I just saw this story on MadOgre.com.

11-25-09: Rule One: Handle all firearms as if they were loaded. This Just Happened. We had a lady bring in an old 12 gauge Winchester 1300 shotgun for trade. Travis and I both check it, cycled the action. When I looked down into the action, I didn’t see any shells in there… the action was cycled probably 20 times. It was filthy, gritty, and foul… it felt like it was full of sand and on top of that it felt too tight. Travis hit it with some gun oil and cycled it a couple more times. Then Marcus cycled it. And then all the sudden – Ker-Chunk! A Live Shell popped onto the shell lifter and there it was. A live round in the gun. What happened evidently was that because the gun was so old and so completely filthy, the feed mechanism was bound up. After a shot of some spray in oil and some working, it became unbound and was then able to feed that unseen shell. This was pretty scary, because there was the hidden potential for an accident. However because everyone followed the 4 Rules, that accident didn’t happen. But it could have had we let our guard down. Because we had all thought the gun was unloaded… here we are looking forward to getting off work early… looking forward to the holiday, getting a little lax… but because we practiced the 4 Rules we avoided what could have been a disaster. A gun shop in Colorado not too long ago had an employee working on a gun… shot and killed another employee… it can happen. Firearms are like poisonous snakes… you can handle them safely, but the moment you disrespect them – they can bite you.

Follow the Rules. Always.

For those not in the know, the four rules—or laws— of guns safety were devised by Colonel Jeff Cooper who, if not invented, developed and popularized the modern technique of the pistol. They are:

  1. All guns are always loaded
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you don’t want to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target [and you are ready to shoot].
  4. Always be sure of your target.

As Randy Cain says, you can break one rule and be okay, but if you break two rules it’s going to end in pain. Although it’s rule 3, Jeff Cooper is reported to have acknowledged that keeping one’s finger off the trigger would prevent most gun accidents. If you watch TV you’ll see rule 3 violations all over the place—and Jack Bauer is one of the worst offenders.

Update: Repeatedly running the slide (as described in the story) is not correct way to check if a pump-action shotgun is unloaded. The correct way is to check the chamber (visually and tactilely) and to check the magazine tube for the presence of the follower. So apparently, in the story above, despite working at a gun shop, they didn’t know how (or didn’t care) to correctly check if the gun is unloaded. And as several of my friends have pointed out the first rule is “All guns are always loaded!” not “Treat all guns as if they were loaded” as maintained in the quoted excerpt.