Texas must watch and learn from Alec Baldwin’s murderous shoot on set

Thorny questions remain about what really happened on October 21 on the set of a movie shot near Santa Fe, N.M., when a former Colt .45 discharged while he was used as a prop by actor Alec Baldwin during a scene rehearsal. A projectile from the revolver struck and killed Halyna Hutchins, director of photography on the film, a western titled “Rust”. Joel Souza, the director, stood next to Hutchins and was injured.

The tragic incident caused understandable anguish on the part of all who knew Hutchins, 42, a much-loved cinematographer, as well as a wife and mother. Ongoing police investigations ask how a firearm declared “cold” – that is, fire-safe – as delivered to Baldwin could have killed someone.

What happened on a film set in New Mexico should also prompt some serious soul-searching far beyond the film industry. We think of those of us who do not take guns seriously enough. Texas elected officials, reckless in their Second Amendment condemnations and cowardly in their prostration to gun rights fanatics, immediately spring to mind.

Similar accidents on film sets have happened before, although they are rare, in large part thanks to strict safety regulations. A 2016 Associated Press investigation found that at least 43 people had died on film sets in the United States, dating back to 1990; more than 150 were seriously injured. A small percentage of those deaths have been specifically attributed to guns used as props, even though guns are an integral part of countless films.

The most remembered gun death is that of Brandon Lee, 28, son of late martial arts star Bruce Lee. Young Lee died in 1993 while shooting a scene for the movie “The Crow” after being hit by a .44 caliber bullet fired from a propeller pistol believed to have been filled only with blank cartridges. .

Lee’s death was the last accidental death recorded by a gun that was used as a prop on a movie set. Almost a decade earlier, actor Jon-Erik Hexum had been killed on the set of the “Cover Up” television series. He shot himself in the head while playing Russian roulette with a blank loaded pistol, which can still be fatal at very close range.

Investigators say there was “a certain complacency” in the way guns were handled on a film set where Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed a director of photography and injured another. (October 27) Video: Associated press

Largely because of those two deaths, today’s filmmakers would have to adhere strictly page after page to the detailed gun regulations on set. Their bible, so to speak, is “Safety Bulletin” No. 1, published whenever a set will involve the use of firearms and compiled and distributed by the Work and Management Safety Committee to industry wide.

In the very first paragraph, the document reprimands: “WHITE PEOPLE CAN KILL. TREAT ALL FIREARMS AS THEY ARE LOADED. “LIVE AMMUNITION” SHOULD NEVER BE USED OR BROUGHT TO A STUDIO OR STAGE. “

The bulletin then presents complete instructions for the firearms protocol. General rules include never pointing a gun at anyone; never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire; know where and what your target is; no heckling with guns; never unload a weapon when the barrel is blocked; and never put down a firearm or leave it unattended. Additional regulations concern the specifics of film production.

These basic instructions, of course, are well-established rules familiar to anyone who regularly handles firearms, from law enforcement officers to the military. It includes many members of the National Rifle Association, especially those who remember when their organization was primarily focused on shooting safety and basic gun training, rather than lobbying at high levels. pressure and the wholly invented notion of Second Amendment absolutism that she championed. late. Mistakes happen, rules are broken and people get careless, but those who know guns best know that strict rules, regulations and protocols save lives.

While cops, soldiers, NRA gun instructors, and responsible gun owners – not to mention Hollywood filmmakers – are generally very serious about guns, Texas lawmakers don’t are not. They are irresponsible “blueberries” when it comes to the meaning of guns.

An elected official would not have supported legislation in the previous session that allows an adult Texan to walk into a sporting goods store and buy a gun almost as easily as buying a fishing rod or a camping tent.

Take your pick, put down your credit card, and pass a basic background check, and you’re not only a gun owner, but you’re fully allowed to take it with you just about anywhere you go. want to go. No license required, no law and safety training, no demonstrated shooting skills. Just take this gun and go.

Go to church with it on your hip or in your purse; go to Applebee’s and enter the Sizzlin ‘Caramel Apple Blondie cocked; sit in the locked and loaded stands during Little League games; pray on a church bench with a gun on your hip. You will never know when and where to take it out and use it, no matter what your skill level or good judgment is.

No wonder so many Texas police chiefs have opposed the so-called unlicensed transportation legislation that Governor Greg Abbott signed in June.

Firearms are ubiquitous on film sets; deaths and injuries are rare. Firearms are ubiquitous in American society, especially in Texas and the South; fatalities and injuries are anything but rare.

In 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans, the highest total in two decades, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. Another 24,000 people in this country have used guns to kill themselves. These combined numbers are 25 times higher than any other developed country.

What about the state with the highest number of gun deaths in 2020, 2019, and many years before that? It would be Texas, our Texas, with 3,683 last year.

Mortality data from 2019, the most recent year for which the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, shows that even on a per capita basis, gunshots kill more Texans each year than in others. major US states, including California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York, where fewer than 900 unintentional gun deaths have occurred. Of the six largest states, only Florida’s gun fatality rate matched ours.

In the wake of the tragic incident in New Mexico, the film industry is already considering even stricter rules, including potentially banning real guns on sets and relying instead on computer-generated footage. A senior California lawmaker has already tabled a bill banning the use of live ammunition and firearms capable of shooting at targets.

Given Texas’ terrible track record of deadly shootings, including some of the nation’s worst mass shootings, a Texas lawmaker truly committed to public safety would also seek solutions. Valid ideas abound: investing in community violence interruption programs, prohibiting those convicted of domestic violence crimes from owning firearms, pushing for safe storage of firearms in the home, funding gun violence research, to name a few.

If only ideas and common sense were enough. They are not, however, not without political courage.

We live in Texas, of course, where gun laws are more relaxed than they were in the real Old West of Dodge City, Tombstone, and Old Tascosa. Until we start electing lawmakers serious about gun safety and violence prevention, thousands of dead Texans will continue to be collateral damage in our fake Wild West. To the gun lobby and those irresponsible officials who profess their allegiance, lax gun laws are more important than life itself.

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About Hector Hedgepeth

Hector Hedgepeth

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