I have seen this sort of story more times than I care to remember. While my heart is sick for all of those involved in this type of tragedy, my mind can't help but remember the countless times I began a firearms training session for police officers and I asked them about the Four Universal Firearms Safety Rules.
These are four rules that are typically posted at shooting ranges, discussed at the opening of firearms training, and should be applied EVERY TIME you handle a firearm. They are worded slightly different depending on where you are at, but the spirit is the same. The four rules are:
1) All guns are loaded
2) Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to shoot
3) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire
4) Be aware of your target, backstop, and beyond
These are four rules that have been in place for decades. Following all four of these rules literally makes it impossible to "accidentally" shoot someone or something. You have to violate at least one rule in order for this to happen.
Learning to operate a firearm without having the safety rules firmly implanted is not only dangerous, it is ludicrous. It makes about as much sense as begging somebody to teach you how to drive a race car at high speeds, but when they try to explain braking and steering you tell them "I don't need to know all of THAT, I just want to drive it fast." You have to understand safety before you can do anything else effectively.
My lieutenant picked up a firearm and proceeded to violate Universal Safety Rule # 2 as he decided to look down the muzzle of the gun. To this day, I don't understand WHY anybody would do this, other than you have no idea what you are doing, so you figure you had better look like you are examining it closely. As the lead firearms instructor for our department, I did my best to correct this safety matter by reminding him, doing my best ventriloquist impression out of the side of my mouth, "You probably shouldn't point the gun at your face." His response left me dumbfounded and caused a hush to come over the patrons in the store, as he said loudly and with a smile, "Don't worry, this gun isn't loaded." Well silly me... here I thought that was the NUMBER ONE rule of firearms safety... but what do I know?
S - Suppose all guns are loaded
A - Aim firearms in a safe direction at all times
F - Finger off the trigger until you are ready for a bullet to come out
E - Everything in the path of the bullet must be accounted for
I will be the first to tell you that this acronym is not perfect. But I can also tell you from informal data collection used on my students... it works much better than just telling people to remember the Four Universal Firearms Safety Rules. It has the added bonus of being able to be retained easier in the brain.
I challenge you to review the sad incident listed at the beginning, or any other "accidental shooting" for that matter. Is there anyway that these tragedies could have occurred if all four rules were being followed? Use this knowledge to keep you and your loved ones SAFE!