Anytime you are around a firearm, you need to remember the consequences of an accident or negligent discharge could be tragic. I don't care if you've been involved in the shooting sports your whole life, or if you're a newbie, reviewing the safety rules is never a waste of time!!
Depending on who you ask, there are different answers on just how many gun safety rules there are. You might hear one person say "I don't need no stinkin' safety rules" (*spoiler alert, um, just stay far away from that guy) all the way up to 12 or more rules. Personally, I like to keep things simple, so we're going to talk about the Col. Jeff Cooper rules.
1. All guns are loaded. Even if they aren't, treat them as if they are.
2. Never let the muzzle cover (point at) anything you aren't willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target you intend to destroy.
4. Identify your target and what is behind it.
Lets hit each one of these a bit more in detail:
1. All guns are loaded. How many tragic accidents have we heard of when someone said "I didn't know it was loaded!" A gun is an inanimate object, a tool, with no mind of its own, but, it can of course be deadly. Treat it with the respect it deserves - it is not a toy.
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you aren't willing to destroy. Have you ever been in a gun store and found someone carelessly pointing a rifle at you? I have. Even in that sterile environment where I knew that there was practically no chance of that weapon being loaded, I still was deeply uncomfortable with it, because of rule number 1, I always assume guns are loaded. The store employees were quick to correct the customer, and that was the end of that, but still.... it was unnerving.
3. I can still hear my MTI yelling "KEEP YOUR BOOGER HOOK OFF THE DAMN BANG SWITCH, YOU MORONS!!" Next time you are watching any TV show that shows anyone drawing and firing a weapon, watch closely. I saw an old re-run of Walker Texas Ranger the other day, and the bad guy was running and jumping and scrambling to get away from the good guys -- the whole time his finger was on the trigger. That's how you accidentally shoot yourself. Don't be that guy. Some shows do a very good job showing "trigger finger discipline", where the person draws the weapon, and the trigger finger is still pointing forward, along the slide, until they have their sights on the target and are ready to engage.
4. Identify your target AND what is behind it!! Also, lets add don't shoot at noises and shadows!! Sadly, hunters die every year because of that. Even if you have a positively identified target, you have to remember that your bullet could go right through that target and strike someone behind that target.
If we take these rules to heart, know them, love them, and live them, we'll all be a little safer. Our gun rights are always under attack, so please, stay safe and be a good example to the non-shooting public!