Jeff Cooper's Four Rules -- or the NRA's Three, or the U. S. Army's old 14 -- include exhortations to control muzzle direction and to know one's target and what it behind it.
It's 2010 and the word still does not appear to have reached every shooter. The linked story tells of a local man, in his own suburban front yard, who was stung by a small-caliber round from a long way away. He's okay, other than pain and a slug stuck in the muscles of his back (he's saving up to have it removed); things could have worked out far worse if he'd been only a little more unlucky.
Colonel Cooper tells us, "Be sure of your target and what's behind it." My father, teaching me to shoot using the 1950s bomb-shelter behind our semi-suburban house as a backstop, favored a more Socratic method:
"Okay, your target is on The Hill (as the shelter was known). Where does the bullet go if you miss?"
"Into the ground...?"
"What if you shoot too high, what's on the other side?"
"That cornfield's not half a mile wide! A .22 bullet can go over a mile. What's on the other side of the field?"
"...and Mr. -----'s farmhouse?"
"Yes. Yes, it is. You keep that muzzle down! You don't touch the trigger until the sights are on the target. Bullets always land somewhere!"
In hindsight, I can't fully imagine the degree of faith and worry that went into his teaching an 11-year-old child safe gun-handling; but he went about it in a way that stuck with me. My older sister and younger brother got similar sessions, too, and on more than one occasion. Kids didn't shoot unsupervised and supervision always came with instruction.
Safety: it's your business. Bullets always land somewhere.
Bonus Ijits: What goes "bang" and lives in a stewpot? Hint, it's occasionally found at airports! There isn't really a Rule for this, but if there was, it would be one word: Don't. If you can carry a gun, you can have it in your luggage on the plane if you follow the clear guidelines to flying with guns. Within the basic TSA procedure, the rules are a little different for every airline but you can find them via the web. The TV station, journalists, f'pete's sake! -- even managed to find the TSA guidelines and add them to their news story.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
3 months ago