- Treat all firearms as though they are loaded. Simple. If everyone did this, there would never be someone saying "I didn't think it was loaded" as they watch their friend or family member hauled off to the hospital or morgue. Anytime you pick up a firearm to check it out, whether it is at a gun store or handed to you by a friend, your first task is to clear the weapon and make sure it is not loaded. I don't care if the firearms instructor or gun store owner tells me a firearm is unloaded, it is my job to ensure that it is so. That being said...
- Never allow the muzzle to cover (point at) anything you are not willing to destroy. This is a simple concept that actually takes a lot of care and attention to do. If I had a quarter for every time I've seen someone with a firearm inadvertently cover someone with their weapon, even if it was just for a millisecond, as they are moving to their target (I've even seen very experienced people do this), or swing around in excitement (new shooters) not paying attention to the fact that their firearm is moving around with them as they turn to talk to a friend who ends up with a weapon pointed at them, I would be rich. This rule needs to be followed 100% of the time whether holstering your weapon, drawing your weapon, firing your weapon, carrying your weapon, et al.
- Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until your sights are on the target and you are ready to fire. This is a dead giveaway--when I see a shooter with their finger on the trigger when they are carrying the weapon, picking up their weapon, or holding their weapon, I know this is a sign of a very inexperienced shooter (and I really don't like being anywhere in the vicinity of an inexperienced shooter unless they are under my direct supervision).
- Be sure you have an acceptable target, know its surroundings, and what is beyond it. This is another common cause of firearms "accidents". Some idiot "thinks" they see a burglar walking around outside their home and they fire their weapon in the general vicinity--this often leads to the death of a friend, family member, or a neighbor. Why? Because the shooter did not have a clear view of their target. You cannot guess at your target--whether you think you are shooting at a burglar, shooting through the door at something, or shooting at what you "think" is a deer that you actually couldn't see very well. There is no excuse for not clearly identifying your target BEFORE pointing and firing. Drive by shootings are another example of breaking this rule--gang banger #1 fires at rival gang banger #2, not paying attention to the surrounding area and what is beyond their target which means someone in the house behind gang banger #2 or the grandmother walking a few feet away from gang banger #2 gets hit.
Four simple rules. By following these rules at ALL times the number of "accidental" firearms will be reduced to almost nil.