Today I was reminded that money can buy a nice rifle but not knowledge.

I took my son to a local shooting range today. (I won't name the range and will also say it was not the Beresford Gun Club where the above photo was taken nearly four years ago, featuring a rifle I no longer own.)

My son and I were there to practice shooting again to see if he is competent enough to pursue a mentor deer license. He's been drilled on how to handle the rifle and what is okay and what isn't. He knows that you don't put your finger on the trigger until you are sights-on-target and ready to fire. He knows that you always point the muzzle in the safest possible direction at all times. And he knows that you don't touch your rifle when other people are downrange. He just turned 8 years old.

A cease-fire was called as there were new people who wanted to hang a target. We were done so we needed to take down our target. As I always do before heading downrange, I scanned every bench in our area and verified that no one was sitting behind a rifle. After triple checking and becoming satisfied that it was safe, my son and I headed down to take down the target. On the way back, about 30 yards from the firing line, a young man in his late teens or early 20's was seated behind a rifle looking through the scope. I immediately started yelling "Get off of that rifle! Get off of that rifle!" I kind of freaked out. After he sat up away from the scope, never actually leaving the bench, I never addressed him or the older man with him. I just grabbed our gear and my son and got out of there.

Ask any gun shop employee about how many live cartridges they have taken out of "unloaded" firearms. When I got back to the firing line I looked over and saw that his bolt was open, but in the moment I couldn't see that. If it was loaded it wouldn't take much to touch off a round.

If you are wondering why I freaked out about someone sitting at an unloaded rifle, it is no different than if I stood behind that guy with an unloaded pistol pointed at his back. Also, my son was downrange with me, elevating my level of alert even higher.

I spend a lot of time at ranges shooting and teaching others about safety and how to shoot. I can tell you that I intentionally take my kids to ranges at times when they are likely to be empty or very few people at them. I have had pistols pointed at me twice this year. Two years ago I was swept by a loaded rifle that was immediately placed on a rest and fired without its bolt being moved. Most people scare the s*** out of me. Don't be one of those people. Follow the four rules of gun safety, and don't handle guns when people are downrange, ever.

Four Rules of Gun Safety

1. All guns are always loaded. Treat them that way.
2. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
3. Don't point the muzzle at anything you don't want to destroy.
4. Know your target and what is beyond it.

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