Preventing Unnecessary Shooting Deaths With Responsible Gun Ownership
By: Mark Diaz
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Preventing Unnecessary Shooting Deaths With Responsible Gun Ownership
Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. While this right is subject to reasonable restrictions at the state and federal level, it means that as many as 30% of Americans own firearms, and at least 390 million guns are in circulation. Also, gun ownership is generally rising in Texas after recent mass shootings, with firearm background checks increasing by 10% in 2022. Gun owners may have a right to own firearms, but they also have a responsibility to avoid unnecessary shooting deaths by being responsible gun owners.
The tips in this article will deal with responsible gun ownership and keep you and the people around you safe. If you recently were charged with a crime, such as homicide, talk to our League City homicide defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates for assistance.
Gun Sales In Texas Often Rise After Mass Shootings
Texas is the #2-most populated state in the country and has relatively lax gun laws, meaning more guns are bought here than in any other state. The FBI reports that people in Texas bought 150,400 guns in June 2022, the month after the mass shooting at a school in Uvalde. Those purchases were 17% higher than May and were a 2% increase over the same time in 2021.
Texans bought 1.6 million guns in 2021. This is about one firearm for every adult in the state. However, the gun sale trend tends to fluctuate in Texas, with sales peaking immediately after a highly-publicized mass shooting. For example, in April 2022, gun sales declined 23% from the previous months as the Uvalde shooting faded from the public mind.
Responsible Gun Ownership Is a Must
Responsible gun ownership is vital to our safety, with so many people owning guns in Texas and the US. It is estimated that almost 500 Americans die annually from accidental shootings. That is more than one accidental shooting per day. Unintentional shootings cause tremendous heartbreak and pain to people every year. Sometimes, those accidental shootings can lead to homicide charges against the perpetrator.
So, responsible gun ownership is a win-win for everyone. Many unnecessary shooting deaths could be prevented if gun owners remember the following points:
Handle Every Gun As If It Is Loaded
Many accidental shootings happen because the gun owner assumes the gun is unloaded. Unnecessary shootings can often be avoided by assuming the gun is loaded. When picking up your guns, check if it is loaded. Never assume anything.
If you do not know how to check if a particular gun is loaded, ask someone knowledgeable to help you. Some guns are more challenging to check than others for live ammunition.
For example, a semiautomatic handgun can have an empty magazine, but there could be a live round in the chamber. If you pull back the action on the handgun, you can see whether there is a round in the chamber. But if you do so too quickly, you might not see it. So, check several times that there is no round in the chamber before concluding it is unloaded.
Store Guns In A Gun Safe
Storing your guns and ammunition in a gun safe should be a priority. Texas does not require gun owners to keep firearms in a safe, but it is a wise safety practice. Gun safes are made to protect your guns from being stolen or damaged. They also can prevent a child or unauthorized adult from accessing your firearms. The last thing you want is a child to play with one of your guns, hurting himself, and then you face a homicide charge or a civil lawsuit!
If you have handguns, consider buying a pistol safe that is hard for unauthorized access. Keeping your firearms in a gun safe can keep your guns in pristine condition and everyone safe.
Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger
Keep your finger off the trigger until you have your sights on the target. However, many people keep their finger on the trigger at other times. This is dangerous. All it takes is a bump or twitch for an accidental shooting. Even when you have the gun in the ready position, rest your index finger on the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot.
Know What Is Behind Your Target
When you are at a shooting range, you can be confident that there is nothing behind the targets that you do not want to shoot. However, when shooting a gun anywhere else, always know what is behind your intended target. What will happen if you miss the target or the bullet goes through it?
If you ever doubt what is behind your intended target, do not shoot. Instead, investigate first and ensure it is safe to fire the gun.
Keep The Gun Unloaded
Many accidents could be avoided if gun owners would keep their guns unloaded. A common situation is when a gun owner takes his guns out to clean them. Unfortunately, he forgets one of them is loaded and accidentally shoots a family member, resulting in severe injury or death.
Keeping guns unloaded until use can prevent tragedy. It is also wise to keep your ammunition and firearms in separate locations. That way, being loaded with your knowledge is almost only possible. To protect yourself or your property, you can keep a loaded handgun in a proper gun safe at your bedside.
Keep Guns Pointed In A Safe Direction
When a gun is loaded, it should always be pointed in a safe direction when it is not aimed at your intended target. This usually means keeping the gun pointed down, so it is pointed at the ground. No one should ever point a gun at someone, even as a joke. Many ‘jokes’ such as this turn into accidental shootings and tragedies. Also, do not point your firearm in the air because an unintentional discharge in this situation is dangerous.
Keep Your Guns Clean
Keeping your guns clean ensures they will be in the best working condition and last for many years. Clean guns also mean they are safe to use. If firearms are used often and never cleaned, they can be hazardous to fire. The residue could be thrown back into the shooter’s eyes when firing. A dirty firearm action is also prone to jamming. A jam is hazardous even if you do not depend on your gun to defend yourself because clearing it can cause the round to go off.
What To Do After An Accidental Shooting
The information in this article should help you be a responsible gun owner. But, unfortunately, accidents happen, and you could be involved in an accidental shooting. In the worst case, that shooting could lead to a homicide charge. If you find yourself in this situation, there is one crucial thing to remember:
Do Not Make Statements After a Shooting
It is tempting to try to explain yourself when the police arrive. However, you have the right to remain silent under the 5th Amendment and should exercise it in this situation. If the case gets to a jury, your choice to remain silent at the scene cannot be used against you. In fact, if the prosecution attempts to comment on you remaining silent when the police arrive, there could be a mistrial.
Further, you will be highly stressed and upset after an accidental shooting. You will likely make statements that are inaccurate or incomplete. You may remember important details later. Any statement you make in the heat of the moment could be picked apart by investigators and prosecutors later. Police also may not accurately write down what you said, anyway. So, stay silent and call an attorney.
Understanding The Right to Self-Defense
A common defense to a homicide or manslaughter charge involving a gun is that the accused acted in self-defense. Texas has a castle doctrine in several parts of the penal code. It justifies using force to protect yourself, others, and even property in limited circumstances.
However, if an accidental shooting case goes to trial, everything depends on what the jury thinks was ‘reasonable’ when the incident occurred. If the jury believes you acted reasonably when you fired your gun at someone, your self-defense claim will likely prevail. But if they think your actions were unreasonable, you will likely be found guilty and potentially be facing many years in prison as a result.
There is a wide variance in what people consider ‘reasonable’ or not. Some Americans think all guns should be banned and that this is reasonable. Others believe there should be no gun restrictions at all.
Even though Texas has the castle doctrine, and you may be justified to act in self-defense if someone breaks into your home, many legal experts recommend avoiding putting yourself in a situation where your freedom depends on what a jury considers ‘reasonable.’ So, if you are in a position where you think you need to act in self-defense, be conservative and think carefully before pulling the trigger.
Contact Our League City Homicide Defense Lawyer Now
If you have been charged with homicide, you probably feel overwhelmed and anxious about the future. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for you. Contact our League City homicide defense lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates at (409) 515-6170.