The debate

Gun Manufacturers
Ballistics
Consumer Safety
Litigation
Smart Guns
Trigger Locks
Gun Sellers

Background Checks
One Gun a Month
Waiting Periods

Gun Owners

Concealed Carry
Licensing
Registration
Preemption
Project Exile
Safe Storage

 


Ballistic Fingerprinting

Bullets and shell casings fired from a handgun contain unique markings—like fingerprints—which can be used to link specific handguns with gun crimes. Law enforcement can use these markings to determine if a specific bullet or shell casing was fired from a specific firearm. Ballistics or gun fingerprinting proposals require that handguns be test-fired before they are sold, and that its unique “fingerprints” be entered into a computer database that will be accessible to law enforcement.

Two states, New York and Maryland, have recently enacted legislation that requires newly sold handguns to be test-fired before they are sold in order to permit the collection of spent bullets and/or shell casings. Two firearm manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Glock, are currently installing a system to produce digital images of ballistic material for all handguns produced. Each company will maintain its own database that will be accessible to law enforcement.

 Proponents Say

  • The actual handgun used in a gun crime is rarely left at a crime scene, making gun tracing impossible. However, shell casings and bullets are often found at crime scenes. Ballistic fingerprinting will increase law enforcement’s ability to link guns with gun crime events and find and lock up criminals.

 Critics Say

  • Ballistic fingerprinting is a de facto registration system for handguns. Law enforcement will have a register of all handgun owners, which could possibly be the first step to confiscation of all lawfully owned handguns.
  • Implementing the recordkeeping associated with ballistic fingerprinting would be expensive and wasteful. The state would have to develop and maintain a large database of spent bullets and cartridges, most of which will never be used in crime.
  • Ballistic markings from bullets and shell casings can be altered easily, thereby rendering the “fingerprints” useless.

 What the Public Thinks

  • No data on public support is available at this time.


Consumer Safety Standards

Although it may be more difficult for a child to open a bottle of aspirin than to fire a gun, Congress has expressly forbidden the Consumer Product Safety Commission—or any other national government agency—from regulating firearms. As a result, toy guns and teddy bears are subject to more manufacturing oversight than handguns.

American-made guns are one of the few consumer products specifically exempt from consumer product safety regulations (imported firearms are required to meet certain safety standards).

Proposals have been put forth to apply consumer product safety regulations to the firearm industry to require uniform quality and safety standards for American-made guns.

 Proponents Say

  • Just as the re-engineering of cars has contributed to dramatic declines in motor vehicle fatalities, subjecting gun manufacturers to safety regulations would be an important step toward preventing accidental gun deaths.
  • Federal law requires imported handguns to meet minimum safety standards; handguns produced in the United States should be subject to the same standards.

 Critics Say

  • Guns are designed to inflect injury and death and therefore, the notion that a firearm can be made “safe” stands against the very nature of the product.
  • New safety standards will cause the price of handguns to increase making handguns too expensive for the poor to own.
  • New safety measures may lead to a ban on pre-existing handguns that do not meet the mandated level of safety.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans—and 64% of gun owners—say they support government safety regulations for the design of guns. Ninety-four percent (94%) believe handguns made in the U.S. should meet the same safety standards applied to imported guns.

SOURCE: TERET ET AL., 1998

Litigation against the Gun Industry

As passage of gun safety legislation has been continually stalled in the Congress, some advocates of gun safety have turned to lawsuits against the gun industry to try and force new safety feature requirements for firearms.

One approach these lawsuits have taken is to sue the industry for negligence in failing to manufacture guns with available safety features.

Under this approach, a number of people have brought suits against specific gun manufacturers on behalf of deceased family members who were killed accidentally. The suits claim that the manufacturer could have—and should have—incorporated well-known and available safety features into the design of the gun that would have prevented death.

Currently, some municipalities have sued the gun industry for failing to incorporate existing safety features that would prevent certain accidental deaths or failing to develop “smart guns.” In March 2000, Smith & Wesson, the nation’s largest handgun manufacturer and producer of 20 percent of handguns sold in the United States, agreed to institute a series of safety and business practice reforms, in exchange for being dismissed from some of the municipal lawsuits.

 Proponents Say

  • The technology exists to make handguns safer and reduce the number of accidental deaths that occur each year due to firearms.
  • Since some of the technology to make guns safer has existed for many years, it is apparent that only litigation will force the industry to adopt such technology.
  • Developing safety gun technology, such as “smart guns,” could help reduce the number of firearms available in the illegal market by making stolen guns unusable.

 Critics Say

  • Handguns are designed to kill and no technology can make them safe.
  • Safety features that cause a firearm to function improperly can prevent a gun owner from responding quickly to an emergency, thereby causing loss of life.
  • Proper firearm education programs can teach firearm owners how to properly handle their firearms further regulation of the manufacturing of guns is not needed.
  • The cost of litigation will eventually lead all handgun manufacturers to cease producing guns effectively leading to a ban on the sale of handguns.
  • Litigation will also drive up the cost of purchasing a firearm and will deny the poor of the right to own a gun.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Approximately 40 percent of those surveyed said that they believe their city or state should sue gun makers to force stricter safety measures from the industry.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000


Smart Guns

“Smart” guns—or personalized guns—are guns designed to be fired only by the gun’s owner.

They may reduce the likelihood of unintentional firearm injuries to young children, adolescent suicides, firearm injuries or crimes inflected by criminals who wield stolen guns, and firearm injuries to law enforcement officers whose guns are seized in a struggle.

There are a number of technologies in existence that can be used to personalize guns. In general, gun manufacturers have refused to invest in and develop personalized guns. However, state and federal legislation has been introduced that would require the development and production of personalized guns.

 Proponents Say

  • “Smart” guns will reduce unintentional firearm injuries by suicides by unauthorized users such as young family members by making it impossible for them to operate such guns.
  • “Smart” guns can also prevent gun deaths and injuries from stolen guns; as such guns are inoperable by the thief (more than 500,000 guns are stolen from homes each year).
  • “Smart” guns are more effective than trigger locks and other removable devices because they provide passive, automatic protection. The gun is normally in a locked position.

 Critics Say

  • The technology does not yet exist to make 100 percent foolproof personalized guns commercially available.
  • The cost of “smart” guns will be prohibitively high, pricing poor families out of the gun market.
  • A mandate to require “smart” guns will lead to the confiscation and destruction of non-“smart” guns.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans polled—and 59 percent of gun owners—support legislation requiring manufacturers to personalize all handguns sold in the U.S.

SOURCE: TERET ET AL., 1998

Trigger Locks

Trigger locks are gun safety locks designed to prevent a gun’s trigger from going off accidentally. Trigger lock models currently available include keyed devices, combination locks and alarms. There is currently no national law requiring trigger locks for firearms.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently found that many of the locks currently on the market could be defeated by children. If you have children living in or visiting your home, you should carefully research the safety features of your locking device. While there is no national safety standard for gun locks, the State of California recently adopted very stringent standards for locks that must be met in order for the lock to be sold in California. A list of locks that have been tested and approved is available at http://caag.state.ca.us/firearms/fsdcertlist.htm.

 Proponents Say

  • Trigger locks are an inexpensive way to prevent guns kept in the home from being operated by unsupervised children, and therefore will help reduce the unintentional firearm deaths and suicides occurring each year.
  • Legislation requiring that trigger locks be provided with every handgun sold is needed to maximize the number of families using these locks.

 Critics Say

  • Since there are no federal standards on trigger locks, the quality of products vary greatly and, in some cases, guns with locks that make the trigger inaccessible can still fire, if loaded. Some can be easily broken or otherwise overcome.
  • A trigger lock will increase the time it takes a gun owner to respond to a self-defense emergency.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans support a requirement that trigger locks be used for all handguns.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000

Background Checks for All Gun Purchases

The Brady law requires that all licensed gun dealers conduct a background check on all gun purchasers. There is a significant loophole in this law, however, in that unlicensed dealers are permitted to sell guns at gun shows, through the internet, and in private sales without performing any type of background check.

The loophole has a real impact on the ability of kids and criminals to have access to guns. Guns used in the Columbine shooting and the day care center shooting in Granada Hills were purchased through unlicensed dealers at gun shows—without background checks.

Proposals have been offered to close this loophole in its most visible context—gun shows, where both licensed and unlicensed dealers gather. Other proposals would go further, mandating that all gun sales—even for guns that are sold by private sellers through the newspaper, for example—be subject to background checks.

 Proponents Say

  • The Brady Act has made significant gains in improving gun safety by preventing more than 500,000 prohibited persons from purchasing guns through the use of background checks.SOURCE: GIFFORD ET AL., BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, 2000But this effort has been significantly hampered by the gun show loophole and other inadequacies in the law, which prevent background checks from being run on all gun sales.

 Critics Say

  • Requiring background checks at gun shows and for private sales would be very difficult to enforce. Therefore, the non-licensed dealers that are conducting these sales have no incentives to obey the law. Furthermore, there is no effective way to monitor whether or not background checks are being completed on private sales.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Eighty-one percent of Americans polled believe all handgun sales should be subject to a Brady background check and a five-day waiting period.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000


One-Gun-a-Month

“One-gun-a-month” proposals prohibit the purchase of more than one gun each month by the same purchaser. These laws are designed to reduce illegal trafficking in handguns by preventing traffickers from purchasing multiple handguns at a single time.

Several studies conducted by the federal government have concluded that areas with “strong gun laws,” such as New York, California and Chicago, Illinois, are flooded with handguns by traffickers who purchase large amounts of handguns from “weak gun law” states.

For example, one survey reported that 94.2 percent of crime guns recovered in New York City were originally purchased in another state (Youth Gun Interdiction Crime Gun Trace Analysis Report).

In an attempt to reduce interstate trafficking of firearms, four states (California, Maryland, South Carolina, and Virginia) limit sales of handguns, with limited exceptions, to one handgun a month per customer. These laws can affect interstate trafficking because they make it more difficult for traffickers to purchase multiple firearms legally in one state so they can transport these firearms to another state with stricter gun safety laws, for illegal sale there.

 Proponents Say

  • Current laws leave states that seek to regulate the sale and possession of firearms vulnerable to illegal guns flowing into their communities from states that do not regulate firearms.
  • One-gun-a-month laws will reduce the illegal traffic in handguns, by preventing traffickers from purchasing multiple handguns at a single time.
  • Studies have shown that one-gun-a-month laws work. Virginia’s one-gun-a-month law made it 36 percent less likely that in certain states guns associated with a criminal investigation would be traced to Virginia gun dealers rather than to dealers in southeastern states.

 Critics Say

  • Transporting a firearm across state lines and re-selling it without a federal firearm license is already a crime.
  • There is no evidence that imposing a limit on the number of guns a person can buy has definitive benefits, such as a reduction in violent crime, for citizens of states that enact such laws.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Eighty-one percent of Americans favor limiting handgun purchases to one per month.

SOURCE: TERET ET AL., 1998

Waiting Periods
for Handgun Purchases

A waiting period is a mandatory “cooling off” period imposed between the time a person purchases a gun and is permitted to take possession of the weapon.

At its inception, the Brady Law required a 5-day waiting period to purchase a handgun. However, in 1998, the 5-day period was replaced with an instant background check.

More than ninety percent of all Brady background checks are performed instantly. In the remaining cases—where the instant check reveals a potential problem that may prohibit the purchaser from owning a gun—the gun purchase may be delayed no more than three days while records are reviewed.

While there is no longer a national waiting period to purchase handguns, some states have chosen to impose their own waiting period. The waiting period is also referred to as a “cooling-off period” because the time lag required before receiving the gun could serve to reduce the impulsive violent use of firearms. Currently, seventeen states impose a waiting period during the purchase of a firearm. These waiting periods are generally 1 to 7 days.

 Proponents Say

  • Waiting periods can help reduce firearm violence by hindering a person who, enraged or distraught to the point that he or she cannot make rational decisions, wants to purchase a firearm to exact revenge on someone or commit suicide. A waiting period will allow time for this person to calm down and possibly react to the situation confronting them in a non-violent manner.
  • In some cases, background checks cannot be performed within three days—the maximum amount of time for a check allowed under current law. Mental records are often not computerized, for example. Therefore, it is possible that someone with a mental health history may legally purchase a firearm without those records being completely reviewed.

 Critics Say

  • There is no evidence that laws delaying handgun purchases have any effect on crime or firearm suicide.
  • A waiting period is a hindrance to lawful firearm purchasers.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Eighty-one percent of Americans want both a background check and a five-day waiting period before the purchase of a handgun.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000

Concealed Carry Laws

Concealed carry laws permit gun owners, under certain conditions, to carry a concealed loaded weapon in public.

These laws were passed in response to concerns that only criminals were carrying concealed loaded weapons and that law-abiding gun owners have the right to protect themselves.

While there is no national law addressing the concealed carry of weapons, most states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons in public after obtaining a permit from law enforcement authorities.

 Proponents Say

  • Passing concealed carry laws will lead to criminals being confronted with more and more armed victims. This will lead to increased deterrence to criminals and a reduction in crime.
  • Publicity surrounding the passage of concealed carry laws will deter criminals from committing armed crime for fear of being confronted with an armed victim.

 Critics Say

  • There is no evidence that passing concealed carry laws leads lead to an increase in successful self-defense uses of handguns.
  • Petty and street criminals are generally not aware of new laws passed in the state legislature, and therefore will not be deterred from crime simply because a relaxed concealed carry law is passed.
  • Widespread, immediate access to loaded handguns, which is encouraged by concealed carry, increases the risk that an argument will escalate to firearm violence or that a personal crisis will trigger an impulsive suicide.

 What the Public Thinks

  • 56% of Americans believe that CCW permits should be issued only to those who can prove “special needs” to carry. The public is sharply split, however, on the basic questions of whether concealed carry weapons make life safer—by allowing citizens to arm themselves against potential criminals—or more dangerous by increasing the number of armed persons.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000

Licensing Handgun Owners

There is currently no national law requiring licensing of handgun owners. While proposals vary, licensing would generally require that all new, would-be handgun owners obtain a license showing they have passed a safety test and undergone a criminal background check in order to purchase or possess a handgun. Although there is no federal licensing requirement, five states have passed legislation requiring handgun licenses.

 Proponents Say

  • Licensing will improve gun safety by requiring all gun purchasers to go through safety training. Because a number of gun deaths occur each year due to unsafe handling or storing of firearms, safety training will help reduce the number of unintentional and teen firearm deaths.
  • A licensing system would effectively close the “gun show loophole,” by requiring that all gun owners go through a criminal background check—no matter where that purchase takes place.
  • It is common sense that if we require licenses for owners ofnon-lethal products like cars, that we should require that deadly weapon owners are also licensed, too.

 Critics Say

  • Handgun owner licensing could eventually lead to the registration and confiscation of all handguns, as some claim it has in other countries.
  • There is no evidence that safety training will reduce unintentional and other deaths. Gun owners may choose not to follow safe behaviors, even though they have been taught them.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Eighty-five percent of persons surveyed believe new, would-be handgun purchasers should be required to undergo gun safety training. Sixty-eight percent would extend this requirement to current handgun owners.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000

Registration of Handguns

Currently, there is no federal requirement that handguns be registered. Proposals would require that all handguns be registered to their owner in a system similar to the registration of automobiles. Registration would provide a paper trail on each handgun as it is transferred from owner to owner.

 Proponents Say

  • Registration of handguns would greatly enhance the ability of law enforcement to track handguns used in crimes and reduce handgun trafficking.
  • Registration would provide the necessary incentive for unlicensed sellers to perform background checks and to report stolen guns, so that they are not personally associated with the subsequent use in criminal activity.
  • Registration is a common sense approach to reducing the flow of illegal weapons. Guns like automobiles or other potentially deadly products are uniquely dangerous and it makes sense that their sale or transfer ought to be recorded.

 Critics Say

  • Registration of handguns is the first step to confiscation of lawfully owned handguns.
  • Registration would be ineffective in stopping gun crimes, as it would not pertain to the 65 million handguns already in circulation.

 What the Public Thinks

  • Eighty percent (80%) of Americans questioned favor mandatory registration of handguns.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000

Repealing State Preemption Laws

The majority of states have passed some form of state preemption laws with regard to the regulation of firearms. Generally speaking, these state preemption laws forbid local communities from passing firearm laws that are more stringent than those governing the state as a whole.

If a state has not passed a gun preemption law, cities of that state are free to enact measures to regulate firearms. For example, the absence of a state preemption law in Illinois allows the Township of Morton Grove to ban possession of handguns within city limits.

In light of gun safety law gridlock at the national level, some cities are interested in enacting their own ordinances to promote gun safety and seek the repeal of state preemption laws as a means to restore local control over firearm policy.

 Proponents Say

  • The firearm injury experience of different areas—rural, semi-rural, suburban and urban—differ greatly. Municipalities need the freedom to address their particular aspects of the firearm issue as they see fit. This may sometimes mean enacting stronger legislation that exists at the state level.
  • Local jurisdictions should have the right to self-legislate.
  • The inconvenience imposed on transients is outweighed by the potential benefits of addressing local aspects of the firearm issue with local legislation.

 Critics Say

  • Where no uniform state laws are in place, the result can be a complex patchwork of restrictions that change from one local jurisdiction to the next. It is unreasonable to require lawful gun owners, whether residents of a given state or persons passing through or visiting a state, to memorize a myriad of laws, at the risk of potential expense and confiscation of their firearms.

 What the Public Thinks

  • No data on public support is available at this time.

Project Exile

Tough prosecution of criminals guilty of gun crimes is one strategy law enforcement is using to help battle gun crime.

Project Exile is a program that maximizes the penalties for gun crimes by providing for the prosecution of gun crimes in federal court, where criminal penalties tend to be harsher than in most state courts

Project Exile originated in Richmond, Virginia, and has been instituted in Newport News, Virginia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Rochester, New York.

In addition to providing for federal prosecution of all gun crimes, Project Exile also provides for mandatory sentences for illegal firearm possession and denial of bond for those arrested on firearm charges.

 Proponents Say

  • There is some evidence that programs such as Project Exile have had an effect in reducing the population of armed criminals in Richmond. Authorities there contend that Project Exile helped cut homicide rates by 36 percent (New York Times, 1999).
  • Knowing that gun crimes will be prosecuted under the harshest penalties allowed will serve as a strong deterrent for would-be gun criminals.

 Critics Say

  • Tough prosecution of gun criminals will do little to stop overall gun violence while loopholes in current law—like the gun show loophole—are allowed to go unaddressed.
  • Project Exile is expensive to implement. Federal prosecutions cost approximately three times as much as local prosecution of gun crimes.
  • Project Exile is inherently racist because it is only being implemented in urban areas with heavy minority populations. Therefore, suspects arrested under Project Exile—usually minorities—are prosecuted under stricter standards than white suspects from outlying counties accused of committing the same crimes.

<
 What the Public Thinks

  • More than three-quarters of Americans questioned believe the use of a gun during commission of a crime should result in a doubling of the sentence.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000

Safe Storage Laws

“Safe Storage Laws” require the safe storage of guns around children. These laws are also known as Child Access Prevention or “CAP” laws.

These laws make adults criminally liable if a child obtains their improperly stored guns and uses them to commit violence. Seventeen states have enacted such safe storage or CAP laws.

 Proponents Say

  • Safe storage laws encourage gun-owning families to store their guns in a way that protects their children from accidentally shooting themselves or others, using their parents’ gun to commit suicide, which is a leading cause of youth mortality.
  • There is some evidence that passage of safe storage laws is associated with a reduction in accidental firearm deaths among children under 14.
    SOURCE: CUMMINGS ET AL., 1997

 Critics Say

  • Safe storage laws are not necessary since accidental child firearm deaths represent such a small fraction of all gun deaths (about 1.5 percent).
  • The passage of safe storage laws will not reduce firearm deaths and injuries but rather impair people’s ability to use guns in self-defense.
  • The actual prosecution of parents whose child uses their parents’ gun to kill himself or herself or another child is rare. Therefore they cannot be considered a deterrent.

 What the Public Thinks

  • More than three-quarters of persons polled support making gun owners liable if a child misuses an improperly stored gun.

SOURCE: SMITH, 2000

 



Teret, Stephen P., Daniel W. Webster, Jon S. Vernick et al.

Support for New Policies to Regulate Firearms: Results of Two National Surveys. New England Journal of Medicine 339(12):812-818, 1998 Sept.


Smith, Tom W.

2000 National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center: Research Findings. National Opinion Research Center: University of Chicago, 2000.


Gifford, Lea S., Devon B. Adams, and Gene Lauver

Background Checks for Firearm Transfers. (Bureau of Justice Statistics bulletin, June 2000, NCJ 180882) Washington, D.C.:U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000.


Cummings, Peter, David C. Grossman, Frederick P. Rivara et al.

State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due To Firearms.Journal of the American Medical Association, 278(13) 1084-86, 19

 

Firearm safety during hunting,transportation or range

Whether you are a hunter, shooting sports competitor, casual shooter preparing for a day at the range, or just heading out to take your firearm to a gunsmith, these guidelines should be observed.

 

Hunting safety

Whether using a rifle or shotgun, the rules for gun safety while hunting are not very different. Combined with the generic gun safety rules, they are designed to preserve the safety of you and your two-and four-legged hunting companions.

Before the Hunting Trip

Before leaving home, sight-in your firearm by practicing with the firearm and ammunition combination you intend to use during the hunt. “Sighting in” a rifle means you know exactly where the bullet will land when your sights are properly aligned.

During the Hunt
  Always point the muzzle away
from yourself and others

Know How to Carry a Firearm Safely
Here are common ways to do so:

Two-Handed or Ready Carry

Here the rifle or shotgun is held with two hands and the muzzle is pointed up and toward the front. The firearm is in a semi- “port arms” position. The trigger-finger rests on the trigger guard.

Cradle Carry

The fore stock of the firearm is cradled in the crook of the non-trigger arm with the elbow bent. The trigger finger is kept off the trigger and resting on the trigger guard. Care must be taken that hunting companions are not in line with the muzzle, as the gun’s barrel is pointed directly to the side.

Trail Carry

Here the firearm is grasped with one hand at a balance point approximately over the action and trigger. The muzzle points ahead and down. Do not use this carry if companions are walking ahead of you.

Elbow or Side Carry

The firearm is carried by one hand with the stock tucked between the elbow and body. This carry is not advised when walking through dense brush or when others are walking in front of you.

Shoulder Carry

With the fore stock resting on your shoulder, the muzzle of the gun should be pointed skyward. Do not use this carry if someone is walking behind you.

Sling Carry

Using a sling to carry the rifle or shotgun over the shoulder, both hands are free.

When walking side-by-side in a line across a field, hunters at either end of the line should use the cradle or side carry. Hunters in the middle should use either the side or two-handed/rest carry.

When walking in single file the leader may choose any of the carries with the exception of the shoulder carry where the muzzle points up and toward the rear. Hunters in the center of the line should use the two-handed or cradle carry. The last hunter may use the two-hand, cradle, sling, or shoulder carry.

Establish Zones of Fire

When hunting with companions, determine ahead of time the “zone of fire” or area within which each hunter will track and fire should game appear. Other hunters must not encroach on the zone of another hunter.
Gun Safety While Hunting from Boats

There is a safety-etiquette for handling firearms when hunting from a boat. First, place the gun that will be used by the hunter who will be seated in the bow of the boat into the boat, unloaded, with its muzzle pointing forward over the bow. Next, the first hunter takes his place in the bow. The second firearm, also unloaded, is set in the stern of the boat with its muzzle pointing rearward. While underway, keep the forward firearm from extending over the bow or gunwales (boat sides) so it doesn’t catch on brush or reeds. Anchor the boat before shooting. The hunters should always shoot facing in opposite directions.

Gun Safety While Hunting from a Pit or Blind

Before entering the blind or pit, lay the unloaded gun on the ground near the entrance. Once in the blind, retrieve the firearm taking care to keep the muzzle free of dirt, mud or snow. The same precaution should be taken upon leaving. Place the unloaded firearm outside the blind before attempting to leave it yourself.

Other Important Safety Rules
  • Positively Identify Your Target Before Shooting
  • When in Doubt, Don’t Take the Shot
  • Never Use a Scoped Firearm For Binoculars
  • During a Fall, Control the Direction of a Muzzle
  • After a Fall, Check Firearm for Damage or Barrel Obstructions
  • Know When to UnloadDuring, the hunt, unload before climbing a fence, a steep grade, a slippery slope. After the hunt, unload before returning to camp or your car.

During transport

Firearm Transport Laws and Regulations

Laws governing firearms transportation vary from state to state. Before transporting your firearm anywhere (even to the shooting range), be make sure that you are familiar with your own state’s regulations. When you are crossing state and local jurisdictional boundaries, you should always check with local and state authorities for the latest federal, state, and local Laws and regulations covering the transport of firearms.

 

Basic Safety Rules for Transporting Guns

These rules are especially important in all situations:

 

  • Never pull a firearm toward you by the barrel
    If you attempt to remove a firearm from an automobile, a boat, a duck blind by pulling it toward you by the barrel, the trigger could catch on some object and accidentally discharge.
  • Never pick up a firearm with your finger on the trigger

 

In addition, observe the following safety precautions:

 

  • Keep Your Firearms Unloaded
  • Place Your Firearms in a Protective, Locked Case
  • Secure Your Firearms So They cannot move about during Travel
  • When Using Public Transportation Check with the Carrier
    for added Regulations

 

Range Safety

Safety on the range depends upon everyone on the firing line observing firearms safety procedures. Shooting may be an individual activity, but safety is the common concern for all.

  Instantly obey firing line commands  

Informal Range Activities

Typical safety procedures used during informal range activities are:

The Range is Hot!

This phrase, passed from shooter to shooter down the line on a range, indicates that no one is down range hanging targets or otherwise in the line of fire. Shooting can begin at the participants’ individual pace.

Cease Fire!

When a participant asks for a “Cease Fire” that usually signals the desire to set up new targets or perform some activity in front of the firing line on the range. After each participant acknowledges the “Cease Fire,” all firearms are unloaded and set down with the actions open. Never handle a firearm on the firing line when anyone is downrange during a “Cease Fire.”

Ready on the Right! Ready on the Left!

After all activity down range has been completed and all shooters have returned to the safety of the firing line, the question is asked if the line is “Ready?” The response signaling the conditions necessary before the range is “Hot” is to announce “Ready on the Left!” and “Ready on the Right!” At this point the phrase “The Range is Hot” is repeated by each shooter.

Formal Shooting Competitions

Common commands during formal shooting competitions include:

Is the Line Ready?

At this point competitors signal whether or not they are prepared to begin the event.

Not Ready!

This is the response of any competitor not yet prepared to shoot.

The Line is Not Ready!

Command given by the range officer if all competitors are not finished their preparations.

The Line is Ready!

Signal that all competitors are awaiting the signal to begin the event.

Load!

Although the competitors are “ready,” their firearms are kept unloaded until the Range Officer gives this command.

Ready on the Firing Line!

At this command, competitors relax and begin to control their breathing.

Commence Firing!

This command speaks for itself. If during an event your firearm malfunctions, place the firearm with the muzzle in a safe direction (pointed down range) and signal the range officer.

Cease Firing!

At this command, everyone stops. Actions of all firearms are opened. Every firearm is checked to insure that it is unloaded. Activity remains quiet until the range officer signals “Clear” indicating any malfunction has been corrected.

Handguns primer

Types of Handguns

The term to describe a firearm designed to be held and fired from one hand is “handgun.” Although some use “pistol” as a generic term for all types of handguns, that is not technically correct.

Technically, a pistol is any handgun in which the chamber is part of the barrel. That includes semi-automatics, single shot handguns, or multiple barrel pistols such as multi-shot derringers. A strict application of the term excludes revolvers where the chamber is found inside the cylinder. Nevertheless, “pistol” has become a generic term applied to virtually all handguns.

There are many handgun variations, both modern and antique. While the handgun designs popular in the 19th Century are enjoying a resurgence thanks to “cowboy” and Civil War marksmanship competitions, the two most popular and widely-used modern handgun designs are the revolver and the “auto-loader” or semi-automatic.

Semi-automatic and revolver handguns can be either double action or single action.

Single Action: An action that requires a manual cocking of the hammer before sufficient pressure on the trigger releases the firing mechanism.

Double Action: An action where a single pull of the trigger cocks and releases the hammer.

Revolvers

The two most common configurations for revolvers each have solid frames. One has a fixed cylinder, whereby a bushing and cylinder rod extend through the frame holding the cylinder in place, while the other has a cyclinder that swings out from the frame for loading and unloading.

Fixed Cylinder Revolvers

The fixed-cylinder design is the oldest. Perhaps the most widely-known model is the Colt Single Action Army, used by the post-Civil War U.S. military and relied upon by old-time law enforcement and western cattlemen, homesteaders and even the Old West’s legendary outlaws. The originals are valuable collector’s items.

How to load a fixed cylinder revolver

  1. Loading the fixed cylinder revolver requires manually placing the hammer on “half cock” (a position aptly named as the hammer literally is thumbed halfway between its resting position and its fully cocked position toward the rear of the frame). This allows the cylinder to freely rotate without working the trigger.

  2. Point the muzzle toward the ground. Next open the hinged “loading gate” located on the right side of the frame to the rear of the cylinder. With the loading gate swung to the outside, load a fresh cartridge via the “loading ramp” into the empty chamber. Manually advance the cylinder to expose access to the next chamber and repeat the process.

  3. While on half-cock and with the loading gate open, rotate the cylinder and visually inspect all individual chambers for a “high” or protruding primer. Unless the primer is seated properly, it may cause the cylinder to free and not freely rotate. Remove any cartridge with a “high primer.”

  4. Keep the sixth chamber in the cylinder empty. For safety reasons, 19th Century hand gunners developed this practice. The hammer with its fixed firing pin was lowered onto the empty chamber in order to avoid accidental discharges that might occur if the hammer is accidentally struck, the handgun dropped, or if the revolver swept from its holster by a branch or brush while in pursuit of a lost calf. The practice is a standard safety procedure today.

As its name states, the Single Action Army is a “single action” style revolver. That means the hammer must be cocked each time a shot is to be fired. Cocking the hammer moves the cylinder to align a chamber with the forcing cone at the breech of the barrel at the front and the firing pin at the rear. A cylinder stop rises from the bottom of the frame and engages the cylinder notch to hold the cylinder in place for firing. As the trigger is brought rearward, the hammer falls and its firing pin strikes the primer at the center of the cartridge base.

In “double action” variations, the fixed cylinder revolver cycles the cocking of the hammer and revolving of the cylinder to line up the next cartridge in ready to fire position via the rearward motion of the trigger prior to the point where the hammer falls and firing pin strikes the cartridge primer. Obviously, this takes more pressure on the trigger and more complex mechanical functioning. For this reason and because of the crisper trigger release, traditional revolver target shooters prefer firing even double action revolvers in single action mode.

How to unload a fixed cylinder revolver

  1. To unload, return the hammer to the half-cock position.

  2. Point the muzzle of the handgun skyward and push the ejector rod, located beneath the barrel, to the rear. The rod will pass through the cylinder pushing the spent cartridge case out of the cylinder.

  3. Once all the spend casing is removed, manually rotate the cylinder to the next chamber and repeat the procedure.

Swing-Out Cylinder Revolvers

The solid-frame swing-out cylinder design revolver has been the dominant revolver style throughout the 20th century to the present day. Invariably, they allow “selective” firing in either single action (manual hammer cocking) or double action, unless the hammer is covered by a shroud.

The cylinder is mounted on a “crane” assembly that, upon activation of a release latch, allows the cylinder to swing away from the frame for ease of loading and unloading. Cylinders in American-made revolvers of this style swing out to the left of the frame. The cylinder release latch is manufactured in a variety of styles and is usually found on the left of the frame and to the rear of the cylinder.

Smith & Wesson-type revolvers traditionally employ a cylinder release that is pushed forward. Early Colt revolvers had a knob-like release that had to be pulled to the rear. Ruger elected to employ a push-button release. Later designs borrowed from the innovative Dan Wesson revolvers, which had a cylinder lock-up approach that was forward of the cylinder. This improved accuracy through increased strength.

Because of this variety of manufacturing techniques, it’s critically important that you get to know your revolver thoroughly before using it.

How to load a swing-out cylinder revolver

  1. Loading or unloading the left-swinging cylinders of these revolvers is perhaps easiest when the revolver is held with the left hand positioned under the frame. Cradle the revolver with the barrel between the thumb and index finger and the trigger guard resting on the palm of the hand.

  2. Unlock the cylinder with the right hand, push the cylinder open using the second and third fingers inserted through the frame’s cylinder opening. Keep the tips of the second and third fingers on the cylinder itself to hold it steady. Hold the revolver with its muzzle pointing toward the ground. This position exposes the cylinder’s chambers for ease of access.

  3. Load fresh cartridges by feeding each individually into the cylinder chambers or by means of a “speedloader,” a device that holds the correct number of cartridges for the specific revolver model by the base of the cartridges with the bullet free to slip into each chamber in the cylinder. The speedloader allows the entire cylinder to be loaded with one quick movement. With the bullets positioned in the chambers, the speedloader’s release is either pushed or turned, freeing the cartridges to drop into place.

  4. Push the cylinder back into place, and then securely snug the revolver into the trigger hand.

How to unload a swing-out cylinder revolver

  1. Unloading reverses the procedure, with one difference. Once the cylinder is swung open, use your thumb to push the ejector rod that extends through the middle of the cylinder. This forces the ejector head out of the rear of the cylinder, which lifts each spent cartridge case from the cylinder chambers.

  2. With a quick, fluid turn of the wrist, shift the muzzle from pointing to the ground to pointing skyward, dumping the empty cartridges.

Semi-Automatics

Semi-automatic handguns are commonly known as “automatics” and also as “auto-loaders” (a term that describes only part of the process). A single pull of the trigger causes a semi-automatic handgun to perform a complete cycle of firing, unloading of the spent cartridge case, reloading of the chamber with a fresh live cartridge from the magazine, and cocking of the firing mechanism.

Mechanical Functioning

From the point of view of how the firearm functions, “automatic” would be the most correct descriptive term. Where the term “automatic” becomes misleading is when the reference is to rate of fire. Strictly speaking, an “automatic” firearm fires all the cartridges in a magazine by pulling and holding the trigger once. A “semi-automatic” firearm fires one cartridge with each pull of the trigger.

Note: It is illegal to convert a semi-automatic to an automatic weapon. Please check with local law enforcement authorities for further details.

 

In general, when the trigger of a semi-automatic handgun is pulled, a force caused by the energy of the gases released by the ignited propellant not only sends the bullet down the bore of the barrel toward the target, but also propels the breech mechanism backward. A disconnecting unit disengages the sear from the trigger bar. This keeps the firearm from firing more than one shot per trigger pull. Normally, the union of the sear and the trigger bar holds the hammer or striker at full cock.

Smaller-caliber semi-automatics (.22, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, and .380 or 9mm Kurz) use a “blowback” operation design. A spring keeps the breechblock tight against the head of the cartridge. The recoil is caused by the gases acting according to the laws of physics, namely, the gases move in the opposite direction of the bullet traveling forward. This recoil forces the head of the cartridge case back against the face of the breechblock.

Traditional larger-caliber semi-automatics such as the .45 ACP use a “locked-breech” design whereby the breech remains firmly locked until the bullet has left the barrel. The same rearward force as in the simple blowback design occurs, but the breechblock that is locked to the barrel draws the barrel a short way to the rear also. Once the bullet exits the muzzle, the rearward movement of the barrel is stopped and it is unlocked from the breechblock. Only then does the breechblock continue its rearward movement to complete the cycling process.

The locking mechanism in Browning-style semi-automatics consists of ribs on the top of the barrel that lock into grooves in the slide. The two disengage as the barrel swings downward on a link during its brief movement toward the rear.

In general, semi-automatic handguns can be seen as having three main components: the receiver, the barrel, and the slide. The receiver has a hollow handle into which the magazine is fitted. The firing mechanism is typically found at the rear of the receiver and includes the hammer, sear, disconnector and a variety of springs and safety devices. The slide is attached to the receiver to allow the smooth forward and rearward motion necessary to allow the handgun to function. The rear section of the slide is the breechblock.

Semi-automatic handguns can have a variety of safeties incorporated into their design. Some, such as the 1911AI Colt .45, have a manual thumb safety at the left rear of the receiver that locks hammer and sear and prevents the slide from moving. It also has a grip safety that requires pressure from a firm hold to depress the safety and allow the trigger and sear to engage prior to firing.

Many modern semi-automatic handguns have “ambidextrous” safety levers that allow access from either side, depending on whether the marksman is left- or right-handed.

Tips on Handling

While storing handguns safely is undoubtedly important, handling it properly is also of utmost concern.Below are some tips on the proper handling of handgun.

Safety Note: Always visually inspect a semi-automatic’s chamber before and after inserting or withdrawing a magazine.

How to load a semi-automatic

  1. Loading a semi-automatic requires several steps. First, cartridges must be loaded into the magazine.

    • Be very careful to load only the correct caliber ammunition for that particular firearm.

    • Equally important, be sure to check that each cartridge is loaded facing the correct direction. That is, each cartridge loaded into the magazine must be pointing bullet-first toward the chamber of the barrel.

  2. To load cartridges into the magazine, the cartridge must be placed on the magazine follower or platform at the opening or mouth of the magazine. Push the cartridge toward the rear of the follower under the magazine’s bent metal or polymer lip. The addition of cartridges depresses the spring beneath the follower.

  3. After the magazine is loaded, a common practice is to tap the back of the magazine against the palm of your hand to settle the cartridges uniformly in the magazine.

  4. Typically, the magazine can be inserted into its magazine well opening at the bottom of the handgun’s grip with the slide either locked in its open position, that is, to the rear of the receiver. Alternatively, it can be inserted with the slide closed.

  5. If the magazine is inserted with the slide locked back, closing the slide will strip the top cartridge from the magazine and seat it into the chamber. If the magazine is closed when the magazine is inserted, the slide must be manually opened, then closed before a cartridge from the magazine can be placed in the chamber.

How to unload a semi-automatic

  1. Unloading the semi-automatic reverses the procedure. First, the magazine release button (usually on the left side of the receiver near and slightly below the area where the rear section of the trigger guard meets the grip) must be depressed. Remove the magazine. Next, and this is extremely important,

    Always open the slide to visually inspect
    the chamber for any remaining cartridges.
    Simply removing the magazine
    does not guarantee the firearm is unloaded.
    A cartridge can remain in the chamber.
  2. Resist any temptation to pull open the slide by grasping it between the thumb and one or more fingers in a “Y” or “slingshot” fashion. You should avoid this technique bacause it does not provide the most secure grip. Instead, take the non-shooting hand and, with the palm over the top of the slide, grasp the slide with four fingers and the thumb and push it to the rear.

    Working the slide, in traditionally-designed handguns, loads the chamber and cocks the firing mechanism. If the handgun in question is single action, this puts it in the firing mode. If it is double action, simply pulling the trigger will cock the hammer device for the first round. Many handguns have a “decocker” that when engaged drops the hammer from cocked and ready to a dormant, non-firing state even if a cartridge is in the chamber.

Handgun Ammunition

There are two basic categories of handgun ammunition: rimfire and centerfire. The difference is the location of the primer. (Cutaway illustrations of typical .22 long rifle cartridge and centerfire pistol cartridge – indicate bullet, cartridge case, powder charge, primer in each)

Handgun ammunition ranges from the .22 long rifle rimfire cartridge to the very new, very powerful .480 Ruger. Handgun calibers include the .25 ACP, .32 magnum, the .380 ACP, .38 Special, .38 super, 9 mm, .357 SIG, .357 magnum, the .40 Smith & Wesson, 10 mm, .41 Special, the .41 magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, the .45 ACP, the .454 Casull and a variety of “wildcat” calibers.

Teenager’s Guide to Firearm Safety

 

Introduction

Owning a gun

Encountering a gun

 

Be Prepared

If you find a gun

If you see someone with a gun

If someone discharges a gun in school

 

Preventing School Shootings: The Warning Signs

Threats

Access to weapons

Warnings

 

Your Responsibilities

Make time for your friends

Don’t be a bystander

Never threaten anybody

Keep adults informed

Establish a watchdog group

Introduction

The gun violence that you see on television and in movies is not real. Does this sound obvious? It should. Even so, there are teenagers (and even some adults) who don’t really understand the difference. Today’s movies and television shows look so realistic, that for many people they blur the line between fantasy and reality. All too often, these people see actors using guns in an irresponsible manner, but very rarely do they see the negative consequences that result from that inappropriate behavior.

In real life, if you mishandle a gun, somebody is going to get hurt or even killed. That is the reality. If you use a gun to intentionally hurt somebody, you could go to prison for the rest of your life. That is the reality. Guns are not toys, and they must never be treated as though they are.

Owning a gun is a right – but not for everyone. Certain categories of people are not allowed to buy or own a gun. This includes people under a certain age. The laws on gun ownership for young people are governed by State and Federal law, and they vary widely. If you would like more information regarding your state’s regulations, go to this page on gun laws.

Owning a Gun

If you choose to own a gun and are old enough and otherwise eligible, you must do so responsibly. This means keeping and using the gun safely, and keeping it out of the hands of younger children, burglars or anyone who does not understand firearms safety.

We highly recommend that you enroll in a gun safety class. There is no way to own a gun safely without understanding how it works and how it should be maintained.

Encountering a Gun

Guns and schools don’t mix. Ever. Yet each year, more than 40,000 students bring guns to school. Also, 14 million families own guns, so chances are pretty good that some of your friends live with guns in the home. This means that there is a possibility that you will encounter a gun, in your school or elsewhere. If this happens, you should be prepared to handle the situation so that you will not put yourself or anyone else in danger.


Be Prepared
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As you read through these scenarios, think about what you would do in the each of the situations. It may seem silly, but mentally preparing yourself ahead of time is the best way to make sure you don’t make a foolish decision under pressure.

What Do You Do If You Find a Gun?

Scenario

What do you do if you and your friends find a gun? What if you are by yourself?

Discussion

If you find a gun, do not touch it. Notify an adult, who can confiscate the firearm and then turn it over to the police. Getting an adult may be as simple as calling out to a passerby, it may mean using a cell phone to call the police, or it may mean staying with the gun while a friend goes to get help. If you are alone, you may have to leave the gun where it is and go get help yourself. If there are younger children in the area, you should tell them that you have an emergency and send them to get an adult while you stay with the gun.

Rule

Tell an adult and do not touch the gun!

What Do You Do If You See Somebody with a Gun?

Scenario

What if you see someone showing off a gun to their friends, or if you see the gun in somebody’s locker or in somebody’s backpack?

Discussion

It is illegal for any student to bring a gun to school, and it puts you and everybody else needlessly in danger, regardless of whether the student intends to use the gun or not. Loaded guns can and do accidentally discharge. The risk is much greater when the gun is jostling around in a backpack, where the safety can easily be dislodged and the trigger pulled by items being yanked in and out of the bag all day long.

Rule

Tell an adult! There is no exception to this rule.

What If Someone Discharges a Gun In School?

Scenario

What would you do if a shooting took place in your school?

Discussion

Despite the high-profile nature of school shootings, they are, thankfully, rare. Still, it is important to think about how you would react to a school shooting, because you would only have a couple of seconds to react and your natural reaction would be panic.

Many schools have already established emergency procedures for you to follow in the event of a shooting. If your school has such a plan, familiarize yourself with the drill.

Rules

If your school doesn’t have a drill then there are certain rules that you should follow:

If you are in the immediate vicinity of the shooting (usually a common area like a cafeteria, hallway, or lobby), move as far away as possible. Leave the building if possible, or duck into a nearby classroom. Since every school is different, you have to figure out the safest route. This is why you have to plan ahead. In the heat of the moment, you will not have time to weigh your options. If you’re not sure of the best escape route, talk it over with a teacher or a local police officer who is familiar with your school’s layout.

If you are in a classroom when the shooting occurs, close the doors, lock them if you can, and barricade the doors with desks and chairs so that nobody can enter.

Do not try to leave the room until your teacher gives you permission to do so, or unless you are instructed by police officers to evacuate the building.


Preventing School Shootings: The Warning Signs
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Most school shootings are not spur-of-the-moment events. In fact, they are almost always planned in advance. The majority of shooters get their initial “inspiration” more than two weeks prior to the attack itself, and just as many spend at least two days prior to the attack working out the details. Although this is a small window of opportunity, most school shooters do provide warning signs. If you know what those signs are, an intervention may be possible.

However, it cannot be stressed enough that recognizing these signs is useless unless you report them to an adult immediately. The U. S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center conducted a study of 37 school shootings. They found that more than 30 of the shooters told at least one peer about their plans, but only two of those peers relayed that information to an adult.

Contrary to media hype, school shooters do not fit a certain “profile.” The kid in the trench coat is no more a threat than the kid in the football jersey. The kid without friends is no more a threat than the kid who is friends with everybody. Stereotypes cannot and do not predict who is at risk of becoming a school shooter. However, there are certain behavioral “risk factors” that most school shooters exhibit before their attack that you can watch out for. If you observe any of the following, tell an adult. Remember, this is not about getting your friend in trouble. It’s about getting them help. In reality, you are probably saving their life.

Threats

Most school shooters do not directly threaten the people they intend to harm. However, a majority of them do discuss their intentions with other students, friends, or siblings, and many of them discuss these plans with more than one person. These discussions may vary in detail, but any references to killing themselves, killing another person, making a “hit list,” or attacking a school are immediate cause for concern.
Never assume that these are just jokes.


Access to Weapons
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Any person asking around about how they can get a gun or how they can make an explosive device is an obvious threat. However, the majority of school shooters obtain their guns from their own home or from the home of a relative, so they may not have to ask these questions. If that is the case, you need to look for signs that they are intending to use the gun, that they have attempted to access the gun, or that they already have obtained the gun. Keep in mind, that simply having a gun in one’s home does not automatically make them a threat. It is only a danger when the firearm is accessible to somebody who has shown an interest in using the gun illegally or irresponsibly.

Warnings

Some school shooters warn their friends not to be in a specific place at a certain time. Since the victims of school shootings are rarely the intended targets, school shooters may take this precaution to make sure that their friends do not get hurt by accident. There also have been instances where shooters have told friends where to position themselves so that they can watch the “event” unfold without putting themselves in danger.

If a friend of yours shows any of these behaviors, your natural reaction might be to rationalize the behavior. You may try to convince yourself that your friend is just kidding, or that they are not capable of doing something like that. This is not your decision to make. Regardless of whether or not you think your friend is a real threat, you must tell an adult what you know.

You also should keep in mind that potential school shooters may tell different people different things. You may hear them make a threat, while somebody else may know that the same person has made attempts to get a hold of a gun. Independently, these actions may not seem important, but together they take on a whole new meaning. However, as long as you both report what you know to school officials, those officials can take the appropriate steps to ensure that your friend is not actually a threat, or if they are, they can get them the help that they need. Because if a friend of yours is even contemplating using a gun to solve their problems, then your friend does need help.


Your Responsibilities
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Your role in preventing violence in schools does not end with watching for warning signs. Safe schools are the result of strong communities, where everyone looks out for the well-being of others. For example:

Make Time for Your Friends

The culture we live in is becoming increasingly individualistic. People are so busy trying to manage the stress in their own life that they have less and less time to lend somebody else a hand. There are some people who are fiercely independent by nature and can handle most situations by themselves, but the majority of people cannot function like that. Needing help from others is completely normal, but a lot of people are afraid to ask for help because they fear being perceived as weak. This is why it is important that you make the effort to ensure that the people around you do not feel stranded. No matter how lonely they feel, they may not be able to ask you or anybody else for help.

Feelings of isolation often lead to depression, which may in turn become a catalyst for violent outbursts. This whole progression is avoidable just by taking a few minutes out of your day to check up on your friends and make sure that they’re doing all right.

Don’t be a Bystander

If you see other students being picked on or bullied, do something about it. If you don’t want to get involved personally, find a teacher and let them handle the matter. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the situation. Teenagers that are bullied are more likely to resort to violence as a means of exacting revenge. Showing these kids that you care enough to look out for them, even if you don’t really know them, can make a huge difference.


Never Threaten Anybody (Even as a Joke)
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Schools have become zero-tolerance zones, and this includes cracking down on students who make jokes about wanting to “make somebody sorry” or plans to “Columbine” the school. School officials have to take seriously anything that can be construed as a threat. So if you ever have the urge to make that kind of a comment, do everybody a favor and don’t

Keep Adults Informed

It’s important that you have at least one adult with whom you feel comfortable discussing things that are going on around you. This can be a parent, a teacher, a guidance counselor – anyone you know you can turn to if you have a problem or even if you just want to vent about everyday pressures you experience. Parents and teachers want to help you, but often they don’t know how to approach you. That is why it is important that you make an effort to let them into your life. It sounds corny, but the reality is that the more open and honest you are with your parents and teachers, the more they will understand you and the less likely they are to be judgmental of the choices you make.

Also, as a student, you are far more in tune with what is going on in the student body than any adult could ever be. If someone is planning any form of school violence, you are much more likely to see the warning signs before a parent or teacher would. This is why you must always discuss any possible threats with an adult. Things that are plainly obvious to you may not be to an adult. Never assume that because you know what’s going on that everybody else does too.

Establish a Watchdog Group

The best way to maintain a safe community is to get the people around you involved. Several organizations help students like you establish community-based groups that are designed to make schools safer. A good place to start is the National Crime Prevention Council’s safe schools initiative. This encourages students, parents, teachers, law enforcement officers, businesses, and faith-based organizations to come together to create an educational network that can tackle the issue of youth violence in a way that meets the specific needs of your community.

Other alternatives include peer mediation programs, where teens teach other teens how to settle arguments without violence. There are peer counseling programs, where older students have the opportunity to mentor younger students. And there are teen courts, where students who are involved in conflicts can turn matters over to a jury of their peers for resolution. There are plenty of options out there. All you have to do is find a program that addresses the needs of your community.

You also may want to consider encouraging your school to set up a crisis hotline. These anonymous hotlines provide students with a 1-800 number that they can call to report potential threats. Upon receiving a call, an operator notifies the appropriate school official who is then responsible for investigating all allegations. Many of these hotline programs also have websites, where students can send anonymous e-mails if they prefer to submit their report online. Obviously, the privacy afforded by these hotlines can really help open up communication between students and administrators.