Wildlife officers share safety responsibilities when cleaning guns


MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – After an 8-year-old girl in Morristown was accidentally shot in the leg while investigators say her uncle cleaned his firearm, it brings up questions on the right way to clean a gun.

MORE: 8-year old accidentally shot in the leg in Morristown, per Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department

WATE 6 On Your Side spoke with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency about gun safety and responsibilities when cleaning a firearm.

TWRA referencing its “’10 commandments” they use when teaching hunters how to handle firearms safely. Officers say these same rules apply when cleaning a firearm.

Muzzle awareness

The first rule TWRA stresses is to be aware of the muzzle.

“Always keep that muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times that way if there is an accidental discharge, no one is going to get hurt by it. Either in the ground, straight up in the air or if you’re inside of a home or dwelling you have to make sure that there’s no one on the other side of the wall,” said Matt Cameron with TWRA.

Don’t clean a loaded gun

Cameron says you never want to clean a loaded gun, “Your hands are all over it. You could inadvertently hit the safety, you could inadvertently pull the trigger and discharge the firearm.”

How to unload a firearm

We had Captain Tommy Whitehead with TWRA demonstrate how to unload a firearm properly before cleaning, “First you want to take the magazine out, with the release. We’re using dummy rounds here but they simulate a fully loaded magazine. With a semi-automatic gun, it’s probably still loaded, so you want to work the slide, drop the round that was chambered out and then work slide a couple of times to make sure it’s unloaded. You’ll lock it back, check the chamber to make sure it’s not loaded, use your finger and eyesight, then it’s ready to be broken down and cleaned.”


It’s suggested before you start cleaning, to let people in your home know.

“That way they’re not startled by the working of the action or seeing someone holding a firearm,” said Cameron.

Don’t store your firearm loaded

Cameron stresses that you should never store your firearm loaded, “If you treat every firearm as if it was loaded and you make sure it’s not loaded from the time you pick it up, you shouldn’t have any accidental discharges.”

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security has a list of basic firearm safety rules:

  • Before handling a firearm, understand how it operates
  • Always safely store and secure your firearm
  • Always lock and store bullets in a separate location
  • Make sure children do not have access to your gun safe/cabinet keys
  • Always treat every firearm as if it were loaded
  • Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction
  • Never place your finger inside the trigger guard unless you intend to fire
  • Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting

For more information on gun safety, click here.


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