Gunfight at the PC Corral

"My definition of a man's man is a man who knows gun safety, and we all did."

—Kurt Vonnegut

Reality is often stranger than fiction.

A few days ago, Alex Baldwin, an outspoken Hollywood political activist, shot and killed his cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, on the set of Rust in New Mexico.  Early press reports characterized the incident as a "prop" (property department) gun "misfire," immediately establishing a narrative suggesting that the shooter was innocent while the gun or safety procedures were at fault.  As reporting escalated, the yarn changed to blame the assistant director, who reportedly handed Baldwin a "cold" gun — with a hot round.

Some reports suggest that the set "armorer" was to blame.  Armorer is one of those Hollywood featherbed jobs you see in film credits that is supposed to ensure firearm safety on location.  Why the safety gal wasn't checking weapons, hot or cold, has yet to be explained.

Baldwin apparently fired the gun while "practicing" or rehearsing for the next take.  So far, there is no discussion of what kind of gun training is required for actors like Baldwin before they are allowed to handle weapons on set.  There is no filmed record of the shooting, either — or so we are told.

Press reporting doesn't explain why real weapons and live ammunition are required to film yet another horse opera.  A true cowboy "prop" gun would be a reproduction revolver, not a lethal weapon.  The use of the adjective "prop" to describe a weapon that kills someone is a little like using the adjective "accidental" to describe a drug overdose or, worse still, a suicide.

Such is the reality of reporting and media servility today.  To date, the polite phrase for press coverage of the latest Baldwin controversy might be "cover-up" — indeed, another bravo sierra fake news story in progress.

Alex Baldwin is a press darling, a Hollywood activist, an acerbic liberal with a history of verbal child abuse, public thuggery, anger management issues, and vulgar outbursts.  Baldwin has fantasized aloud about beating up the president of the United States.  Just last November, he recommended "Bury Trump in a Nazi graveyard and put a swastika on his grave."

Given what we know about the shooting, the most generous assessment possible of the Hutchins tragedy is negligent homicide.  Put aside for a moment, if you can, Baldwin's history as an angry public bully.  Alas, if you pull the trigger, you are ultimately responsible for the bullet.

Any other judgment is a bold lie, an excuse, or both.

A kid who has been through a basic NRA gun safety course knows the difference between a live round and a blank.  A bullet doesn't look like a blank.

Adults know the difference between a hot and a cold gun, too, especially a revolver, where ammunition is clearly visible, even without spinning the cylinder.

A slick-sleeve military private knows to clear any weapon before and after use.

A child with basic gun safety training knows also that you never point a hot or cold gun at somebody or something you don't intend to shoot.

And even a novice knows that you don't pull the trigger, for fun or practice, on an empty gun.  Dropping the hammer on an empty chamber can damage the gun and make it unsafe.

There are two grim speculations to be made here in light of known labor and safety problems on set.  The Rust cast might have been using the guns for target practice during downtime, and a live round was left in the gun — or some malcontent salted the "prop" guns with live rounds as some kind of sick message to management.  In any case, press reporting to date doesn't pass the smell test.

Ultimately, the man with his finger on the trigger is responsible for any gun "misfire" or "accident."  A single-action revolver must be cocked to fire, a deliberate act.  Calling Baldwin's negligence a "misfire" is another example of fake news, a lame attempt to blame the inanimate and exonerate the culprit.  Sadly, given what we know about liberal politics, Hollywood mores, and celebrity social accountability these days, the Hutchins family may get compensation but in the end will see little justice.

The author is a career military veteran and erstwhile hunter who usually writes about national security.

Image: Alec Baldwin. YouTube screen grab.

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