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GUN SAFETY

On Jan. 20, 1996, a hunter tied a string through the trigger guard of his rifle to pull it up to his tree stand.

Before he started to climb, he noticed the string was caught on a climbing spike. When he lifted the gun, the rifle went off. A bullet struck him in the foot.

Four months later, two turkey hunters were riding down a dirt road when they spotted a flock of birds.

They got out of their truck and separated. One man was calling the turkeys when the other thought he saw a bird and fired. His friend was hit by 17 No. 2 steel shot pellets.

The number of firearms and archery-related accidents has continued to drop, yet every year hunters injure themselves and others in the name of sport.

"Hunters are their own worst enemy," said Lt. Gary Morse of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in Lakeland. "Many wounds are self-inflicted or caused by a member of the hunter's own party."

Morse said hunters can avoid becoming a statistic by following a few simple rules.

10 Commandments of Gun Safety:

1) Watch that muzzle! Always point a gun in a safe direction. Never aim a gun unless you intend to shoot.

2) Treat every gun with the respect due a loaded gun. Famous last words: "I thought it wasn't loaded."

3) Be sure the barrel and action are clear of obstructions. A clean gun is a safe gun.

4) Be sure of your target before you pull the trigger. Know what you are shooting at. A hunter moving through heavy cover can look a lot like a deer.

5) Unload guns when not in use. Never store a loaded gun. Don't be afraid to check and recheck. You might save a life.

6) Never point a gun at anything you don't want to shoot. See No. 1.

7) Never climb a fence or tree, or jump a ditch with a loaded gun. If you need to get into a tree stand, unload the gun, attach a hauling line and bring up the gun muzzle down.

8) Never shoot a bullet at a flat, hard surface or water. Bullets can travel for miles. You can never be sure where they'll end up.

9) Store guns and ammunition separately. See No. 5.

10) Avoid alcoholic beverages before or during shooting.

It's the law

A person born on or after June 1, 1975, may not be issued a license to take wildlife with a firearm (including a muzzleloader), bow or crossbow without completing a hunter education course.

Anybody can benefit from the free course. For more information, write the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, 3900 Drane Field Road, Lakeland, FL 33811-1299, or call (941) 648-3200.

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