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Reitan: Be responsible with firearms, adhere to basic handling rules

The unintentional discharge of firearms has been highlighted in the news in the recent weeks. A number of the incidents resulted in injury to the gun owner while other incidents sent bullets flying into adjoining property. The term accidental discharge has been used. Examinations of the root cause of many of the firearm discharges found the incidents not to be accidental but were the result of improper firearms handling. The person handling the firearm failed to adhere to basic safe firearm handling rules.

Basic safe firearms safety rules are available from a number of sources. A written copy of the safe firearms handling rules accompanies all firearms when they are sold new. Safe handling instructions are also written on ammunition containers. Persons born after December 31 1961 who intend to hunt in North Dakota are required to successfully complete a certified hunter safety course. A large portion of the class is directed towards safe firearms handling. To assist the student in remembering the rules of safe firearms handling the learning aid A Chum Sport was added to the curriculum. Each letter represents a core word in ten firearm safety rules. In example A is for Alcohol. Avoid the use of Alcohol, prescription medicines and over the counter medication when handling firearms. U is for Unload. Always Unload firearms when not in the field hunting or at the target range. R is for Respect. Always treat a firearm with the Respect owed to a loaded firearm. The rules are not technical but they are effective in preventing unintended firearm incidents.

The intentional or unintentional discharge of a firearm in the City of West Fargo is illegal. At a minimum the charge would be a class B Misdemeanor. If another person is endangered, injured or killed as the result of the discharge of the firearm, the person handling the firearm could be charged with a Felony offense.

12-0306. Discharge of Firearms or Dangerous Weapons.

1. Except as provided herein, it is unlawful for any person to discharge a firearm or dangerous weapon within the city limits.

2. This section does not apply to the lawful discharge of firearms or dangerous weapons by 1) law enforcement officers, 2) persons at an indoor or outdoor target range licensed or permitted by conditional use by the City Commission, 3) indoor target competition, which competition has been approved by the Police Department, or 4) the lawful discharge by persons in defense of a person or property.

A human input is required to put the chain of events in motion for a firearm to discharge. A person who possesses a firearm is responsible to ensure they follow the basic firearms safety rules and know the specific handling instructions for the particular firearm. A person handling a firearm must remain clear minded and not become too casual about firearms handling. The improper handling and storage of a firearm can lead to a tragedy. Be responsible with firearms.

Michael Reitan, Assistant Police Chief, WFPD