Firearm Safety - The Dangers of Complacency

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Queensland Country Life and Shooters Union of Australia run an article this week highlighting firearm safety and how complacency can kill. With more people enjoying hunting and shooting more than ever it's a perfect time to ensure the people we are introducing, understand the basic principles for firearm handling.

Recently I introduced a group of friends to hunting for the first time. Firearm safety was the highest priority of the trip. With a few simple rules laid out from the start the weekend went flawlessly. The rules are simple and when presented from the start it builds habbits for proper firearm handling. I insisted they call me out if they felt I was not following the same rules I had laid out. 

Many people follow a selection of these rules but its good practice to follow and insist that all are followed.

  • Treat all firearms as if they are always loaded 

  • Never point a firearm at anything you are not willing to see destroyed

  • Keep your finger off the trigger until the firearm is pointed at the target

  • Always be sure of your target and the area behind it before you fire

 

I often hunt with very experienced hunters. With this aside it is always general practice to confirm chambers are clear and firearms are safe for walking or storage. This is especially important after contact with an animal has been made or when there has been a distraction.  

QCL interviewed Shooters’ Union of Australia president, Graham Park.

We take it for granted that people who have used rifles, shotguns, handguns, or semi-automatic weapons as a tool in their daily work routine are well aware of these, and most are, but it’s complacency that’s killing us.

"People that are around firearms all their life tend to lessen their vigilance for the basics".

“Some of the people who’ve had accidents with guns are very experienced,” he said.

At the same time, there are relatively few accidents involving firearms, and the number is dropping.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there were 338 hospitalised cases in 2013–14 and 209 deaths in 2012–13 as a result of firearm-related injuries.

Over a third of hospitalised cases were the result of unintentional injury, one-third resulted from assault, and in almost one-fifth of cases, the intent was undetermined.

In contrast, over 79 per cent of deaths resulted from intentional self-harm, while over 17pc resulted from assault (homicide).

Most people injured by firearms were male—93pc of hospitalised cases and 91pc of deaths resulting from firearm-related incidents.

Rates of firearm-related injuries for both hospitalised cases and deaths fell between 1999–00 and 2005–06 from a starting rate of 2 cases per 100,000 population to 1.5 per 100,000 for hospitalised cases, and 1 per 100,000 for deaths in 2013–14.

“It’s a good news story these days – accidental injuries with firearms has dropped dramatically in Australia in the last 50 years,” Mr Park said. “It’s a combination of a few things – guns are safer nowadays, and there’s better training.”

While courses are a requirement for people wanting a weapons licence, Mr Park said they were just generally a good idea.

“Parents have been taking their young people along and sitting in on the instruction, and you can see it’s a good reminder for them.”

Mark Costello, the principal of Asset Training, Queensland’s largest training agency, said they filled every course they scheduled, both in Brisbane and regional areas.

This amounted to around 5000 people a year receiving instruction, which Mr Costello said was a mix of property owners, sporting shooters, collectors, people who wanted to go hunting, and pest controllers.

Ages ranged from 11 to 94.

Mr Costello was complimentary of Queensland’s licensing system, saying that it was only a day in length but was comprehensive.

“It leads to high standards,” he said. “We’re seeing a trend in people being more conscious of safety with their tools.”

Mr Park summarised it with the following: “If you understand basic safety, all you’ll have is embarrassment, not a tragedy.”

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