Safety is the primary goal. Conscientious attention to these rules will prevent most, if not all, gun accidents. Be aware that ignorance and carelessness lead to accidents in all walks of life, including the handling of firearms.
Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
If the gun should discharge, it should not harm any person or destroy any valuable property. Careful attention to muzzle direction is key to safely handling a firearm. When carrying a firearm from place to place, the best way to control the muzzle is to keep it in your view. Be aware of what objects can stop a bullet, and what ones cannot. In NRA courses, and on shooting ranges, the instructor or range officer will explain and point out the safe directions available.
Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot
Under normal conditions guns do not discharge unless the trigger is pulled. When holding or manipulating a gun, hold the grip firmly and place the trigger finger along the frame or receiver, not inside the trigger guard.
Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use
Guns cannot be discharged unless they are loaded with live ammunition. There are many uses of guns which permit them to be loaded, but such firearms must always be under your control. Guns not in use, but not stored, should have the action locked open so that anyone may inspect the chamber and magazine for live ammunition. When handing a gun to another person, lock open the action (if possible) and check the chamber and magazine by sight and feel to ensure than no live ammunition is present. The person receiving the gun should also check.