Guns are inanimate objects. They do only what their operator causes them to do. Accidents are the result of either carelessness or ignorance. If you are going to exercise your Second Amendment rights, you have a responsibility to both yourself and society to:
A. Learn the basic rules of firearms safety, and
B. Develop the good habit of always abiding by them.
This isn't hard! You can do it easily, as millions of others have done so before you. Before you even think about touching a gun, you need to not just read, but to learn the following simple rules.
1. Always point your gun in a safe direction. Loaded or not, you should NEVER allow the muzzle to cover anything which you do not want to destroy. When an old gunman is in a crowd, his gun will be pointed either straight up or straight down. This single "common sense" rule is the most important.
2. Learn how your gun operates. You wouldn't use a table saw or drive an automobile without instruction. Read the owner's manual! As a minimum, you need to know where the safety is, how to determine if the gun is loaded, how to load and unload it, and what to do if the action "jams". Get an experienced shooter to help you if you need to. Never be afraid to ask questions. Experienced shooters take questions as a sign of healthy interest, and are happy to help a novice.
3. Obtain the correct ammunition. There are dozens of different cartridges in common use, and they are not interchangeable. Putting the wrong one into your gun can damage it, and you! Check before you load.
4. Store your gun in a locked chest. Young children and ignorant adults are drawn to firearms. It is irresponsible not to protect them (and you) by making your gun inaccessible. Only you should have a key.
5. Obtain eye and ear protection, and wear both when shooting. Guns are loud to the point of pain, and you'll rapidly become deaf if you don't wear muff type ear protectors when practicing. If you shoot at a public range, the gun fired next to you will box your ears if they aren't protected, and you won't be able to enjoy the outing. Guns also emit hot gases and particles of powder and lead, and may eject cartridge cases forcefully. You must wear eye protection.
6. Whenever you handle any gun, open it and make certain that it is unloaded. If you don't understand a gun which is new to you, don't handle it until you learn about that type of action and how it works.
7. When you take your gun out to use it, watch the muzzle! Keep it pointed in a safe direction - never at or even anywhere near other people!
8. Keep your gun's action open and the gun unloaded until you are ready to shoot. This is the mark of an experienced shooter.
9. Once you do start to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger unless you are in the act of firing. That's what trigger guards are for - to let you handle the gun comfortably with your finger OFF the trigger, and resting on the guard.
10. Positively identify your target. Be absolutely certain of what you are shooting, and be aware of what is behind and beyond it. Modern rifles can throw a bullet for miles. Never shoot towards a populated area. Don't shoot unless there is a positive "backstop" - something solid to safely stop your bullet after it goes through the target.
Use "common sense".
11. Keep the guns locked away in their safe box if you are drinking, or using any drug which might dull your alertness. Never handle a gun when you're impaired.
12. Be open to learning additional rules, as circumstances require. For example, different public shooting ranges or clubs may have their own specific rules which they expect you to remember and to follow. Bear this with good grace - such rules, even if at first they seem annoying, are almost always intended to increase your safety and, in the long run, to enhance your enjoyment of the shooting sports.
Bill's dad taught him these things, and monitored him until he was satisfied that they had become second nature. If you weren't fortunate enough to have your dad teach you, don't feel that you have to learn everything on your own. Get instruction! If you don't know an experienced, safe shooter who will help you, find a public range which offers a safety course.