A tragic shooting involving actor Alec Baldwin has suddenly brought the question of “gun safety” to the forefront of national debate. But what is missing from this discussion are the words “firearms safety training.” Put quite simply: more people need firearms safety training. I would go so far as to say “all people” need firearms safety training. Whether you own a gun or not, you should know the basic firearms rules. Get some training.
We’ve had a little time to get more details about the fact that Baldwin shot and killed Halyna Hutchins, the director of photography, on the set of his new movie. (Ironically it’s a movie about a man trying to get his son out of prison because the boy was sent to jail for accidentally killing someone.)
Negligence Isn’t an Accident
People are calling this an “accidental shooting.” It is not. This is a negligent homicide — pure and simple. There are very few true accidents with firearms. Most injuries and deaths are the result of operator error and a failure of people to take firearms safety seriously. That’s what happened here.
According to news reports, Joel Souza, the director, who was also wounded, said three people were handling the gun before the incident. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed reportedly staged the prop guns on a cart outside the building they were filming in because of coronavirus restrictions. Assistant director Dave Halls handed one of those guns to Baldwin. According to the official police report, Halls announced that it was a “cold gun” before giving it to the actor. This is cool movie-set lingo meaning the firearm was supposed to be unloaded. As a result, Baldwin believed — but did not confirm — the firearm was safe to use as the filmmakers tried to get the camera angles just right. But NO ONE checked the gun.
I heard just the other day on NPR … yes, I listen to NPR … that there is a movement in Hollywood to remove ALL guns from movie sets because “The only way to prevent another death is to remove real guns from sets altogether.”
I say there is another way. It is the way of training and education. Let’s take a look at all the problems that appear in just that one paragraph above. First up, Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed allowed live ammo on the set. Gutierrez-Reed had one job: making sure the guns on the set were safe. She is the 24-year-old daughter of a famous Hollywood armorer. She failed at the most basic element of firearms safety on a movie set. If the scene did not call for live fire, there should be no ammo anywhere near those guns. She should have checked and re-checked every gun on set.
Multiple Failures in Hollywood
But hers was not the only failure. Assistant director Dave Halls picked up a gun and handed it to Baldwin, telling him it was “cold.” He did this without checking it. I know this because if he had checked it, he would have noticed it contained live ammo. Did he know how to check it? Did he know what to look for? If not, then he should have been responsible enough to admit he lacked the knowledge which could mean the difference between life and death.
Then Baldwin took the gun — without checking it — and he cocked the hammer, pointed it at a person and pulled the trigger. Those were not accidental actions. He did all of those things with intention. Before picking up the gun, he did not understand that he held in his hand the power to cause death in a fraction of a second. Because he had no training, he did not acknowledge and accept that responsibility as he reached for the gun. The fact that NONE of those three people “knew” the gun was loaded is pure negligence.
And news reports continue to come out that both Gutierrez-Reed and Halls have had numerous complaints against them for unsafe practices on this and previous movie sets. Reportedly, seven crew members walked off the set of Rust, citing safety concerns and poor working conditions, just hours before Baldwin fired the fatal shot.
So, why didn’t anyone check the gun? Because they had never been trained. That’s why. When I was 12 years old, I took a hunter safety class. The first rule of the class was simple. If anyone tries to hand you a gun, make them open the action and show you the gun is empty before you accept the gun. It was a one-and-done rule. If you handed or accepted a gun with a closed action, both students involved were kicked out of class and not allowed to return until the next scheduled class.
Everyone Needs Firearms Training
Yet, those with disdain for firearms — Baldwin is a known anti-gun zealot — refuse to get even the most basic firearms safety training. That is despite the fact they want to use guns to help them make millions of dollars. Even now, in the face of a horrible, preventable tragedy, they talk about restricting guns instead of getting training. To anyone reading this, get more training. Even if you don’t own guns, go take a hunter safety course because that course will teach you how to safely unload every type of firearm.
And then there is the most important thing in the world: Know the status of a firearm at all times! Everyone is a safety officer. Unintended injury with a firearm is negligence, pure and simple. Negligence is avoidable. Get training. Even if you don’t own a gun, get training.