It never ceases to amaze me how many times I end up answering questions about whether or not guns are safe and whether or not guns need an external safety.

People Often Ask: “How Do You Know Your Handgun Is Safe?”

Well, modern handguns (and ammunition, for that matter) are quality tested for minimum performance standards and have been found to be extremely reliable, shootable, durable and safe. Unless there are catastrophic failures resulting from distortions, breakage, ruptures, erosions or malfunctions, we more often see issues with “user error.” These include not using the correct ammunition, not cleaning and maintaining the firearm properly, or not using the gun in a safe manner or as it was intended/designed.

I Also Hear, “What Makes a Gun Safe?

There are so many different kinds of accessories and “extras” you may find on guns nowadays, from grip safeties and thumb safeties to laser sights and tactical lights. Any one of these items could be considered a safety feature in that they could potentially keep an unauthorized user from firing the gun, prevent a user from negligently pressing the trigger or provide additional means for the user to identify and engage a target. There has also been talk through the last two decades of “smart” guns that are supposed to work only with designated users through embedded radio frequency or biometric technology. Of course, I can’t even get my iPhone to respond to my thumbprint 65 percent of the time, so I am not ready to put my faith in those types of devices.

Then People Will Ask, “But … Don’t You Need a Gun With a Safety?”

No, but I do need every gun owner to determine what makes the most sense for his or her lifestyle, home makeup, body/hand type and skill level! Considerations should include things like who might have access to the gun, where the gun will be stored and how the gun will be carried — on or off body. As well, finding a gun that “fits” is of utmost importance. It might sound tempting to automatically choose a firearm with a manual safety, but without proper training and experience (and/or during a dynamic critical incident), a gun owner may end up with a “click” instead of a “bang” when life hangs in the balance.

People Who Don’t Want to Accept My Answer Will Press Even Further, “So, You Aren’t Scared Without a Safety on YOUR Gun?

I do not personally believe a mechanical safety is a necessity since we ALL have two built-in safeties already — our trigger finger and our brain. And just as I teach in our women’s curriculum, a well-trained trigger finger should be off the trigger and along the side of the gun until the brain gives it the message to shoot. And the brain must first consider intent and justification in order to determine whether or not to take a shot. So as long as these two “safeties” are working together, there should not be fear that you’ll mess up, cause an accident or negligently discharge your gun.

And Conversations Usually End With, “So, What Gun Should I Get, Then?”

I highly recommend that anyone looking to purchase a gun makes a list of three to five handguns that they are interested in. Then, do some research on each of those guns, try them out to see how they feel (and to see if the purchaser can properly manipulate the magazine release, rack the slide and reach the trigger). Fire the guns on the shooting range to make their own evaluations and, ultimately, their own conclusions based on those categories.