It’s impossible to feel sorry for actor Alec Baldwin who killed one person and wounded another in a movie set gun accident on October 21. It’s impossible because, though he claims to feel great sadness and regret, Baldwin refuses to accept any responsibility for the shooting.
Though Baldwin is one of Hollywood’s louder bigmouths advocating gun control, those of us who seek to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights can take no satisfaction from that incident.
Hollywood’s hypocrisy on this issue has been obvious since actors began speaking out for gun control decades ago. Actors, producers, and directors shout for gun control while they are making a lot of money from movies that feature guns and gunfights more often than not. About sixty percent of movies and television shows feature at least one firearm and about as many contain gunfights.
According to studies by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, over thirty years (1985-2015), the frequency of gunfights in PG-13 movies has about doubled. Other studies have shown that gun violence in PG-13 movies even exceeds that in R-rated flicks.
Hollywood makes movies and television shows that way because they’re popular and make buckets of money. Some gun manufacturers (including Glock) pay a lot to have their guns shown in certain flicks. It’s called “product placement.” The denizens of Hollywood are capable of such thorough cognitive dissonance that they perceive no conflict in advocating gun control and making their fortunes from guns.
Movie set deaths are uncommon but not rare. According to a Los Angeles Times report, forty-seven fatalities occurred since 1990. However, firearms-related deaths on movie sets is exceedingly rare. The last one I could find occurred in 1993 when Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon, was killed. It takes the negligence of several people, as we will see, to cause such a fatality.
The Baldwin shooting was apparently an accident on a movie set that had been plagued with unsafe and uncontrolled gun use. In the shooting on the Rust movie set Baldwin accidentally killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.
Since the shooting, Baldwin has been performing in interviews where he claims he’s terribly disturbed and goes without sleep. The pity is all for himself, and none for the victims. And there is plenty of blame to go around.
The film’s armorer — the person in charge of all firearms on the set and responsible for their use — was Hanna Guitierrez-Reid, daughter of long-time movie armorer Thell Reed. It was her responsibility to see the actors were trained in the use of the firearms to be used in the film and to ensure they did so safely.
But — according to news reports shortly after the incident — there were two accidental discharges within a week before the fatal shooting. Some early reports also said that cast and crew members had used live ammunition for target shooting (what many shooters call “plinking,” aiming at cans, bottles, or other random targets) between filming sessions. Had Guitierrez-Reid been doing her job, she would have banned live ammunition from the set and adjacent areas and barred the plinking sessions with guns under her control.
David Halls, an assistant director, took the gun from a cart of guns prepared by Guitierrez-Reed and handed it to Baldwin, telling him that it was a “cold gun,” i.e., that it was unloaded and safe to use. But Halls never checked the weapon himself.
Neither did Baldwin. He may garner some sympathy from others’ actions, but as the man who fired the shot he is ultimately responsible for the safety of the weapon and what he did with it.
Baldwin was reportedly rehearsing a cross-draw with an inexpensive replica of the 1873 Colt Single Action Army revolver manufactured by F.lli Pietta. Baldwin insists that he never pressed the trigger to cause the gun to fire. In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, he said, “I let go of the hammer of the gun. And the gun goes off.” He added, “I didn’t pull the trigger…. I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”
Baldwin has been acting for decades. It’s fair to infer that he was familiar with the operation of revolvers such as the replica he fired. He was practicing his cross-draw, and aiming it at the camera where Hutchins was standing (with Souza behind her) and directing him where to point the gun.
Baldwin, as he stated, pulled the hammer back and then released it. He claims he didn’t press the trigger but he must have had his finger on the trigger which is a natural motion in drawing any pistol.
In more than sixty years of shooting I have owned many firearms including two replicas of the 1873 Colt SAA, both manufactured by Ruger. While pulling back the hammer even a slight pressure on the trigger while cocking the weapon causes the gun to fire when the hammer is released. Baldwin must have had his finger inside the trigger guard and — perhaps unconsciously — kept pressure on the trigger while drawing, discharging the weapon, killing Hutchins and wounding Souza.
It could not have been otherwise. The mechanical functions of any Colt SAA and its replicas require it. That led to many actors in the 1960s and beyond to “fanning” their Colts and Colt replicas — using the left hand to “fan” the hammer back quickly while holding down the trigger — to fire rapidly (almost certainly without hitting the intended target, but it’s Hollywood so reality is unrelated). Baldwin may have “fanned” a similar .45 in other movies.
Guitierrez-Reed’s and Halls’ negligence is really no excuse for Baldwin. He must have seen Hutchins at the point of aim close to the camera. As the man holding and firing the weapon it was, ultimately, his responsibility for its safety. He claims he’d never aim a gun at anyone and pull the trigger, yet that is precisely what he did, evidently without checking the weapon himself to see if it was loaded with live rounds.
Baldwin has apparently learned nothing from the shooting. Neither has Hollywood. Producers, directors, and actors will continue to use real firearms — loaded with blanks or not loaded at all — because it is easier and more realistic.
One of the most popular TV shows today — Yellowstone— features guns or gunfights in almost every episode. I haven’t yet seen the new James Bond flick, but I’m sure it follows suit. Movies and television shows won’t stop showing gunfights because they draw paying audiences worldwide. It’s only entertainment until someone gets shot for real.