Responsibility

So, Alec Baldwin, actor, political shouty person, anti-gun activist and generally an arse (for many reasons, and certainly not the only, nor indeed the biggest arse in Hollywood) accidentally shot a woman on set and killed her. Using a ‘prop gun’ that was loaded with a real bullet.

Naturally the internet has instantly polarised into two camps, because politics. On one side, the argument that he had no reason to suspect that a stage weapon was loaded with anything other than blanks. On the other, the argument that he was responsible for ensuring he handled the weapon safely, no matter what he thought it was loaded with. Who is right?

Well… since I won’t join in the polarisation, I’m going to say both. To an extent. I hear he is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, which seems fair. He didn’t know the gun was loaded with live rounds but he did point the gun and pull the trigger. However, in mitigation, he would have expected the props department to have ensured he wasn’t carrying a live gun on set. That doesn’t make him innocent, but it should reduce the severity of any sentence.

Let’s try an analogy. I drive a car, and in the UK (and I suspect most other countries) the roadworthiness of the car is the driver’s responsibility. Whether you own it, rent it or borrow it, even if it’s provided by your work, making sure it’s safe to be on the road is the driver’s responsibility. So even if it’s a rental car, if there is no tread on the tyres, the driver is the one who gets fined. It’s up to you to check it over before you drive it.

Never mind the engine, or the exploding batteries in the new street dodgems. Nobody could be expected to foresee everything – but brakes, tyres, fluid levels… these are really not difficult to check and should be done regularly anyway. Not just once a year at MOT.

So let’s put Alec Baldwin in the driver’s seat here. Let’s say he’s just picked up his car from the garage where he’d had the brakes serviced. It would be reasonable for him to expect those brakes to now be in perfect condition, since the mechanic (analogous to the props manager) has assured him the work was done correctly.

Driving, he notices the brakes feel a little spongy but hey, they’ve just been fixed. It’ll just be the new pads bedding in. At the next junction the brakes fail – the bleed nipples were left loose and he’s been losing fluid – and he crashes into another car. Who gets the blame?

Legally, as the driver, he gets the blame. His insurance will have to pay out and his insurance premiums will go up as a result. If anyone is hurt, if it goes to court, he will stand as the accused. He was driving, it was his responsibility to ensure the car was safe to drive.

However, his lawyers will argue that he had just collected the car from a mechanic who assured him the brakes were now in perfect condition. The mechanic who didn’t properly tighten the bleed nipples is partly to blame. This won’t save him from the insurance claim, nor any driving charges that might come up, but it should reduce his punishment – fines or withdrawal of licence – because he quite reasonably assumed he had been handed a safe set of brakes. It would also likely finish the mechanic as a trustworthy servicing worker but that’s really a separate issue.

He didn’t intend to crash into the other car. He genuinely thought his brakes were safe but in a strict interpretation of the law, it was his responsibility to make sure those brakes were safe. So his insurance will pay out and he’ll take the hit at the next renewal. If there are any claims against him from the other party, he will lose. The other party, remember, is completely innocent in this incident. All he can do is mitigate the blame by saying an ‘expert’ had only just told him the brakes were fine and he had no reason to doubt that.

So I say, in relation to the gun incident, that both sides are right. He was on set, he had a gun he believed to be a prop, firing only blanks. There is absolutely no reason why any gun used in such a scenario would ever have live rounds in it. There is no reason why any live rounds should be anywhere on set. Alec Baldwin believed his prop manager when he was handed the gun, that it was loaded only with blanks.

On the other hand, he was the one holding the gun. I don’t have any live round guns, only ever handled two (a .22 live round rifle and a shotgun, once each) in my life and even I know this – you never assume a gun is safe. If you are holding it, you are responsible for it and responsible for any consequences arising from its misuse. The gun he had, although called a ‘prop’, was quite clearly real and (he thought) loaded with blanks. Why it was loaded with live rounds is open to question, obviously it should not have been, but it was capable of firing live rounds and really, he should have known that.

It is fair to say he was not expecting it to have live rounds in it, but even so – pointing a gun at someone and pulling the trigger is always, always a very silly thing to do. Even if you are absolutely sure it’s not loaded. The day might come when you are wrong about that. As it did for Alec. Especially with modern guns. You can’t see the bullets and even if you take out the magazine, there could still be a live round in the chamber.

I don’t, as I said, have any guns. My particular preference is bows, crossbows and bladed weapons. The most powerful crossbow I have is 175 lbs draw weight, which will penetrate a standard car door with ease. It’s easy to tell if it’s loaded, because your fingers will still be hurting from drawing it into firing position and the bolt will be visible. At that point, I am extremely careful where I point it.

It is not safe to point it upwards since it will fire that bolt quite some distance and if one of the local farmers finds it embedded in a cow or a sheep’s back, he’s not going to be very pleased with me. It’s only safe to hold it pointing downwards and if that means a misfire buries the bolt in the ground, or even if the bolt slides out and I damage the bow with a dry fire, that’s better than letting a wild bolt loose into the air.

Even the smaller 50 and 80 lb crossbows can do serious damage, even kill someone. Those are much easier to load and yet require exactly the same safety protocols as the powerful one. Again, it is quite clear when they are loaded, but even when they are not, I don’t wave them around randomly. That’s a bad habit to get into. If you do it unloaded, one day you will do it loaded.

It’s not really the same, I know. I couldn’t possibly ‘accidentally’ fire a bow I could claim I thought was ‘unloaded’. It’s similar in that I would never aim a loaded crossbow, or even a standard bow with an arrow nocked and drawn, at someone. A crossbow safety can slip, your fingers can slip on a string, when dealing with anything dangerous you never assume safety. Same with the bladed weapons – swords, axes etc. You do not ‘show off’ by waving them around. My wood axe will split a log with a casual one handed swing. You really don’t want anyone in the way.

So while I don’t think Alec Baldwin should get off scot free – he did kill someone, after all – I can see mitigating circumstances around the case. He was an idiot to point his gun at someone even though he thought it only contained blanks, but he was acting on a film set and had no reason to believe the gun contained anything but blanks. He is anti-gun so it’s reasonable to assume he has no real idea about gun safety. He’s an actor so probably has little idea about the real world at all.

I’ll admit I’m not a fan. Of him, nor of any of his compatriots who have spouted off politically over recent years. On either side. You are actors. Politics is not your job. Just stick to what you know. Our politicians are bad enough at politics without the rest of you encouraging them.

Still, the polarisation in the response to this is clearly political. One side wants him jailed forever, the other side wants him exonerated entirely, and I have to say that I feel this man is now in a position many have found themselves in in recent years. Piggy in the middle. Does he deserve it? Maybe. That’s not for me to judge.

The question nobody seems to be asking, the question I’d have thought was paramount, is…

Why was there a live round in a prop gun in the first place?

And… was it accidental?

27 thoughts on “Responsibility

  1. Rumor now has it that some of the crew had loaded it with real bullets and had taken it target shooting. The other rumor is that it had previously misfired with blanks and should have been removed from the prop room for that alone.. But by now I believe almost nothing I read so I stand by none of that. The real question, as you’ve said, is why did he point and shoot it at all? I’d say because he’s a f’ing wiseguy. And for that, I’d like to see negligent manslaughter charges which, I’ve read’ is 14 months.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My son thinks he was set up. But I’m not very hot oh conspiracy theories. However, I do know that you should never point a gun at anyone. This is the first thing I was taught. But I do feel sorry for him. Not to forget his victim.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would say yes. Especially as the damage becomes clearer by the day. It’s no longer a case of ‘we didn’t know’.

      Maybe I’m being cruel, but then I’m not the company executive or politician trying to hide the harm for money. And I’m not the one continuing to inject this poison while the bodies pile up. I’m not the one pretending it’s not happening so I can get my little bonus per shot.

      When it comes down to it, when it comes to those deliberately running this show, when it comes to the harms now knowingly inflicted, I can be very, very cruel indeed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Leggy, you are missing out on the best weird little coinkydink of this.
    Arkancide.
    The husband of the dead woman, Matthew Hutchins
    is an attormey at the legal firm which represented the Clintons, the lead attorney of which has been indicted as part of the Durham investigation for lying to the FBI.

    Course it could all be a complete coincidence, but given the trail of corpses whenever the Clintons are involved, who’s going to take that bet.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Who and why and when did a live round find its way into what is obviously NOT a model or replica ‘stage’ gun.
    Somewhat ironical this unpleasant actor should have been used, is that the right word?, in this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d have used him if I wanted someone shot. His vehement anti-gun stance would make it very credibly an accident.

      So far, it appears to have simply been an accident. There’s plenty of speculation out there already, I won’t add to it right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s a really weird labor union angle to this tale. I’ve been following and writing about a lot of union goings on as of late, and the threatened New Mexico film industry workers strike appeared on my radar almost two weeks ago when the construction workers went on strike in Mexico and got gassed. Also learned that a breakfast cereal manufacturer’s unionized workers had gone on strike, and there are a lot of other strike-ish rumblings here and there as you may well know. (airlines, medical workers, etc.)

    I didn’t include the NM film workers strike in that particular blog post, but I did find it quite odd when I later learned that this movie was being filmed in New Mexico.

    Maybe there’s something to the union thing, maybe not. If there is something to it, I’d think this would be a union vs union something since Baldwin is almost certainly a member of a union or two, and I’d imagine that not all the film workers nor the armorer nor Baldwin may all be members of the same union(s)? I really don’t know. And not to get too conspiratorial, but some union vs union or even internal strife within a single union would work out well for certain union-busting type interests.
    /shrug

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Golden rule of weapons handling, regardless of weapon, regardless of whether you think the chamber is empty or loaded with blanks: You never, ever, point it at someone unless you intend to kill them. So, yes, he is responsible and involuntary manslaughter is right and proper.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Various ins and outs to this: previous misfires – faulty weapon or faulty ammunition? Bad onsite procedures – the armourer should have demonstrated that the weapon was loaded with the correct rounds and AB should have witnessed it being loaded. As LR wrote, there is only one reason to point a weapon at anyone: with modern effects there is no reason for anyone to be in the line of fire.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Longrider is correct. I was an Authorised Firearms Officer for many years and the emphasis in every training exercise was, you never point a firearm at someone unless you intend to shoot. As the person using the firearm it is your responsibility to check what is being loaded into the firearm.In the case of film acting where the firearms are being discharged then live rounds should never make it onto the set.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve seen some video and some photos of the young woman hired to load the gun and my impression is that while she’s 24 she looks and acts like she’s going on 15. One comment quips that she doesn’t look trustworthy to sell cotton candy at a hockey game. Apparently she was subbing for the union person, had only worked the position once before and was chastised for dangerous gun handling behavior then.

    Then I understand that another assistant took one of the guns provided by this young woman off of a table and handed it to Baldwin. Baldwin relied on others to insure the gun was safe. Unresponsable behavior. Yet, not unlike the millions who rely on others to tell them that an experimental gene therapy is safe and the so called leaders that want to shackle all of humanity to it. This behavior of deferred responsibility has become all too commonplace.

    Lastly, I would assume that for quite some time now if you wanted to create a film segment involving a gun being shot directly into the camera lens as was claimed there’s absolute no need for any human to stand behind that camera.

    Oh, by the way. a hearty FJB, lads.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. As a rabid anti-gun nut, it’s safe to assume Baldwin is one of those clueless people that refuses to be educated by the pro-gun lobby on the responsibility of holding one in your hand.
    You don’t play with guns. Period. Even if you are being paid to pretend. You “always” check the gun is safe. That’s your responsibility as the gun holder.
    This was a film set in the 1800s so revolvers would be the period-correct firearm. It’s pretty easy for the prop manager to hand Baldwin an empty gun and then hand him the blank rounds before he himself loaded the gun. But of course being clueless about guns, even that was beyond him maybe? There’s a lesson here, hopefully Baldwin, the film industry and legislators will take heed. But I doubt it. But it’s not the gun that is the problem, it’s the person firing it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Should the ownership of guns be allowed just as a passing fancy? That is the real question. Personally I would like to if I wanted to, but largely for killing animals to eat.
      As it is I own an Antique Sword Stick, bought in ignorance from some North Devon Café and only found out when my four year old son was waving it about in the back of the car on the way home. I thought I was buying a walking stick. It cost me ten bob.
      These are totally illegal under any circumstances but I wouldn’t say much for the chances of any predator coming up my stairs. So I won’t be handing it in anytime shortly.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve never owned a live round gun. I used to have an air rifle but I saw how things were heading (in Scotland you now need a licence for any airgun, even the ones that fire soft plastic pellets) so I sold it. It wasn’t worth the price of a licence.
        I did once own a swordstick. They weren’t always illegal here, I bought it in a weird little shop in an arcade in Cardiff in about 1979. They were still on sale online in the 80s at least – you could still get butterfly knives then too – but gradually became illegal. Mine broke, it was cheap Chinese crap. I have better swords now.
        Although I’ve never wanted a live round gun, I was very much against their being banned. If someone broke into my home before that ban, they didn’t know if I had a gun or not. Now they definitely know I don’t have one. That does not tip the odds in my favour.
        But the crossbows do. Until they come for those too, then I’d have to keep a recurve bow permanently strung and that would really upset me.
        If they ban bows and take mine away, I have a garage full of well seasoned long logs and the tools to make one anyway 😉
        Plus, of course, throwing knives, and slingshots with a good supply of ball bearings.
        Guns? Meh. Too much bother 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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