13 Things Every Responsible Gun Owner Should Know 

Jonathan H. Kantor
Updated November 1, 2019 2.1k views 13 items

In the United States, it is legal for almost any law-abiding citizen to own a gun, but with that right comes a great deal of responsibility. After all, a gun can be used to end another person's life, which makes gun ownership a somewhat burdensome responsibility. To this end, there are a number of important factors, rules, guidelines, and suggestions every gun owner should know, so they can continue to be gun-owning and law-abiding citizens of the United States, or whichever nation they call home that allows personal firearm ownership.

There are several rules of gun ownership every responsible gun owner should be aware of in order to continue to own and operate a firearm. Being responsible with a gun means different things in different parts of the country, as local, state, and federal laws often differ or conflict with one another. If you're new to gun ownership, or are a veteran gun owner, knowing how to maintain your weapon legally can be one of the most important responsibilities of ownership, which is why the most important aspects of owning a gun are listed below.

Never Point Your Weapon At Anyone
Never Point Your Weapon ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 13 Things Every Responsible Gun Owner Should Know
Photo:  Cabela's

You should never, under any circumstances, point your weapon at another person. If you got your weapon for home defense and are thinking that makes no sense, you're somewhat correct. If you are ever in a situation where you absolutely have to defend yourself, you may need to point your weapon at another person, but that's the only time it is appropriate.

What this rule means is that you should follow the practice of never pointing your gun at anyone and always point it in a safe direction, which is any point where a bullet cannot possibly hit a person. For a firing range, this is clear, as you will need to keep the weapon pointed downrange at all times, but in other situations, it isn't always clear. If you're hunting, you should point it toward the ground. While at home, you should do the same, but remain cognizant of anyone on the floors above or below you.

If you practice never pointing your gun at anyone, you will get in the habit quickly, so that there won't ever be an accident. This means not pointing it in a joking or playful manner as well, and responsible gun owners know not to do that in any situation.

Store Your Weapon Apart From Your Ammunition
Store Your Weapon Apart ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 13 Things Every Responsible Gun Owner Should Know
Photo:  Cabela's

There is a divide among the gun-owning community as to whether or not storing your firearm with ammunition is a good idea. Some people wouldn't think of storing an unloaded weapon while many others couldn't fathom the opposite. There are pros and cons in each camp, but it's always better to err on the side of caution, which suggests you shouldn't store your weapon with your ammunition, and your firearm should be unloaded before it's put in storage.

In terms of safety, this is always the best approach. If you get into the habit of unloading your firearm every time you store it, you won't have to worry about someone stumbling upon a loaded weapon in your home. If home defense is your concern, an unloaded firearm is just as intimidating to a thief as a loaded one, as they won't be able to tell the difference. Whatever your reasons for acquiring a gun, the safest way to keep one is unloaded - unless it's being used.

Always Treat Your Firearm As If It Were Loaded
Always Treat Your Firear... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 13 Things Every Responsible Gun Owner Should Know
Photo: Joseph A. Stephens, USMC/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

When it comes to handling firearms, it's always safest to treat them as if they are loaded, even when they aren't. This establishes a "best practice" approach, which ensures you won't accidentally discharge a round. There's a saying that the most dangerous gun is one that isn't loaded, which sounds wrong, but it actually means the most dangerous gun is one you think is unloaded.

So long as you consider a gun loaded at all times, you won't point it at another person or play around with it as if it were a toy. Guns may be fun to shoot, but they are not toys! Treat them as such, and you will be a responsible gun owner.

Don't Rely On The Safety Alone
Don't Rely On The Safety... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 13 Things Every Responsible Gun Owner Should Know
Photo: JohnRLuger/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Many firearms come equipped with a safety; a catch or block, which hinders the action of the hammer or firing pin, keeping the weapon from firing. When your weapon is "on safe," that means it won't fire no matter how hard you pull on the trigger. But you should never rely on your safety alone. A safety is a mechanical part of your firearm, and like any mechanical part, it can wear down and even break without proper maintenance.

Since you already know to treat your gun as if it were loaded and don't plan on pointing it at anyone, a faulty safety shouldn't be a problem. Unfortunately, a faulty safety in the wrong hands can lead to an accident, which is why you should always follow the steps in this guide. You shouldn't spin a gun around your finger at any time, even when the safety is active, as this has resulted in numerous accidents over the years.