Personal Responsibility & Firearms


by Jeff Quinn

Photography by Jeff Quinn

June 12th, 2007




We are a litigious society.  I don’t know exactly when it happened, but Americans have become a society of people who, when something goes wrong, want to blame anyone but themselves. I heard just today of a case in which a little girl was playing on the playground at school, got stung by a bee, and the parents are suing the school. Every year, people trip and fall, and if they do it on someone else’s property, look at it as if they had won the lottery.  Carpal Tunnel Syndrome was never heard of until lawyers figured out that there was money to be made in suing employers for the condition. We have all heard of the case in which a plaintiff sued McDonald’s because their coffee was too hot. The sad part is that the plaintiff won the case. These are just a small sampling of examples of our litigious society. The courts are packed with civil litigation. Courts are necessary, and some cases are legitimate, but it has gotten way out of hand. Personal responsibility no longer exists in the minds of most Americans. We can sue for anything. All we need is a slick lawyer who can convince twelve jurors that their client was injured, and that the evil corporation who sold him the product is at fault. It is not too hard to do, hence the extreme proliferation of plaintiff’s attorneys in our country.

The result of this attitude in our nation, as it relates to gun owners, is that we have seen an increase in trigger pull weights, and a plethora of redundant safety devices.  It is amazing that our firearms can still make a bullet leave the barrel. Most shooters bemoan the addition of key-lock and other safeties added to our firearms, but they are here to stay. The crossbolt safeties that were added to our traditional lever action rifles in the 1980s were a direct result of shooters and hunters blaming manufacturers for their own negligence. In every case of which I am aware, negligent discharges of firearms have always been the fault of the shooter in some way. It doesn’t matter how many safeties are attached to or built into a firearm, if handled improperly, it can go off. I have had one negligent discharge with a firearm, and it was one of the so called "safest" pistols ever built; a Smith & Wesson Model 469 semi-auto. It had a thumb safety, magazine safety, and an internal firing pin safety, but it fired when I did not intend to, because I pulled the dern trigger. Entirely my fault. Thankfully, the only things hurt were my pride and some drywall, but it could have certainly been much worse, as several other people were in the house with me at the time. When police departments began the massive change over to the Glock pistol a couple of decades ago, negligent discharges were a concern, as a few weapons were being fired while holstering. . However, in every case, the officer had his finger in the trigger guard when attempting to holster his weapon, causing him to pull the trigger. Training fixed the problem.

Proper Training

Let’s state right up front that guns are dangerous. So are chainsaws, knives, drills, axes, automobiles, tractors, meat grinders, snowmobiles, motorcycles, hammers, roller skates, and pretty women. Attempting to operate any of these devices can get you in big trouble if proper care and training are not applied. I get questions everyday from folks who know absolutely nothing about firearms, but want me to recommend the right gun for them. I don’t mind helping at all. That is why I am here. However, proper training is every bit as important as the choice of weapon, if not more so. No one with any sense would go buy an automobile and drive it without first learning how to safely do so, yet many buy a firearm with no knowledge of how to even load the weapon, relying on the salesman or a friend to give them a two-minute class on handling a firearm. I am not an advocate of people having to be licensed to purchase a firearm, but it is the buyer’s personal responsibility to get the proper instruction before handling a firearm.

Every year, hunting accidents result in serious injuries or deaths. This has become less prevalent as more and more states require hunters to receive hunter safety training. I have seen hunters pull loaded rifles out of pickup truck racks muzzle first, and hand loaded rifles up into elevated stands to other hunters, and to cross fences with a round in the chamber, and to carry rifles with their finger in the trigger guard. These are common examples of poor gun handling, and sometimes these actions result in tragedy.  Handgunners are just as bad. I have seen hunters carry a revolver with the hammer cocked. I have seen hunters carry a handgun without a proper holster many times. Usually, the result is just embarrassment when the handgun falls into the mud, but it can be much worse.

One of the best handgun designs ever inspired of God is the single action revolver. It is the epitome of strength, accuracy, and durability. However, many shooters do not carry them properly. The Colt Single Action Army and its many copies, the original Ruger Blackhawk, Single Six, and Bearcat, the Remington, the Freedom Arms Model 83, and many others are some of the safest firearms ever designed, if carried properly with an empty chamber under the hammer. If you load these with the firing pin resting on a live cartridge, you are asking for trouble. If the gun is dropped on the hammer, the gun will fire. If the hammer is pulled back and allowed to slip forward before being fully cocked, the gun can sometimes fire. Just about every firearm sold today comes with an excellent instruction manual, but most shooters do not bother to read it. About half of the manual’s contents deal with the proper safe loading and handling of the weapon, but many shooters ignore this, and when they get into trouble due to their own mishandling of the weapon, they want to sue the gun's maker. Owner’s manuals are filled with warnings, but they often go ignored. Proper training with the weapon chosen is imperative, just as knowing how to safely operate an automobile or any other machine is crucial to the safety of the operator and anyone nearby. Again, it comes down to personal responsibility. A gun is just a machine for throwing bullets or shot. It does not have a will of its own. Every firearm has a procedure which should be followed when handling the weapon. If you are unwilling to use a gun in the manner in which it was designed, you should choose another weapon!

Most gun manufacturers warn against using handloaded ammunition in their firearms. Not that handloaded ammo can’t be just as good or better than factory-loaded ammo. The problem is that when a handloader is careless and blows the cylinder or chamber out of his gun, he calls a lawyer to sue the gun maker. I get requests all the time from shooters who want to buy only the equipment needed to load ammunition, but they sometimes get offended when I recommend that they buy a good loading manual first. Many times they only want to know the maximum load that they can shoot out of their gun. For more info on this, I refer you to my piece on that subject titled Maximum Loads. With either weapons handling or handloading ammunition, the training does not have to be formal. If you can afford the cost of the best firearms training, it is money well spent. However, if you can’t, you should at the minimum fully read and understand the owner’s manual before you attempt to use the weapon.  If you can’t understand the manual, ask for help.


A firearm is only a part of a system which consists of the gun, the ammunition, and a proper holster or sling, if needed. A hunting rifle should have a sling which will allow the safe carry of the rifle while climbing fences or elevated stands. A hunting handgun should have a proper holster. It should protect and retain the gun under all conditions. It should also cover the trigger, and prevent anything from pulling back the hammer, whether it be a tree branch, clothing, long gun, backpack, or anything else. For a concealed carry gun, the holster needs to retain the weapon from falling out when running, jumping, or sitting down. Many guns have dropped to the floor when a chair arm pulled the weapon from the holster while its owner was being seated.  Under the best of circumstances, only the finish is damaged and the owner embarrassed.  Again, it is the owners personal responsibility to obtain and use the proper equipment to assure the safe use of the firearm. Many shooters and hunters will spend several hundred dollars or more for a handgun, and then buy the cheapest holster that they can find. The proper holster is just as important as the gun and ammunition.

Proper Mindset

Without the proper mindset, you have no business using a gun.  Just as with operating a car, boat, or other machine, guns and drugs are a bad mix. Under the category of drugs, I include alcohol. It is just a liquid drug. Anything that alters your mind and inhibits clear thinking impedes your ability to properly use your gun. One of the most selfish and irresponsible acts that anyone can do is to drive drunk, yet people do it everyday. If you drink alcohol and then get behind the wheel, you are putting your own stupid selfish indulgence above the safety of everyone else, including me and my little grandkids, and I will not tolerate a drunk driver. Drinking and handling a firearm is just as bad. If you are drinking, you shouldn’t touch a gun. If you want to drink, smoke weed, pop pills, snort coke, or anything else, that is your business as long as you are not endangering anyone else. Knock yourself out. If you are impaired and drive on a public road or carry a gun, it becomes the business of everyone around you. Don’t do it. If you are a good ol’ boy and down a few cold ones with your buddies in hunting camp and shoot one of them, you deserve whatever the law or his kin does to you. If you shoot yourself, don’t try to blame the gun. It is just a machine. Personal responsibility.

The proper use and handling of firearms is the personal responsibility of each of us who owns a gun. It is our God-given and Constitutionally protected right as Americans to keep and bear arms. God and the law also expect us to behave responsibly, and we are accountable for our own actions. It is not a responsibility that should be taken lightly. If my gun discharges, I am accountable for where that bullet lands, as you are for yours. No need to look to blame someone else. Along with our freedom to own and enjoy guns and hunting comes the responsibility to properly use them. Training, equipment, and mindset will assure that each of us are allowed to retain that freedom and pass it on to other generations of shooters.

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


Safeties on traditional leverguns are the result of shooters blaming gun makers for their own negligence



Key locks built into handguns are the result of careless gun owners not properly securing their weapons.



A good field holster will protect the hammer from being snagged by obstacles or clothing.



It is stupid to combine guns and drugs.



Instruction manuals are to be read, understood, and followed.