Anyone who already owns a legal firearm knows that in order to obtain it they need to pass a provincial gun safety course prior to getting their weapon. Whether you are gearing up to take your first gun safety course or it’s been some time since you’ve brushed up your security procedures, read on as you can never be too safe when it comes to guns.

According to Sûreté du Québec Chief Firearms Officer Yves Massé, “Everyone who is going to use a gun needs to take a gun safety course.” The course is not optional, it’s mandatory.

When asked what was the single most important aspect of gun safety, Massé responded, “Proper storage! Good storage with a safety lock and a good trigger lock is just as important. It’s the most important thing and it’s what the police look at when they go, for example, to conjugal violence cases. We will always look to see if there are firearms at that address and if the firearms are safely secured.”

The provincial gun safety course is geared towards informing the prospective firearm purchaser what they should know prior to purchase. “It is not, however, a training course on how to shoot a gun,” said Massé. “It’s only a safety course. You don’t get to shoot the gun in the course; it’s only the theory on the firearm and what to do with the firearm.”

The course addresses proper gun-handling procedures and details the different parts of the firearm and what they do, said Massé.

Teens may legally fire guns while hunting, but to own a firearm you have to be 18 years old. Those under 18 must be supervised at all times by the gun’s owner. You can not borrow a firearm from somebody else or have somebody that is not the owner supervise the youngster with the firearm.

“You need to be in a position where the owner is always at the side of the youngster when he is firing the firearm,” Massé explained. “You have to have perfect control of the firearms at all times so you can really move in and stop the youngster if there is any problems.”

When you are out in the bush it is important to remember that even though you may not have a lock box around, there are other places like the trunk of the car or truck you can use to safely store your weapon overnight. “You always need to wear the flare jackets so that people can recognize you and not mistaken you for a deer or a moose or whatever else,” Massé added.

Another important thing to remember is not to shoot until you have your target secured and to have an idea as to what may be behind the target. When you fire a gun, it is still possible for the bullet to hit something or someone else behind your shot as sometimes bullets can go through the target.

Massé also insists that weapons should not be loaded while in transit to a hunting camp or site. “You should have a disarmed firearm at all times when it is not in use,” he said.

Part of the procedure for registering a firearm in Quebec requires signed references with the application. This law is unique to Quebec but it serves a purpose: the signatories can, should they feel the gun owner is posing a threat to themselves or others, report them anonymously.

“They can call us in a confidential manner and say listen, I have written my name down on this registration form but I don’t think you should give him a fire arm because he is dangerous,” Massé confided. The number to call to report a gun owner who may use the firearm inappropriately is listed on the application form.

Within the Cree communities the Cree Trappers Association is responsible for administering the provincial gun safety courses. Rick Cucivrean of the CTA said courses are usually held upon request. “Ideally we have 15 in a class so if 15 people put their names down then we hold the course,” he explained.

The CTA also now offers the provincial hunting course, “Hunting with a Firearm,” which is required for Crees should they want to go off territory hunting. It is the same course that is mandatory for non-natives who wish to hunt on the territories. For the time being the gun safety course is free.