“They’re more like guidelines, anyway!” Are the 4 Rules of gun safety, as given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai Jeff Cooper really as sacrosanct as some people claim they are? Recent controversies across the gunblog world have sparked this train of thought on how quick we are as a community to point and holler “they have their finger on the trigger” or “she’s muzzling people with that gun“. In both of those linked instances, those people would be correct: the SniperBabes have several pictures that are in clear violation of Rule 3, and even Breda is clearly violating Rule 2 in that video. So technically, the people that called them out for those violations of The 4 Rules are quite correct if you’re holding to the letter of the law.
But the letter of the law isn’t really adequate to address real life. If you’ve ever met a serious gun owner that claims to have never violated one of the 4 Rules in his or her life, that person has either owned guns for less than a day, or they’re a liar. The 4 Rules are actually elegant in that you need to be breaking at least two of them simultaneously for something bad to happen, and yet we insist as a community on a treating them as though they were rigid doctrine to never be violated. The truth is, we all break the 4 Rules regularly.
- Dry fire practice? You’re breaking Rule 1 for sure, and most likely Rule 3 as well.
- Holstering in an IWB holster? Good chance to break Rule 2.
The list goes on and on and on and on and on; but the point isn’t to say that the 4 Rules aren’t good, or that we shouldn’t be following the 4 Rules. They are, and we should, because adherence to the 4 Rules of gun safety does in fact prevent accidents that could lead to injury or loss of life. The problem is when we treat the 4 Rules as though they’re religious dogma – they’re not. They’re more like guidelines than rules, because rigid sets of rules can’t always apply in the real world. Look at the two examples above, especially the video in Breda’s post. Is there a rule violation? You bet. At any time, was that gun being handled in an unsafe manner or were people in danger? Not even for a split second.
The 4 Rules: they’re great, but like any set of guidelines, they’re not perfect. Once we start acting like we live in a vacuum where we can always apply rigid rules, the 4 Rules then become a crutch for people to escape critical thinking. That’s the most important safety, after all. No set of rules, no mechanical safety is ever going to be a replacement for good critical thinking and reasoning skills.