Alec Baldwin shares some of the blame

After weeks of silence and a feigned hideout in small-town Vermont, actor Alec Baldwin has broken his silence about the firearm incident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Baldwin blamed “someone” for the shooting on the set of his film Rust.

"Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can't say who that is, but I know it's not me," Baldwin said.

The complete abdication of responsibility may help Baldwin sleep at night, but that doesn’t make it true. Accidents of this nature are often the product of a series of mistakes and miscalculations rather than just one. Baldwin played a key role in this chain.

Based on the information available, it seems an inexperienced armourer, a clueless assistant director, and an overly deferential actor share the blame, albeit to varying degrees.

In Canada, it’s impossible to get a firearms license without having the ‘PROVE’ and ‘ACTS mnemonics drilled into you. The first two parts of ACTS, assume every firearm is loaded and control the muzzle direction at all times, are particularly relevant here. In general you should never point a gun at someone, even if you know for a fact it’s unloaded. In Baldwin’s case, he didn’t know and never bothered checking.

Assistant director Dave Halls allegedly handed Baldwin the gun and said it was “cold,” or unloaded. Baldwin took him at his word.

Halls, according to his lawyer, “had no responsibility, no liability and certainly not at the level of criminal liability.”

This seemingly cavalier on-set attitude towards firearms isn’t a given. Baldwin said in the ABC interview that he’s worked with armorers who insist on demonstrating guns are cold before handing them over.

Why not insist, as the producer, or at the very least as the actor handling such guns, on that level of diligence as the norm?

“I trusted them to do the job,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin was not a hapless victim in this. He made a choice to make safety someone else’s responsibility.

To be clear, whatever my political disagreements with Baldwin, I feel horrible he’s had to go through this. My sympathy for him doesn’t come close to what I feel for Hutchins’ family, but I accept there was no malice. Yet there were enough weak links that it isn’t fair to write this off as an unavoidable freak accident either. It was entirely preventable.

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One of Baldwin’s defensive lines with Stephanopoulos is that he “didn’t pull the trigger.” I can’t help but wonder if this helps muddle the narrative for those unfamiliar with how guns work.

To get the shot, Baldwin said he needed to cock the gun, but not fire it: “The trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.”

“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’” Baldwin said. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun, the gun goes off.”

“So, you never pulled the trigger?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“No, no, no, no, no,” Baldwin said. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”

A trigger does not fire a revolver. The trigger does, however, result in the movement of the piece that does fire a revolver – the hammer. It’s the hammer that strikes the primer, which sends a bullet flying through the barrel.

From The Reload:

When the hammer is pulled back on a single-action revolver a series of sears are engaged which prevent it from moving back towards the chamber without the trigger being depressed. There are scenarios where the gun might be able to fire after the hammer is pulled back but without the trigger being pulled. However, they’re even more unlikely than a misfire with the hammer all the way down.

Although rare, an accidental discharge is possible. A negligent discharge is more probable. Regardless, if anyone involved in the gun’s handoffs and handling – including Baldwin – had taken a moment to ensure it was unloaded, Hutchins would still be here.

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