Australia has some of the toughest firearms laws in the world. However, gun ownership is still legal in Australia, although it’s highly regulated. To be eligible for a firearm license, you must complete a registered firearm safety. The National Firearms Safety Code lays out the safety guidelines for safe firearm handling procedures and safe shooting practices.
So, let’s have a look at some of the key safety principles for gun handling and shooting.
- Treat every firearm like it’s loaded
Whether you’re transporting, cleaning, handling or storing a firearm, it should always be treated like it’s loaded and ready to fire. This means that even if a gun is unloaded you should always:
- Keep your finger away from the trigger
- Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction
- Ensure the bolt or action is open
- Check the breech is empty and all ammunition is removed
While using the safety catch or trigger lock is important, you should never rely solely on your firearm’s safety device. These are mechanical devices that can fail to engage properly or get easily knocked into the off position.
Always check yourself whether the firearm is loaded and do not take the word of another person. And never leave firearms loaded or unattended.
- Always point the muzzle in a safe direction
Whether the firearm is loaded or unloaded, you should always point the muzzle in a safe direction. The safe direction may not always be as obvious as it sounds. A bullet can still do damage after passing through a vehicle or a wall or ricocheting off the ground or a hard surface. A good rule of thumb is to not point the muzzle at anything you wouldn’t be willing to shoot at.
When thinking about safe direction, you should also be aware of anything beyond what’s directly in front of you. Assume a bullet will pass through the first obstacle and consider what it could damage beyond that obstacle.
- Transport your gun safely
When transporting a firearm, whether it’s by car, boat or by foot, always ensure the gun is unloaded with the action open. All firearms should be transported in an appropriate carry case or carry bag. When transporting a firearm by car, you should take extra special precautions to prevent theft or loss. Never leave a firearm unattended in a vehicle and ensure they are not visible in the vehicle. Make sure any firearm in a vehicle is properly secured with trigger locks, chains, padlocks or any other security devices you use. And when removing the firearm from a vehicle or boat, always remove it butt first. Remember that a vehicle should not be considered safe storage.
If traveling across state borders, it’s important to remember that different states and territories have different gun laws. Make sure you are in full compliance with the state or territory you are coming from and travelling to.
- Carefully identify your target before shooting
You must always be certain of your target before firing. Do not fire at movement, shape, colour or sound. Make sure your target is clearly identifiable, in full view and there is nothing behind it that could be hurt or damaged. If in doubt, do not shoot.
Part of identifying your target is ensuring that your firing zone is clear. There should be nothing between you and your target that is at risk of being hit. The same goes for the area behind your target.
- Unload after shooting
After you’ve finished shooting or handling a firearm, you should always open the action, remove any ammunition from the chamber and remove or empty the magazine. Never leave a firearm loaded and ready to fire, even if you’re just taking a short break.
- Properly store your firearms
Safely and securely storing your firearms when not in use is essential. Proper storage will prevent accidents and theft.
Guns should always be stored unloaded, with the firearms and ammunition stored in separate locked containers. Proper storage requirements are laid out in the state and territory firearms legislation.
- Understand the legal requirements
Australia has stringent firearm laws that must be followed at all times. Ensure you fully understand the applicable legislation in your state or territory. Legislation applies to everyone, from gun shops in Australia to shooting clubs to personal collectors. Firearm legislation covers a range of factors including:
- Gun safety
- Secure gun and ammunition storage
- Firearm registration
- Buying, selling and disposing
As a licensed gun owner or user, you are ultimately responsible for your firearms, your own safety and the safety of those around you.