The rules: Handle any gun as if it's loaded. Never point a gun at another person. Never treat a gun like a toy.
Those are basic lessons taught to young hunters around the country, lessons that can stick with a person for life.
But lessons apparently unlearned by a 31-year-old Waterville man who last week had a few drinks, propped an "unloaded" hunting rifle under his chin and is now missing the bottom half of his face.
Ditto for the Stonington man who was cleaning a .45 caliber handgun in his kitchen recently when the gun went off, striking him in the leg and his 4-year-old daughter in the thigh.
Basic gun training might have helped prevent a Bangor man from shooting his three-year-old daughter in the neck on Oct. 31, leaving her with life-threatening injuries.
All of which might lead a reasonable person to think some more gun training might help some people avoid these stupid, painful mistakes.
Perhaps the kind of course where a gun instructor might detect that a young man was off his rocker before he was allowed to buy a high-powered, semi-automatic rifle.
You know, the kind of young men who hear voices and wind up shooting a couple dozen children, or a handful of co-workers.
So, gun training? Why not talk about that?
Which is the mistake a long-time writer and technical editor for Guns & Ammo made when he sat down to pen a column for the publication.
Dick Metcalf spoke his mind on the last page of the magazine's December issue. He thought it reasonable for his home state of Illinois to make a gun-handling course a requirement for gun ownership. It seemed like a reasonable idea, he said.
Others did not, and the reaction was immediate and unforgiving. The magazine's readers, the adamant defenders of the Second Amendment, couldn't stand to see Metcalf exercise his First Amendment right. The one about free speech.
Under pressure from readers, Metcalf soon found himself fired, while the magazine's editor was moved to another job within the company, even after issuing a profuse apology.
This is the politics of intolerance and intimidation practiced by the most radical members of the National Rifle Association.
When a RECOIL magazine editor dared say he didn't think civilians should have access to fully automatic machine guns, he was forced to step down,
Another gun magazine writer was similarly punished for expressing the opinion that hunters should not use combat-style weapons.
Even Smith & Wesson became the focus of a customer and advertiser boycott when it talked with federal officials about making handguns safer.
While we have taken amazing strides toward making everything from airplanes to automobiles safer, there is apparently no possible technical ways guns could be made less dangerous to users.
No way, apparently.
Because things are going swimmingly well in the real world, at least for the gun and ammo industry.
The cash registers are ringing, guns are flying off shelves, and ammo is selling so fast manufacturers can hardly keep up with demand, even after doubling prices.
Things are not going quite as well for about 10,000 Americans killed so far this year by guns, including the 85 killed in 11 U.S. mass shootings in a little more than a year.
Americans, apparently, get enough gun-handling knowledge from watching TV police shows and playing video games.
There is no doubt that the vast, vast majority of gun owners will never shoot themselves or another person. They will use guns safely and responsibly.
But if there are ways we can prevent a small group of people from harming themselves or others, shouldn't we at least talk about that?
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.