Editor’s note: The following article is the first of a new monthly column by Brady Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick has been an avid gun enthusiast and hunter since he moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago and is now the editor-in-chief of the blog Gun Made. For more information visit gunmade.com

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As you sit down on your couch after dinner to watch the news, the headline reads about another shooting. It gets old hearing about these incidents over and over again, and you’re tempted to change the channel to avoid it.

But as a gun owner, you stop. You force yourself to watch. It’s a painful, but necessary reminder of just how quickly things can go bad when the proper safety measures aren’t in place.

Gun safety should be at the forefront of your mind if you own a gun or are thinking about purchasing one. It’s critical that you be informed about every aspect of gun safety for your protection and the protection of others.

It’s smart to follow the same set of shooting rules and guidelines every single time you handle a gun or are around someone who is. Always be aware of your surroundings, where the gun is and who has it. These are some basic safety measures you should be taking.

Is it loaded?

Always treat a firearm as if it’s loaded. The first thing you should do when someone hands you a gun is make sure it’s not loaded. Even if you saw the previous handler disarm it yourself, check again.

It doesn’t have to be unloaded for you to handle it, but you should know at every moment with absolute certainty whether it is loaded or not.

Regardless of whether or not it’s loaded, treat it as if it is. It’s a good habit to get into. This ensures you’re always treating what could potentially become a deadly weapon with caution at all times.

Where is it pointing?

Always point your muzzle away from non-targets. The only time you should ever be pointing a gun at a person is if your life is in danger. A good rule of thumb is holding a gun down toward the ground when you’re handling it and you don’t intend to fire it.

Be aware of the trigger

Keep your fingers off of the trigger until you intend to shoot it. Again, it’s another good practice to ensure that you don’t accidentally fire the gun.

Remember, if you’re treating it as if it’s loaded at all times, then you would want to keep your finger off the trigger when you don’t want to shoot it.

What’s the target?

If you are firing it, always be sure of your target. Know what and where it is at all times. Is it a moving target or a stationary one?

In addition to knowing about your target, you need to be aware of its surroundings, too. What’s in front of it? What’s behind it? How will the bullet hit the target or how will the target absorb the shock?

These are all things that you should be thinking about so that you know what you could potentially hit or hurt.

Range safety rules

No matter where you are, make sure you’re following the rules. Perhaps this isn’t something that needs to be said, but I’ll say it anyway. Obey the law at all times, and follow any firearm safety rules and regulations set in place by the shooting range or facility where you are practicing.

In other news

A few days ago, a group of us were discussing how owning your own boat and traveling to an area to fish compared with the cost of hiring a guide.

It is early spring and our waters are cold.  Without a doubt I hear anglers ask more about water temperatures at this time of year than any other.  There may be some reasoning behind that, but water temperature may not be as important as some think it is.