sand, twigs, mud, gunge - the smallest of which can cause dangerously increased pressures causing the barrel to bulge or burst.

BE SMART, BE SAFE!

Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety

•               Make safety a habit - you can't recall a speeding bullet.

•               Point firearms only at your target or in a safe direction.

•               Check the barrel and action for obstructions.

•               Treat all firearms as if they are loaded and cocked.

•               Store weapons unloaded in a safe place.

•               Firearms are for adult use, not for playing games.

•               Know and use only the right, clean and dry ammunition.

•               Ricochets can be dangerous -don't shoot at hard flat surfaces or water.

 •              Think clearly before pulling a trigger - don't mix alcohol and gun powder.

•            Teach your family the proper use of firearms - knowledge breeds respect.

This booklet is not intended as a complete course in gun safety nnd is not a substitute for formal, qualified instruction in the handling, use, or storage of firearms. The guidelines herein should minimize the chance of accidental discharges and the abuse of firearms.

Issued in the interest of public safety by The SA Gunowners' Association Membership enquiries: PO Box 35203, Northway, 4065 Tel: (031) 562-9951 • Fax: (031) 562-0530 e-mail: saga@iafrica.com • website: www.saga.org.za