Nobody wants to walk around with a deadly weapon in an “unsafe” condition.

That’s why firearms designers have gone out of their ways to invent various methods to encourage you to pause, and hopefully think, before you pull the trigger. In this age of legal-clerk-as-moral-arbiter, some designers have gone overboard. There are guns on the market with “foolproof” mechanical safeties that can get you killed.

Anytime a gun fires when it’s not supposed to, potential tragedy is in the air. But I would venture to say that as many people are killed as a result of guns that are supposed to fire and don’t. Freeze frame from many an old and new movie: innocent victim manages to get gun, points at evil assailant and pulls the trigger. Glint in assailant’s evil eye flashes and evil grin widens over evil teeth as innocent victim’s gun goes “click.” They usually toss the useless gun at the bad guy after that. And miss.

A 1911 pistol has a safety lever on the frame that’s designed to rest under your thumb so you can’t miss it. A Glock has a safety lever in a slot in the trigger which you automatically disengage only if and when you pull the trigger. A double-action automatic has a safety lever as part of that counter-intuitive gearbox mechanism way up on the slide which you had better leave in the off position because, unless you train with it three hours a day, you’ll never manage to disengage it in time or even remember how it operates when the adrenaline bomb goes off. The safety of a double-action revolver is a very long and generally awful trigger pull. The safety of a single-action revolver is the hammer which you have to cock before you can fire.

Despite their misleading name, none of these mechanical “safety” devices renders your gun “safe.” They simply place a small obstacle in your path on your way to firing your gun. They are nothing more than symbols of the real safety lever the operation of which is the only way to actually make your gun safe. That is the little safety lever inside your head. You know how to operate the little safety lever inside your head, don’t you?

Oh, we all know the rules: treat every gun as if it were loaded don’t point it at anything you don’t want to kill keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire be sure of your backstop now repeat one more time to the music -– like a 4-year-old singing his ABCs. Rules memorized by rote have little meaning. They’re not in your head, they’re in your mouth. They’re not on the tip of your trigger finger, they’re on the tip of your tongue. Memorizing safety rules won’t make you safe, no more than memorizing the alphabet will allow a child to read. You’ve got to think. You’ve got to train. You’ve got to make the safe operation of your weapon as natural as using a knife and fork. You have learned how to use a knife and fork without stabbing yourself in the face, haven’t you? If not, there’s surely some politician you can support who’s on a crusade to make the manufacture, importation, sale and possession of silverware federal felonies and require that all eating utensils henceforth be made of pliable rubber.

I was recently sent a “tactical” knife by a major manufacturer of exotic-sounding blades. The knife was of the “assisted-opening” type, so that when you start to open it with your thumb a spring takes over and completes the stroke for you, thus relieving your brain of the need to deal with the mighty concept of completely opening a folding knife all by yourself since from this day forward you can rely on a little spring to do your thinking for you. As though to admit that the little spring might have a mind of its own, the manufacturer also thoughtfully equips the knife with a “safety” mechanism to lock down the cleverly camo-colored blade, a tiny switch on the handle that makes it possible to quickly draw the knife in an emergency and instantly not be able to do anything useful with it. My resentment that the idiot, or more likely committee of idiots, who designed this knife lives on my planet was such that I tossed the overwrought contraption right over my growing collection of “tactical” kitchen knives directly into the trash. This weapon-of-choice of some of the scarier operatives of the ChairBorne Brigade (thanks, John) is not even worthy to go up against a couple of belligerent onions that are just begging to be sliced and diced.

Politicians in some of our more socialist-leaning states constantly clamor for additional safety levers, bolts, locks and chains for the purpose of rendering our guns practically inoperable in an emergency. These politicians, taken all together, have a cumulative IQ of about 12, and naturally expect that everyone else in the country, at least the ones who voted for them, has a similar mental capacity. They don’t believe people should be allowed to have guns in the first place, much less guns they can figure out how to operate. Relying solely on a mechanical safety designed by a frustrated engineer under pressure from a halfwit politician is like believing in Santa Claus: there will surely come a day when you will be very sadly disappointed and your faith in mommy and daddy perhaps damaged beyond repair.

The three simple mechanical handgun safeties that perform positive and useful functions are (1) the thumb safety on a 1911; (2) the trigger safety on a Glock; (3) the inherent safety of a revolver’s double-action trigger mechanism. All other so-called safeties, including the 1911’s additional grip safety, the multi-functional levers and switches on the complex control panels of double-action autos, and all the various extraneous devices invented by politicians and required on handguns in places like California and Massachusetts, are dangerous gee-gaws whose only function is to prevent you from using your gun the way it was intended to be used and which was the reason you bought it in the first place.

The busybody prohibitionists who once outlawed good Scotch, thereby providing the needed start-up money for organized crime, and who have been largely successful in preventing you from enjoying a good cigar with your cognac, have not been able to vandalize the US Constitution and its guarantee of your right to keep and bear arms. But they have learned to get around that inconvenience by taxing guns to death, by paperworking them to death, and now by safetyizing them to death.

(By the way, the busybodies have also managed to prohibit the very existence of guns, at least as far as you’re concerned, in the “safe” government-owned places they control -– crime-ridden big city parks, scenic state and national parks populated by aggressive killer bears, mountain lions and street gangs, school zones which act as safe havens for mentally unhinged teenage mass murderers, and so on, which should give you some idea of what the busybody prohibitionists’ real agenda is and how little they really care about your personal safety and that of your family.)

Screwball young designers, in league with smarmy lawyers, worthless bureaucrats and the ever-present lunatic fringe of antigun-nuts, will continue to try to replace your organic mental functions with springs and nuts and bolts and bailing wire, but you can be assured that the one safety you can rely on is the one in your head. Devote some time to making sure it’s in perfect working order and stays that way.