Those of you who have already made it through a recognized hunter's safety or hunter's education course have already had all of the basic safety principles nearly beaten into you. Truly, anyone who owns a firearm of any kind should already be familiar with all of these rules. That said, thousands of people are injured and or killed every year because they fail to practice these rules while handling firearms. I will assume you have never held a firearm and we'll start from the beginning. This is not a complete list and this blog should not be taken to provide every piece of information one needs in order to shoot without any risk of injury. Firearms were originally designed as an improvement over ancient projectile throwing devices intended for taking the lives of humans and animals. No matter what, they are dangerous and should be handled with respect and caution.
THE RULES - These may appear in a different order than what you are familiar with. They are all equally important.
1: Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
2: NEVER point a firearm at anything you don't intend to shoot.
3: Keep your finger OFF the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
4: Keep ALL firearms out of reach of children. Use approved gun-locks and gun-safes to safely store your firearms. Keep your ammunition stored separately.
5: Be aware of your intended target as well as what lies beyond your target. Very few targets, commercial or otherwise, will successfully stop the travel of the bullet. A standard hunting round for many calibers is capable of penetrating steel as well as concrete. Err on the side of caution. Make sure all targets are properly positioned in front of a berm that has plenty of coverage on all sides of the target, especially the top. Know what lies beyond that berm. A .22 caliber round can travel over a mile.
It is NEVER okay to shoot at road signs, parked cars, batteries, propane tanks, etc. While many road signs have bullet holes in them, the IDIOTS that participate in this kind of behavior put lives at risk and give those of us with a respect for firearms a bad name. Batteries and propane tanks contain harmful chemicals and can explode sending shrapnel and poison flying. DO NOT participate in idiot behavior.
This is not a full list of all firearm safety requirements. To learn more about safe use for shooting and hunting, take an approved Hunter's Education Safety Course. To my knowledge, classes are offered by the state you live in and are required before one can purchase a hunting license. These classes teach shooters how to carry and fire weapons in the field in pursuit of game. They discuss safe shooting practices when trying to bag game and should be taken by anyone who intends to hunt or own a firearm.