NORFOLK (NNS) -- The basic safety rules for dealing with firearms haven't changed, but mishap reports received by the Naval Safety Center (NSC) show that they need to be reinforced.
Too many preventable mishaps occur when Sailors and Marines become complacent about their weapons.
"The first rule is to treat every weapon as if it's loaded," said Aviation Ordnanceman Master Chief (AW/SW) Craig Trute, an explosives safety expert at NSC.
A scan of mishap reports received in recent years shows that not everyone is following this cardinal rule. Sailors and Marines sustained both minor and major injuries because they did not take the time to ensure their weapons were unloaded. "Did not follow SOP (standard operation procedures) for weapons handling" is a common finding in firearms mishap reports.
Trute believes most gun owners are aware of the safety rules, but they become too relaxed with their weapons after a while, and this leads to negligent discharges. Trute suggested periodic training to remind gun owners about their responsibilities. Classes are conducted by local gun shops, through local Morale, Welfare and Recreation offices and other small arms instructors.
"If you can't find the information you need, ask your chief," Trute said. "Information is available."
Besides treating all weapons as if they are loaded, other gun safety rules include: keeping your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire; never pointing at anything you don't intend to shoot; and always keep the weapon unloaded until you're ready to fire.
Trute said this last rule is important for everyone, but especially for gun owners who have children in the house.
"You can't hide things from kids," said Trute. "They'll go searching for everything, and they'll probably find it. You've got to keep the weapons stored separate from the ammo and keep them locked up."
He said there's one other thing that gets Sailors and Marines in trouble with their weapons - alcohol.
"It impairs your judgment and makes you think you're bullet proof," said Trute. "You're not. Alcohol and weapons are the same deadly combination as alcohol and driving. They don't mix."
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