From The Editor: The Funny Thing About Range Rules

posted on February 21, 2024
Frank Miniter

At the range—any gun range, but I’m writing about mine—the rules are life and death. They must be clear. They are reality. They are basic ethics. They are about respect for others and ourselves. To understand how to live in a polite society, a person could extrapolate almost everything needed from the NRA rules of gun safety, which begin with these three mantras:

• ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.

• ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

• ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

With just these three basic responsibilities in mind, nearly everything else becomes footnotes, but the full list is worth perusing at the NRA's website

This was the basis of a lovely rant I walked into last December. I opened the door of a cabin that sits up and over the skeet and trap ranges at my club. A big leather couch and cushy chairs are there. Behind them is a woodstove. On this cold Saturday, the wood in the fireplace wasn’t burning nearly as warmly as the speaker standing in front of the picture window.

Some of the members were sitting in the leather chairs and on the couch. Others were standing. Down below, out the picture window, the skeet and trap fields where busy. A few too many members had brought their relatives to the club. Gun barrels were swinging—not dangerously, mind you; rather, those barrels were falling behind clay birds, racing to catch up and even going up and down as the inexperienced shotgunners behind them mostly missed those orange clay targets.

I closed the door and joined the audience on this cold, crowded afternoon over the holidays.

This gentleman who had the floor, John, pointed to the full list of NRA gun-safety rules framed on a wall and said with a boom in his voice that, if more would just follow these range rules in society, America would be so much better off. Like the best humor, it was funny because it was true.

“Take ‘Use only the correct ammunition for your gun,’ as an example,” said John. “This rule requires thoughtful and deliberate action at all times, which is why I thoughtfully left the house today to the full use of my wife and mother-in-law.”

He pointed again at the list: “Or consider: ‘Wear ear and eye protection as appropriate.’ I put ear pods in and feign deafness whenever a little discretion is advised.

“Or how about: ‘Know your target and what is beyond.’ I would never say the things I do to my mother-in-law in public. I don’t need one-liners going off in the direction of bystanders. That would be bad form.

“I’m telling you, an entire mantra for life is right here in this NRA sign.”

“Wait a moment, John,” said another. “Have you been obeying: ‘Never use alcohol, over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs before or while shooting?’”

“Always,” said John, annoyed with the interruption.

No doubt he would have gone on, but right then, a large group of teenagers, all cousins or something, managed to finish all the stations on the skeet range and were headed to join another crowd at the trap range. There was no time to lose, so the six members cluttering the space by the fire filed out the cabin door, grabbed their shotguns from the outside rack and went down the stairs, all in a hurry toward the range.



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