Practical Firearms Training
The ability to own a firearm is a RIGHT (anyone trying to tell you it's a privilege is lying to you.) guaranteed to citizens of the USA by the United States Constitution. However the most important thing to know if you choose to exercise that right is how to be safe with them. Accidents involving firearms are unfortunate but are usually completely avoidable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with owning firearms even if you have children in your household as long as you follow these four simple rules.
ALWAYS keep the firearm pointed in a SAFE direction
Regardless of the condition you believe the firearm is in (whether it is loaded or not to your knowledge), just keep in mind the idea to never point the firearm at something/someone you do not wish to destroy. And it's actually a good idea to apply this to anything that even resembles a real firearm. This will get you into the good habit of not doing so accidentally.
ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
Do not even touch the trigger unless you're getting ready to take a shot.
ALWAYS treat every firearm as if it was loaded
Even if you swear you remember unloading the firearm a minute ago, never treat the firearm with that assumption. Always treating it with the same level of caution you would if you knew it was loaded will bring about good handling habits that would help ensure that you never have an unfortunate accident.
ALWAYS keep the firearm unloaded until ready to use
This rule is a good general rule. Unfortunately if you intend to own firearms for the sake of self defense, there will be a few exceptions to this rule. I recommend that you follow this rule until you have received formal training to where you can recognize when those exceptions would apply.
Additional rules as recommended by the NRA:
Know your target and what is beyond
Be absolutely sure you have identified your target beyond any doubt. Equally important, be aware of the area beyond your target. This means observing your prospective area of fire before you shoot. Never fire in a direction in which there are people or any other potential for mishap. Think first. Shoot second.
Know how to use the gun safely
Before handling a gun, learn how it operates. Know its basic parts, how to safely open and close the action and remove any ammunition from the gun or magazine. Remember, a gun's mechanical safety device is never foolproof. Nothing can ever replace safe gun handling.
Be sure the gun is safe to operate
Just like other tools, guns need regular maintenance to remain operable. Regular cleaning and proper storage are a part of the gun's general upkeep. If there is any question concerning a gun's ability to function, a knowledgeable gunsmith should look at it.
Use only the correct ammunition for your gun
Only BBs, pellets, cartridges or shells designed for a particular gun can be fired safely in that gun. Most guns have the ammunition type stamped on the barrel. Ammunition can be identified by information printed on the box and sometimes stamped on the cartridge. Do not shoot the gun unless you know you have the proper ammunition.
Wear eye and ear protection as appropriate
Guns are loud and the noise can cause hearing damage. They can also emit debris and hot gasses that could cause eye injury. For these reasons, shooting glasses and hearing protection should be worn by shooters and spectators.
Never use alcohol, over-the-counter drugs or prescription drugs before or while shooting
Alcohol, as well as any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical bodily functions, must not be used before or while handling or shooting guns.
Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons
Many factors must be considered when deciding where and how to store guns. A person's particular situation will be a major part of the consideration. Dozens of gun storage devices, as well as locking devices that attach directly to the gun, are available. However, mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun-safety rules.
Additional Safety Precautions
Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions.
Regular cleaning is important in order for your gun to operate correctly and safely. Taking proper care of it will also maintain its value and extend its life. Your gun should be cleaned every time that it is used.
A gun brought out of prolonged storage should also be cleaned before shooting. Accumulated moisture and dirt, or solidified grease and oil, can prevent the gun from operating properly.
Before cleaning your gun, make absolutely sure that it is unloaded. The gun's action should be open during the cleaning process. Also, be sure that no ammunition is present in the cleaning area.