The Four Basic Safety Rules…Revisited?


Every now and then I get a bit delirious. Blame it on the three children (ages 13, 5½, and 21 months) … or blame it on the overconsumption of aspartame-filled “diet” drinks and snacks. At least I try to have a little fun when the silliness sets in. And since several friends in my little world have recently had babies, I thought I’d use my moments of absurdity to put together a little tongue-in-cheek, firearms-related twist on some newborn advice. Enjoy!

The Four Basic Rules of Firearms Newborn Safety

Improper baby handling results from ignorance, carelessness, lack of experience, and improper role modeling, such as handling your child like your favorite actor does. Thankfully, knowledge, training, and practice can cure this. And if every new parent knows and practices the basic rules of newborn safety, he or she can become safe and proficient with handling any baby.

Here are the four rules, as categorized by Jeff Cooper… and as modified by me, (with the greatest respect—and sincerest apologies—for Col. Cooper). It’s important for you—and for all the people around you—that you adhere to these baby-handling rules at all times. Memorize them! Make them an integral part of your life…for you will be required to use them as long as you are around children.

1. Treat all firearms diapers as if they are loaded.

Put simply, never assume that a baby’s diaper is unloaded. And even if you know it is, do not treat it with any different respect than if it were loaded. Otherwise, you could, inadvertently, release some of the contents onto yourself or others.

Unfortunately, too many times, we see that a baby has been handled, and the person who handled it claims, “Oh, it’s not loaded.” But then the diaper discharges when the baby is touched. That’s what is known as an unwanted or negligent discharge. It’s not an accidental discharge because it was not an accident that caused the diaper to go off; the baby was handled intentionally. Unwanted or negligent discharges can shock everyone nearby. And in the worst cases, a person can be soiled.

So, every time you handle any newborn, check to see if the diaper is loaded by performing a status check, such as opening the side of the diaper for a peek and/or dropping the drawers, pulling the tabs back, and looking into the diaper to make sure it’s empty, even poking a finger in there to make sure. And if another person is handing you a baby, it’s even better if you have them check the diaper first…before you even agree to accept it.

2. Never let the muzzle mouth of a newborn cover anything you’re not willing to destroy.

Always make sure the newborn’s mouth is pointed in the safest direction possible, where it cannot harm any person, animal, or thing. If you are not willing to upset a human life with the possible eruption of stomach contents (or even projectile vomiting), do not cover any person with the baby. This practice is unsound, both procedurally and tactically.

Please note that this rule also applies to your own person. It’s just as important that you not allow a newborn to cover your body or extremities, which could easily occur as you are placing a baby over your shoulder to burp or using both hands to re-swaddle the child. This also applies to “special” holding or maneuvering circumstances (i.e. the “football” hold) as well as to daily or routine handling.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger tabs until your sight is on the target diaper.

Never place your finger on the tabs until you have made the conscious decision to change the diaper. Even if you’re comfortable with a newborn and have been around babies for a long time, don’t be careless and stand, talk, or walk with your finger on the tabs. It’s unprofessional and dangerous and only welcomes problems and concerns.

Intent and justification is key here. Only place your finger on the tabs when a diaper change is needed, when you are fully ready and prepared to do a change, and when your sight is focused on the diaper.

4. Always be sure of your target newborn…and what’s beyond!

It’s imperative that you know where your baby is at all times and what position he or she is in. In other words, if you are carrying a baby (on or off body), know where he or she is, what he or she is in line with it, and what is behind him or her. Be aware of all your surroundings, and do not assume anything. Safety depends on your ability to use good situational awareness and handle the newborn properly at all times, whether in the nursery or at the park.

To be a responsible parent, these four safety rules must become part of your life. Never compromise them. Proper handling and respect of babies is necessary to be safe. Follow these baby-handling rules, and insist that those around you do the same. Set the example: every newborn, every time, all the time.


NOTE: Just for reference, here are the original four firearms safety rules, as designed and advocated by Cooper:

RULE 1: Treat all guns as if they are loaded.

RULE 2: Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

RULE 3: Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

RULE 4: Always be sure of your target—and what’s beyond.

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