All his life, my grandmother’s brother was a farmer, logger, carpenter – you name it. A chosen firearm accompanied him when he went to the fields or forests for any reason.

His wasn’t paranoia, it was practicality. It was some time before Walmart was invented and often as not, table fare crossed one’s path during the activities of the day. Coming home with a turkey often meant Sunday dinner.

After a lifetime of handling guns and in his 70s, this old mountain man took up a new pastime. He began going out with a flashlight at night to thin out the copperhead population around his property.

He carried an innocuous .410 shotgun loaded with rat shot with which to dispatch serpents in the darkened conditions. The gun was an old single-shot with a hammer that had to be cocked back prior to firing. That was the safety: Don’t cock it if you don’t want to shoot.

As he had done a hundred times before, my relative stood the firearm against a post, stepped away from it a safe distance, and crossed between barbed wire strands. Then he returned to the gun, reached through and pulled it toward himself!

No one really knows the complete scenario, but it was surmised that the hammer caught on a wire or branch, was pulled far enough back to snap shut, but not far enough to lock and await a trigger pull to fire.

Whatever, this momentary lapse in firearm safety was fatal. They found him draped over the fence he had just safely crossed.

Ho hum . . . more gun safety stuff.

Regardless, a firearm is only a tool and is only as safe as the person handling it. A bullet is mindless and unforgiving. It has no way of caring that the person in front of it is a curious young boy, an infant in a mother’s arms, or an elderly neighbor two houses down.

Therefore, let’s review together. Do you have small children in the same abode as a loaded and unlocked gun? Yes, you may need it if something bad goes bump in the night, but it is up to you to enact and practice a safe way of employing this tool that can both protect and kill.

If you carry concealed, have you thought out and practiced employing your firearm in an emergency situation? What do you do if someone is there in the night, but you’re not sure if it is friend or foe?

There’s a nice buck in your scope, but it is on the crest of a hill. In the event of a miss, do you know the terrain behind it well enough to take the shot? That projectile can carry more than a mile with killing force.

The scenarios are as many as the pulls of a trigger every day. It is up to us gun owners to ensure that the slug spends its energy in a safe manner. Don’t put a loved through the pain of finding you draped over a fence – lifeless.

Fred Causley is a former OSU Agriculture Communications employee and a longtime Stillwater resident and NRA member. Send him questions or feedback to

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