Care must be taken to make sure guns are safe.
Guns are legal in the United States, but state laws differ on how guns are handled and how safety issues are addressed. In the state of Washington, hunters must take a hunter safety course before they can buy a hunting license, but no course is required to carry a concealed weapon.
Anyone born after Jan. 1,1972, must complete a hunter education course to buy a hunting license. There is no minimum age for taking the class or for a hunting license. Certification and hunting licenses from other states are accepted in Washington.
Hunter certification involves taking a four-hour class presented by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. To pass, hunters must achieve a score of at least 80 percent on a 15-question test. The class also involves practical training, including shooting.
A license is required to carry a concealed pistol, but no class or training is required to obtain a permit. State law requires only that a person be 21 years of age, not mentally ill and have no criminal record or any other legal restrictions on gun ownership.
Several companies offer weapons training, and all training classes have safety components. Instructors are registered by the state and have to pass a class to become a qualified instructor. Classes cover handling guns safely as well as personal self defense and marksmanship.
Although Washington state law does not require it, gun owners are encouraged to purchase and use trigger locks on all of their guns, and to keep the guns locked when not in use. Locking advocates note that from 2003 to 2007, 91 children under age 17 were killed in intentional shootings, and seven were killed in unintentional shootings. A total of 145 children were injured by guns in that same period.
The basic rules of gun safety are:
Always assume a gun is loaded. Do not point a gun at anything you do not intend to shoot. Do not put your finger on the trigger until ready to shoot. Be aware of what is beyond your target.