Firearms safety and your family

  • Published
  • By Maj. Brent Pickrell
  • 377th Security Forces Squadron Commander

Recently, an Air Force installation experienced the suicide of a dependent child.  This tragic incident was perpetrated with the use of a parent’s privately owned firearm, reminding us of the importance of protecting our firearms to keep our homes as safe as possible.

Storage guidelines state you have the responsibility to store firearms in such a manner as to deter theft and preclude improper usage, especially by children. If you have no children, this does not mean you may keep loaded weapons readily accessible in your house.  You may still bear fault if someone breaks into your home, and uses a firearm taken from your home in an unlawful manner.  If you have children, you must store the firearms not only to prevent your children from getting them, but also to deter theft and improper use.  The recommended means of storage is to lock them in a gun safe, which may be obtained from any number of retailers in the local area.

Firearm safety education is also very important. Even if you do not own firearms, family members could still be exposed to them outside your home, so reviewing the following standard firearms safety rules with your family is important. 

Some firearms safety guidelines to know and teach your children:

• “Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.” There are many incidents each year where someone is shot with a firearm believed to be unloaded. 

• “Never point a firearm at something you are not prepared to destroy.” It is vitally important to be aware of what the muzzle is pointed at, and to be cognizant of this at all times while handling a firearm. 

• “Never joke or gesture with a firearm.” A firearm is not a toy and should never be used in a joking manner. 

• “Do not touch the trigger until you are ready to fire.” Pressing the trigger of a firearm is something that should be taken very seriously and a person engaging in this activity should always be cognizant of their environment when shooting, and should be aware of the condition of the firearm when cleaning or handling the firearm. 

• “When shooting, always be sure of your target and beyond.” Keep in mind that bullets are made to penetrate and if you are shooting that bullet may go through your target and proceed on to something else.

Parents should enforce these guidelines not only with real firearms, but also with items intended to be toys.  Children tend to understand the seriousness of firearms handling if you do not allow them to joke around by pointing squirt guns and other toys at people, and remind them of these rules while handling toys.

If a member of your family or a friend begins exhibiting warning signs for suicide, please contact a mental health professional, a local hospital, or your chain of command.  Symptoms to be on the lookout for are making comments about suicide, preoccupation with death, giving away belongings, withdrawing from people or activities previously important to that person, moodiness or hostile behavior, or any drastic change in personality or behavior.  To contact the Mental Health Clinic, call 846-3305. 

We all have a responsibility to take action when a potentially dangerous situation exists, and to take care of each other.