Alan over at Snarkybytes takes issue with the four rules. I tend to think of the rules as being a construct to help people understand safe gun handling, more than literal commandments that must be taken at their very word. In that sense it’s kind of like religion — if you get all fundamentalist with it, it loses its point.
We know that there is, of course, such a thing as an unloaded gun. Cooper’s point is more that we should not assume a gun is safe just because we’re certain it’s unloaded. More than a few people have been killed by guns that someone was certain wasn’t loaded. That’s the problem rule one is meant to solve. I’m not sure how concerned we should be about how we accomplish cleaning, dry firing, and smithing conceptually within the framework of rule one, because that seems to be missing the forest for the trees. That ends up getting into debates that go something like, “Well, if you take the slide off, and remove the barrel, is it still really a gun you have to treat as loaded? I mean, if I’m staring down a barrel out of the firearm, how is it different than staring down a pluming pipe?” All reasonable technical observations, and interesting in an academic sort of way, but I’m not sure we need to argue about such things when thinking about promoting safe gun handling.
I tend to think the four rules are fine, but I think they have to be taken for what they are; a conceptual framework for safe gun handling. One could certainly make literal arguments for why they do or don’t apply in this situation or that situation, and where they fall apart if taken literally, but to me that’s in the realm of an academic exercise. I think in terms of promoting safe gun handling, they’ve suited the community just fine.