This is an exciting time of year for my family and I’m sure for other families as well. It’s fall, which means hunting season.

Just like any other outdoor activity, it’s our responsibility as hunters and gun owners to practice firearm safety. Unfortunately, there have already been stories in the media of tragic accidental shootings that have seriously injured and even killed individuals while out in the field. But accidental shootings don’t just happen in the field. They occur while people are at home cleaning their firearms, moving firearms from one area to another and when inexperienced individuals, often children, handle firearms without proper supervision and education.

Our home is like many other homes in Wyoming and across the Midwest. If you look hard enough, you will find a gun safe or two that store our rifles, shotguns and handguns our family use for hunting and recreation. I have always been a proponent of having firearms and ammunition secured in a safe place so children don’t happen upon them unsupervised. What’s that old saying? “Curiosity killed the cat.”

On the other hand, I think it’s important to quell a child’s curiosity of firearms at a young age. So, what do I mean by this statement? If you have children in your home and they know where firearms are stored, allow them to see and handle the firearms in a safe and supervised environment. The curiosity will eventually go away. Talk to your children often regarding the intended use of firearms and the consequences if they are not used properly. I also recommend enrolling your children and family members into a hunter education class. Most importantly, take them out to the range so everyone can practice firearm safety, build confidence and have fun.

Here are four firearms safety rules my family and I live by before we ever pull any gun out of the safe:

1. Treat every gun as if it were loaded

2. Keep the muzzle (barrel) pointed in a safe direction at all times

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot

4. Know your target and what is beyond

Once we begin handling any firearm, we ensure the action is open, the safety is on and the gun is unloaded. It’s never safe or advisable to travel with a loaded firearm and be extra careful when placing and removing your firearms into and from your vehicle. Remember the 4 rules.

Once you arrive at the range or wherever you plan to shoot or hunt, review the firearms safety rules with your party, particularly with children and inexperienced shooters and hunters. While walking in the field, remember to frequently check the status of your firearm. The safety should be on, the chamber should be empty or the action should be open, especially when maneuvering over, under or around obstacles.

If you have questions regarding firearms safety, please don’t hesitate to stop by the sheriff’s office, game and fish or any other law enforcement entity. My family and the entire staff at the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office would like to wish everyone a safe and successful hunting season.

Levi Dominguez is undersheriff for Sheridan County. 

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