With great power comes great responsibility. - Voltaire (or Stan Lee - either way it rings true.)
Firearms safety is up to you. If you intend to own or handle firearms your FIRST responsibility is to ensure that innocent people are not harmed. My training counselor explains it this way: There are no firearms accidents. There are only ignorance and negligence. Proper training can fix ignorance. A proper attitude is required to avoid negligence. You must want to be safe and follow all the proper safety procedures all the time.
What is a safe direction? Well, it depends.
NOTE: The foregoing discussion assumes that you have a legitimate reason for having a gun in your hand in the first place. The sign in my favorite gun store sums it up best: "Keep It In Your Pants! Please do not un-holster your personal firearm."
Also: The fact that you are defending your life does not relieve you from the responsibility to do no harm to innocent bystanders. Firearms safety is up to you.
This is a good habit to get into. It takes practice. Most people instinctively put their finger on the trigger when they pick up a gun. Find a place on the side of the frame, usually above the trigger, to put your finger between shots. Practice this until it is second nature. In a competition it may save you some points. In a panic situation it may save someone you love.
NOTE: There are often several states of readiness into which a firearm can be placed, depending on its action and its specific features. Go here for a discussion on this subject as it relates to firearms safety.
An often neglected part of firearms safety is keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
You are responsible for preventing unauthorized access to your firearms. This includes your honor student, your neighbor's suicidal teen, your best friend's curious children, the fruitcake down the street and your drunken husband. Lock them up. In a safe. Safes are cheap. Lawsuits and funerals are expensive.
Guns are loud. Discharging firearms involves high pressure gasses and supersonic projectiles. Take precautions.
Bullets contain lead. Lead is a heavy metal that can cause brain damage and other health problems, especially in babies and young children. Wash your face and hands after shooting. Use cold water because hot water will open up your pores. Change your clothes as soon as possible. Keep babies and young children away from bullets and shooting areas. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid exposure to lead.
When handling a firearm do not assume it is unloaded. Open the action and check with your own eyes. If you don't have a good view of the chamber stick a finger in there. If you don't know how to do this have a knowledgeable person show you or read the manual.
Parents should teach their children about guns. Safety lessons and simple explanations at first; gun handling and shooting skills at an appropriate age. Guns are not evil. Gun ownership and use is our birthright. Guns can be dangerous, just as cars, power tools, swimming pools, and dogs can be dangerous. Children must be taught to respect the potential danger of guns, rather than making them a deep, dark secret or pretending they don't exist. Children must not have unsupervised access to guns.
A good first lesson from the NRA Eddie Eagle program: If you see a gun
STOP - DON'T TOUCH - LEAVE THE AREA - TELL AN ADULT