Actors and Gun Safety

 

The Alec Baldwin trial is going to begin in New Mexico. He has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. I do not have all the evidence that the prosecutor has or will present to the jury, so I’ll comment as a former police officer who carried a pistol that was loaded with 18 rounds of live ammunition.

“Unloaded guns” or the “Gee, I didn’t know it was loaded!” plays a role in wounding and shooting deaths. Whether it’s a movie set, range, or handing someone a gun, the assumption should be the weapon is loaded. Before you hand someone a firearm you should make sure that it is unloaded. No round in the barrel as well as an empty magazine, or in the case of a revolver, no rounds in the cylinder. The person who receives the firearm should repeat that check as well. Actors should have some classroom time so they can check any firearm that an armorer gives them on the movie or television set.

Keep your finger off the trigger and do not point the firearm at anyone. When it involves a movie set, any firearm that can fire blanks is not a prop, it is a firearm that has the potential of causing serious physical injury or death. There should be no live rounds anywhere on a movie set. In a police training scenario that is not on a range, the same rule should apply. There have been shooting accidents in police training exercises.

New police officers begin firearms training in a classroom setting and their first range experience is loading two rounds and firing. Then three rounds so they are not carrying a full magazine. They only load the number of rounds needed. The range instructor will tell them how many rounds to load.

Eventually, their range time will be a “hot range” qualification. A hot range means “fire two and holster,” so in a fully loaded Glock 17, after firing two rounds, you still have 15 rounds in the magazine and one round “up the spout,” as the Brits say.

If you go to shoot at an outdoor range, you should assume it is a hot range. Everyone should be on the same line when shooting. When it comes time to mark or replace your target, then everyone must move towards their targets at the same time, and they must be holstered. If someone does not want to move their target and move forward, they should unload and set their firearm down on a tray or place their unloaded pistol back in the holster until everyone is no longer down range.

Guns do not fire themselves. A firearm is an inanimate object until someone puts it in their hand.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Doug Watt: Guns do not fire themselves. A firearm is an inanimate object until someone puts it in their hand.   

    Amen, brother!

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Doug Watt: The person that receives the firearm should repeat that check as well. Actors should have some classroom time so they can check any firearm that an armorer gives them on the movie or television set.  

    If you do not know how to check, do not pick it up or accept it.

    • #2
  3. Not a Banana Republican Coolidge
    Not a Banana Republican
    @Dbroussa

    All good points.  At issue here are the special circumstances in effect when filming with firearms.

    One example is that for some scenes, the firearm will be loaded with blanks.  Then reloaded with dummy bullets that look externally just like real ones for closeups.  What shouldn’t ever happen on the set is loading actual bullets into a firearm that is used as a prop.  From what I read, this particular pistol was taken from the set earlier in the day by members of the crew along with other firearms and loaded with live ammunition to shoot at beer cans to pass the time.  They were then returned to the set and locked up.  

    The armorer and the AD both checked the weapon before the one replica was given to Baldwin.  The armorer told the set that it was a “cold gun” and thus was not supposed to contain live ammo, even if it looked like it did.  According to the AD the replica may have been loaded with some blanks and at least one live round.  The armorer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  

    From what I’ve seen, the armorer was clearly at fault in announcing the firearm as “cold”.  The AD pled to negligent use of a deadly weapon, and I could see Baldwin getting that same charge.  Involuntary Manslaughter doesn’t seem correct.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    From the beginning, I had it drilled in to me: assume the gun is loaded, point in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger. And I lock it open to see if anything is in the chamber. It’s too important to do otherwise.

    • #4
  5. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    All good points, @dougwatt.

    Baldwin’s smarter and more virtuous than the rest of us.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask him.  Since he’s so much better, why should he pay attention to a safety briefing from a lesser being?

    • #5
  6. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    From the beginning, I had it drilled in to me: assume the gun is loaded, point in a safe direction, keep your finger off the trigger. And I lock it open to see if anything is in the chamber. It’s too important to do otherwise.

    And then would the rule not always be, “do not point the weapon at a person unless your intent is to possibly injure that person”?  

    • #6
  7. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    I heard a rumor that the defense will call Robert Hur to testify that even for an actor, Alec Baldwin has subnormal judgment, cognitive acuity and maturity.

    Handing a loaded gun to an actor (or a child or chimpanzee) is the real crime.

    • #7
  8. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    I heard a rumor that the defense will call Robert Hur to testify that even for an actor, Alec Baldwin has subnormal judgment, cognitive acuity and maturity.

    Handing a loaded gun to an actor (or a child or chimpanzee) is the real crime.

    Wasn’t the one who handed him the gun charged as well?

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    And then would the rule not always be, “do not point the weapon at a person unless your intent is to possibly injure that person”?  

    Kinda like pointing in a safe direction unless you plan to kill him.

    • #9
  10. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Not a Banana Republican (View Comment):

    From what I’ve seen, the armorer was clearly at fault in announcing the firearm as “cold”. The AD pled to negligent use of a deadly weapon, and I could see Baldwin getting that same charge. Involuntary Manslaughter doesn’t seem correct.

    That sounds like the right verdict to me. Leave the politics out for a minute: it could have been Selleck or Sinise, James Woods or Gina Carano. Baldwin should not have been handed that gun. This is not in any way to let Baldwin off the hook, but crimes need to be charged at the right level. 

    The most pathetic case was Jon-Erik Hexum, who accidentally killed himself playing with a gun on the set of Cover Up, more than 30 years ago. 

    Actors come from all over the country, largely because good looks come from all over the country. Some have had some firearms training, most have not. They aren’t much different than any other group of 20-40 year old Americans. 

    • #10
  11. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    The most pathetic case was Jon-Erik Hexum, who accidentally killed himself playing with a gun on the set of Cover Up, more than 30 years ago. 

    And that was a blank.  Turns out that if you press it tightly to your skull, there is enough force from the explosion to make a fatal hole.  A ridiculously handsome guy dead at 26.

     

    • #11
  12. Doug Watt Member
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    My LE agency required us to qualify quarterly. If an officer failed to qualify, they had desk or property room duties until they passed the qualification test. We had to qualify with our handgun and the shotgun.

    I only had the shotgun out of the car about two times. They’re heavy and if an incident turns into a foot pursuit you cannot leave the shotgun laying around on the ground.

    I did pull the shotgun out of the car on a narrow side street felony stop. Two armed robbers and I was about 6 feet away from the driver’s door. There were residents watching the show from their front porches and living room windows. If I threw a round from the Glock, there was a chance of hitting a spectator. You have to be aware of the backdrop.

    I aimed at the center of the car door to compensate for the barrel rise, with my finger on the safety button. We didn’t have to shoot, and we recovered their guns and the cash they had stolen.

    • #12
  13. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Doug Watt: Guns do not fire themselves. A firearm is an inanimate object until someone puts it in their hand.

    Amen, brother!

    It just went off!

    • #13
  14. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Columbo (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Doug Watt: Guns do not fire themselves. A firearm is an inanimate object until someone puts it in their hand.

    Amen, brother!

    It just went off!

    But it was pointed at a person when it just went off!

    • #14
  15. Juno Delta Whiskey Coolidge
    Juno Delta Whiskey
    @Cato

    The Rules, as I learned from Appleseed and Pat McNamara.

    1) Always know the status of your firearm.
    2) Always keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
    3) Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
    4) Always know your target, what is in front of it, behind it, and beside it.

    All four of these rules were violated.

    There’s no reason for the cinematographer to have been in front of the gun. Any camera move or focus change could have been done with remote control.

    • #15
  16. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr
    @Tex929rr

    We had at least one very long conversation about this some time ago.  I was adamantly in the camp of Baldwin bearing full responsibility until someone pointed out that apparently firearm safety is routinely placed fully in the hands of the armorer and staff on sets.  Had the armorer done her job properly it never would have happened, and she has already been convicted of a criminal offense.  I find Baldwin to be an overbearing tool, and if he in fact was just making some point in directing a scene (which apparently was not being filmed) he has plenty of responsibility.  The involuntary manslaughter charge seems appropriate to me (as someone who is not an attorney).

    When I was in the Air Force every aircraft crash investigation I was involved with found a chain of events that resulted in the crash.  At any one of the steps the crash could have been avoided.  This strikes me as much the same sort of thing.  Maybe Baldwin didn’t cause it by himself but he sure could have stopped it.

    • #16
  17. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    We had at least one very long conversation about this some time ago. I was adamantly in the camp of Baldwin bearing full responsibility until someone pointed out that apparently firearm safety is routinely placed fully in the hands of the armorer and staff on sets. Had the armorer done her job properly it never would have happened, and she has already been convicted of a criminal offense. I find Baldwin to be an overbearing tool, and if he in fact was just making some point in directing a scene (which apparently was not being filmed) he has plenty of responsibility. The involuntary manslaughter charge seems appropriate to me (as someone who is not an attorney).

    When I was in the Air Force every aircraft crash investigation I was involved with found a chain of events that resulted in the crash. At any one of the steps the crash could have been avoided. This strikes me as much the same sort of thing. Maybe Baldwin didn’t cause it by himself but he sure could have stopped it.

    In military life, you can delegate authority, but you can never delegate responsibility. Civilian life is different, not just in Hollywood. 

    But one area of Hollywood life that is very different than most civilian jobs and all military service is undefined authority, or erratically enforced authority. In 1982, The Twilight Zone helicopter accident fell somewhere between fatal negligence and involuntary manslaughter because nobody was in charge, and too many people were in charge. This wasn’t true in classic Hollywood days, when everyone down to the parking attendants knew who was in charge and who worked for who.

    If you work for, say, Warner Bros TV and work a 9-5 job on the Burbank lot, that still holds true. But if you are working for an independent production that’s filming way out in the country, “Hollywood” is an abstraction. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of “rules don’t apply out here”.  

    • #17
  18. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Generally speaking, it seems that the people training actors and actresses on gun handling are doing a better job than in decades past.  Cop shows from 30+ years ago often showed cops walking around with their fingers on the trigger.  These days, they almost always have their fingers beside the triggers until it is time to fire.  An exception was the first episode (the only one I’ve watched, so far) of Joe Pickett.  Not only does he fire his revolver straight up in the air to scare some game when he could have just shot into the ground, when he’s skulking around, his finger is right on the trigger.

    • #18
  19. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    From local Twitter. 

    • #19
  20. Doug Watt Member
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    After being on the street, I don’t watch the Cops series or the A&E series because I lived it. From pursuits to fights and dealing with idiotic behavior I have done those things. I do believe that it does show some real police work for those that have never done the job.

    I do like some movies like The French Connection, and Bullitt. The car chase in Bullitt was not the main attraction for me. It was Steve McQueen’s portrayal of a detective and his partner that was very close to real life detectives.

    The Bosch series on Amazon Prime portrayed the realistic divide between admin cops and line cops. As an added bonus it was filmed in the real Hollywood Division Station rather than some sort of architecture dream building that is featured in the Rookie.

    The Rookie is laughable in police portrayals as is the Fox 911 series. When it comes to books the best one was The Onion Field, the first book written by Joseph Wambaugh a former Homicide Detective Sgt with the LAPD. All his books offer some insight into law enforcement at the line cop level and both fictional and real-life investigations involving detectives.

    • #20
  21. Chris B Member
    Chris B
    @ChrisB

    One thing I find hard to understand is that Alec Baldwin is the Producer of this production. He’s credited with the position as the executive who is ultimately in charge of hiring decisions and ensuring all aspects of the production are performed safely and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

    For some reason, the judge has determined that his role as Producer is immaterial to the case against him, and that the Jury should not be informed of his title.

    He was in deciding position on the hiring of the armorer and knew that the hired armorer had a previous conviction for a negligent firearms offense. He was responsible to make sure proper training had occurred for the cast and crew. He was responsible for ensuring that the correct people and procedures were in place to maintain a safe set. It is truly a mystery to me how that is not relevant to a charge of negligent homicide.

    • #21
  22. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Chris B (View Comment):

    One thing I find hard to understand is that Alec Baldwin is the Producer of this production. He’s credited with the position as the executive who is ultimately in charge of hiring decisions and ensuring all aspects of the production are performed safely and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

    For some reason, the judge has determined that his role as Producer is immaterial to the case against him, and that the Jury should not be informed of his title.

    He was in deciding position on the hiring of the armorer and knew that the hired armorer had a previous conviction for a negligent firearms offense. He was responsible to make sure proper training had occurred for the cast and crew. He was responsible for ensuring that the correct people and procedures were in place to maintain a safe set. It is truly a mystery to me how that is not relevant to a charge of negligent homicide.

    Not knowing the particulars, I suppose it is to keep the focus on the defendant’s conduct as the sole basis on which to find him guilty or not guilty.  Thus, eliminating the extraneous role he had as Producer. He is not charged with violating the duties of his position, he is charged like anyone else with involuntary manslaughter for his actions.

    • #22
  23. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Chris B (View Comment):

    One thing I find hard to understand is that Alec Baldwin is the Producer of this production. He’s credited with the position as the executive who is ultimately in charge of hiring decisions and ensuring all aspects of the production are performed safely and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

    For some reason, the judge has determined that his role as Producer is immaterial to the case against him, and that the Jury should not be informed of his title.

    He was in deciding position on the hiring of the armorer and knew that the hired armorer had a previous conviction for a negligent firearms offense. He was responsible to make sure proper training had occurred for the cast and crew. He was responsible for ensuring that the correct people and procedures were in place to maintain a safe set. It is truly a mystery to me how that is not relevant to a charge of negligent homicide.

    Not knowing the particulars, I suppose it is to keep the focus on the defendant’s conduct as the sole basis on which to find him guilty or not guilty. Thus, eliminating the extraneous role he had as Producer. He is not charged with violating the duties of his position, he is charged like anyone else with involuntary manslaughter for his actions.

    It is not extraneous if the prosecution shows a pattern of negligence. Members of the crew quit the production due to lax safety conditions prior to the shooting incident. That would seem to be germane.

    • #23
  24. Chris B Member
    Chris B
    @ChrisB

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Chris B (View Comment):

    One thing I find hard to understand is that Alec Baldwin is the Producer of this production. He’s credited with the position as the executive who is ultimately in charge of hiring decisions and ensuring all aspects of the production are performed safely and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

    For some reason, the judge has determined that his role as Producer is immaterial to the case against him, and that the Jury should not be informed of his title.

    He was in deciding position on the hiring of the armorer and knew that the hired armorer had a previous conviction for a negligent firearms offense. He was responsible to make sure proper training had occurred for the cast and crew. He was responsible for ensuring that the correct people and procedures were in place to maintain a safe set. It is truly a mystery to me how that is not relevant to a charge of negligent homicide.

    Not knowing the particulars, I suppose it is to keep the focus on the defendant’s conduct as the sole basis on which to find him guilty or not guilty. Thus, eliminating the extraneous role he had as Producer. He is not charged with violating the duties of his position, he is charged like anyone else with involuntary manslaughter for his actions.

    Negligence in his role as Producer almost certainly lead to the circumstances in which the armor he hired handed a loaded gun to him and told him it was cold. Negligence as a Producer lead to him not ensuring that the rules for handling firearms on set were being followed, even by himself.

    He has, by his own assertion, received film set firearms training over 30 times, but was not handling the firearm according to the rules it was his responsibility to ensure are taught and enforced.

    • #24
  25. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Percival (View Comment):

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Chris B (View Comment):

    One thing I find hard to understand is that Alec Baldwin is the Producer of this production. He’s credited with the position as the executive who is ultimately in charge of hiring decisions and ensuring all aspects of the production are performed safely and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

    For some reason, the judge has determined that his role as Producer is immaterial to the case against him, and that the Jury should not be informed of his title.

    He was in deciding position on the hiring of the armorer and knew that the hired armorer had a previous conviction for a negligent firearms offense. He was responsible to make sure proper training had occurred for the cast and crew. He was responsible for ensuring that the correct people and procedures were in place to maintain a safe set. It is truly a mystery to me how that is not relevant to a charge of negligent homicide.

    Not knowing the particulars, I suppose it is to keep the focus on the defendant’s conduct as the sole basis on which to find him guilty or not guilty. Thus, eliminating the extraneous role he had as Producer. He is not charged with violating the duties of his position, he is charged like anyone else with involuntary manslaughter for his actions.

    It is not extraneous if the prosecution shows a pattern of negligence. Members of the crew quit the production due to lax safety conditions prior to the shooting incident. That would seem to be germane.

    It is certainly powerful evidence in a civil suit alleging wrongful death, as violating the legal duties arising from one’s position can be grounds to find negligence. But this is a criminal prosecution, and one that will spend days focusing on a few moments to see if the elements of the crime have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The producer role to me would be an unnecessary distraction. But that’s just like, my opinion, man.

    • #25
  26. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Chris B (View Comment):

    One thing I find hard to understand is that Alec Baldwin is the Producer of this production. He’s credited with the position as the executive who is ultimately in charge of hiring decisions and ensuring all aspects of the production are performed safely and in compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

    For some reason, the judge has determined that his role as Producer is immaterial to the case against him, and that the Jury should not be informed of his title.

    He was in deciding position on the hiring of the armorer and knew that the hired armorer had a previous conviction for a negligent firearms offense. He was responsible to make sure proper training had occurred for the cast and crew. He was responsible for ensuring that the correct people and procedures were in place to maintain a safe set. It is truly a mystery to me how that is not relevant to a charge of negligent homicide.

    In real life, it’s not so. “Producer” is a real job, but it can also be an ego payoff that makes a star’s fee lower. Demi Moore was one of the producers of Austin Powers. If a stuntman died on any of the three films, does that make Demi Moore a criminal? Baldwin didn’t produce the film in any meaningful sense and never claimed to. That’s not an evasion; that’s the honest fact. He didn’t choose the crew. 

    Put it this way, with a more sympathetic hypothetical defendant. Two workmen are killed by disregarding safety rules on a construction site. A Trump construction site! With his money in the project! And his name will actually be on top of the finished building!! Is there any way that Donald Trump can avoid criminal responsibility?

    Yeah, obviously. The building is built by a third-party company. The subproject in question was farmed out to a local subcontractor, who contractually agreed to OSHA rules. However, the subcontractor was sloppy about rules. 

    It’s not a perfect analogy. And Baldwin’s got his responsibilities, too. But unless he told the director, “Say! I know a great armorer who works cheap!”, I don’t see a case. 

    • #26
  27. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    It’s not a perfect analogy. And Baldwin’s got his responsibilities, too. But unless he told the director, “Say! I know a great armorer who works cheap!”, I don’t see a case. 

    But the problem could be, even if that IS what happened, it sounds like the jury won’t find out.

    • #27
  28. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    It’s not a perfect analogy. And Baldwin’s got his responsibilities, too. But unless he told the director, “Say! I know a great armorer who works cheap!”, I don’t see a case.

    But the problem could be, even if that IS what happened, it sounds like the jury won’t find out.

    How is that different from any other criminal trial? “There might have been a hypothetical remark, but we’ll never know” doesn’t cut it as trial evidence. 

    • #28
  29. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    It’s not a perfect analogy. And Baldwin’s got his responsibilities, too. But unless he told the director, “Say! I know a great armorer who works cheap!”, I don’t see a case.

    But the problem could be, even if that IS what happened, it sounds like the jury won’t find out.

    How is that different from any other criminal trial? “There might have been a hypothetical remark, but we’ll never know” doesn’t cut it as trial evidence.

    No, I mean that even if he WAS the one who did it, they won’t find out if the judge doesn’t allow the questions.

    • #29
  30. Chris B Member
    Chris B
    @ChrisB

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    It’s not a perfect analogy. And Baldwin’s got his responsibilities, too. But unless he told the director, “Say! I know a great armorer who works cheap!”, I don’t see a case.

    So then, the fact that an inexperienced armorer with a previous conviction for negligence was hired after the Union armorer quit in protest over unaddressed safety issues is germane. I’m glad you now agree with me.

    Of course the fact that Baldwin was “The Boss” and didn’t take firearm safety seriously is relevant. Had the crew seen Baldwin taking it seriously, they likely never would have taken the stage gun to go plunking cans behind the lot. Had Baldwin taken it seriously, the armorer damn well would have checked the gun every time she lost sight of it and had Baldwin taken it seriously, he would have personally checked the gun as he was trained to and never would have pointed it at anyone.

    People follow the lead of those in charge. There were multiple failures caused by multiple peoples’ negligence that lead to the tragic shooting, but ultimately it was Baldwin’s failure as a leader to instill in his team that firearm safety was important to him, that made the incident possible.
    The fact that he was at least nominally in charge and did not seem to his crew to care about gun safety is at the heart of the negligent killing of his director.

    • #30
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