Gun stores across the country are seeing a surge in gun sales, and first time gun owners make up the vast majority of those purchases. New gun owners are citing concern about potential civil unrest, and the need to protect one’s own family if law enforcement is not available, as reasons for buying their first firearm.

It’s clear that this unprecedented pandemic has changed minds about gun ownership.

While it’s a positive step for people to take responsibility for their own self-defense —the CDC says that at least 500,000 Americans every year use their firearm to defend themselves or others every year— many of those new firearm owners may not be able to quickly take safety classes, due to the social distancing guidelines in place across most of the country. Being safe with your new firearm is your first responsibility.

The number of accidental deaths by firearm is relatively small, significantly smaller than accidental deaths by other methods. According to a 2019 National Vital Statistics report by the CDC, which details the causes of death in 2017, the numbers of accidental deaths fall in to the following categories, found on page 35 of the report:

Accidental poisoning 64,795

Motor vehicle accidents 40,231

Falls 36,338

Hanging, strangulation, suffocation   6,946

Drowning and submersion   3,709

Smoke, fire, and flames   2,812

Accidental discharge of firearms       486

Although the number deaths by accidental discharge of firearms is small, zero firearms accidents is the only acceptable goal. We don’t want to see any increase, in fact our goal should always be to reduce that number. But an increase is a possibility if new gun owners don’t get the safety training they need. 

So where to start? The Well Armed Woman has a great resource guide for first time firearm owners. It covers decision-making before buying a gun, the four firearm safety rules, and how to choose the right gun for you. There are dozens more segments in their series.

A new gun owner can also search You Tube for the Four Rules of Firearm Safety and find enough videos to stretch from now until the end of the social distancing guidelines. There are also training companies offering smaller training classes to ensure students are properly spread out from one another. Look for those opportunities in your area. 

A new gun owner must also make decisions about how to store firearms safely. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to safe storage, as we don’t have one-size-fits-all families. Educate yourself and make storage decisions that offer the highest level of safety for your family. 

However you choose to get your safety education training, new firearm owners have the moral obligation to be safe, and to not add one more accidental death to the statistics.