Boy, the internet is just buzzing with Responsible gun owners letting everyone know how unfair it is to "punish" them for the actions of a Few Bad Apples. Lately I find it quite interesting to press a little on this issue of responsible ownership. Rarely are more than a few questions necessary to reveal that most individuals' conception of Responsible Gun Ownership means that they have never murdered anyone with their gun. While commendable, I'm not sure that alone qualifies.
I may have forgotten a lot since the last time I fired a gun (about two weeks ago, at a range) so I consulted an owner's manual (2010) from Smith & Wesson. As I recalled, the manual contains a very clear list of precautions to take with one's firearm to use them in a safe and responsible manner. The next time you encounter one of the internet's apparent millions of Responsible gun owners, try out some of the following.
1. Is your gun kept in a locked safe? Failing that, is it locked in a case? Or is it in your closet, in a drawer, under the bed, or lying on a table? A cabinet with a glass door that a 10 year old could break is not a safe.
2. Is your ammunition kept in a separate location, away from the firearm? Or is it in a box next to or under it? Or is there a loaded magazine right there? Or is it just flat-out loaded?
3. Is a trigger lock installed? This is required by law in some places and recommended by all manufacturers regardless.
4. If you have no safe and your house was burglarized, would your gun(s) be difficult to find? Or have you "hidden" it where a complete moron could find it (under the bed, in the bedroom closet, etc.)?
5. Have you ever fired your gun in an unsafe manner – in the air, indoors other than at a range, or without being fully aware of your background (i.e. in the dark, in the woods, etc.)?
6. Have you ever fired overpowered or hand-loaded ammunition beyond the manufacturer's specifications for safe operation of your gun?
7. Do you use hearing and eye protection at all times? Do you insist that others in your party do so as well before you fire?
8. When outdoors, have you ever fired intentionally at something that could cause a ricochet (a rock, the ground, etc)?
Some of these things fall into the "Only a Total Moron Would…" category, yet I'd be willing to bet that more than a few self-proclaimed Responsible owners have flouted some of these rules. Oh, they'll have lots of excuses posing as reasons – I'm experienced, I live alone, I know not to blah blah blah – but what they really mean when they call themselves responsible is, "I have never walked into a school with my gun and used it to murder children." This is certainly a key part of responsible ownership, but the bar is set a tad higher. The data would be impossible to collect, but I'm sure that we could find plenty of Very Responsible people with loaded guns laying in a closet or dresser drawer. You know, real responsible-like.