Practicing gun safety is paramount every day of the year, not the least of which is Halloween. On a day when millions of people all across the nation celebrate the holiday by concealing their true identity and intentionally scaring friends and neighbors, those of us who own and carry firearms must be ever more careful and vigilant to keep us all safe.

A day that celebrates imagination and fantasy is the perfect opportunity for people of all ages to dress up as any character that their creativity and resourcefulness will allow. Many costumes include elements of guns, swords, knives, machetes, pitchforks, scythes, and other such implements. 

Trick-or-treaters are welcome to visit your home at night and approach your front door with their faces obscured, their hands gloved, and possibly carrying an item resembling a weapon. On any other day of the year, this behavior might warrant a call to 911. However, it might be more difficult to determine the delightful from the truly dangerous on All Hallow’s Eve.  

Exercising a few extra layers of preparedness, safety, and caution will help to preserve the fun while protecting your home, your family, and yourself.

The basic rules of safely handling a firearm are:

#1) Treat every firearm as though it is loaded—even if it is a toy and part of a costume.

Teaching children how to handle every gun as though it is a gun, including toy guns and nerf guns is a great way to begin implementing a safe way to interact with firearms and develop the habit of safety.

#2) Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction—even if it is a toy or replica.

Where is a safe direction? This may change depending on your location. If you live in a two-story home or in an apartment that shares walls with another person’s home you will need to be extra aware and diligent in determining a safe direction. One thing is certain, a safe direction never includes pointing a gun at another person or animal, unless that person or animal presents an immediate and imminent threat to your life.

Many of us grew up playing with water guns and squirting one another with both pistol and rifle-shaped toy guns. While this may seem to be harmless fun, on a night like Halloween pointing any toy firearm at people could result in tragic consequences. The time to teach safety is always now. And this holiday is a good time to begin thinking differently about how you model safe behavior with guns.

#3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot—not only is this a safety must, it is also the sure sign of a responsibly armed citizen.

Guns do not “just go off” by themselves. Just as knives do not carve a turkey and dishes do not load themselves into the dishwasher on their own, even on a night when ghosts abound. These are all inanimate tools. No firearm can fire until the trigger is pressed.

Keeping your finger off of the trigger will ensure that the gun will not discharge until you are ready for it to do so. Empower yourself and your children with this safety imperative, and you will not only be practicing safety and responsibility, but you will be modeling the behavior of a well-trained gun owner.

#4) Always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it and never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy—a sober assessment of any situation when you might feel that a threat is present is always imperative, and the frightful fun of Halloween might present extra opportunities to be both diligent and restrained.

No responsibly armed gun owner ever wants to have to use their firearm to harm another human being. However, the reality is that over 2,500,000 times every year, guns are used to save lives. In the hands of safe, trained, moral, and responsible citizens, guns are very effective tools of self-defense. Additionally, hunting and target practice are widely popular activities in the United States. Being aware and mindful of the threat, animal, or target you intend to fire upon is vital to good aim, but equally important is what is beyond what you are aiming at. If your aim is not true or if the projectile you fire penetrates beyond where you intended it could inadvertently harm innocent bystanders. On Halloween, when the streets are filled with children and families we must be aware of the added elements and responsibilities inherent in carrying a firearm for self-defense.

A day of fanciful costumes and dressing up can offer opportunities to both practice safety and teach new skills to keep you and your children safe. While enjoying the frights and fun, safety must be at the forefront of your thoughts. Following these universal rules of firearms safety will help keep you and your loved ones safe, on Halloween and every day.