Does Alec Baldwin bear any responsibility at all for the on-set tragedy Oct. 21 in which he seemingly accidentally fired a gun, killing a cinematographer? Not if you hear him tell it.
During an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that aired Thursday night, a lachrymose Baldwin insisted he wasn’t to blame for the death of Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of his movie “Rust.”
We’ve been covering the Alec Baldwin shooting since the beginning — and pointing out how basic gun safety could have saved lives on the set of “Rust.” Gun safety and education is a subject near and dear to our hearts at The Western Journal — and if you support our mission, please consider subscribing.
Hutchins was shot, along with director Joel Souza, as Baldwin was rehearsing for a scene that required him to draw a pistol. While the revolver was only supposed to be loaded with dummy rounds or blanks, it’s suspected an actual bullet found its way into the chamber. Film industry practices prohibit live rounds from being on film sets.
Even though he was the producer of the movie and the man holding the gun, however, he was unrepentant during the Thursday interview.
“Do you feel guilt?” Stephanopoulos said.
“No, no,” Baldwin replied.
“I feel that there is, I feel that someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me,” he said.
“I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly,” he added, according to ABC News.
.@GStephanopoulos: “Do you feel guilt?”
Alec Baldwin: “No. Someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”
— ABC News (@ABC) December 3, 2021
Stephanopoulos also noted during the interview that “it wasn’t in the script for the trigger to be pulled,” prompting Baldwin to insist that it wasn’t.
“The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” Baldwin said.
“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’” he continued. “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 replied. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them.”
EXCLUSIVE: “The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” Alec Baldwin tells @GStephanopoulos in first interview since fatal shooting on set of “Rust.”
— ABC News (@ABC) December 1, 2021
Whether or not this scenario is plausible, whether it’s likely and whether it’s exculpatory are three separate things.
At firearms-centric publication The Reload, founder Stephen Gutowski said it was possible, if improbable, that the gun went off without the trigger being pulled.
While this is exceptionally uncommon in most firearms, Gutowski wrote, “the gun involved is more prone to firing without the trigger being pulled” and “even though it’s a modern replica of an antique design, it’s possible it did not include modern safety devices.”
The gun involved is “a modern Pietta replica of a single-action army revolver,” Gutowski wrote. “Often, enthusiasts and collectors prefer the models without modern safety devices because it’s more authentic and perfectly safe when handled properly.”
“A single-action revolver usually requires the hammer to be manually cocked, and the trigger be pulled for a shot to be fired. That’s why it’s referred to as a single-action: because the trigger performs just one action. It drops the hammer. In a double-action revolver, on the other hand, the trigger can both cock and release the hammer,” he continued.
“However, a single-action revolver with the old-style firing mechanism can fire without either the hammer being cocked or the trigger being pulled. When the hammer is down on that kind of revolver, the firing pin protrudes and, if a live round is loaded in the chamber underneath, a sharp enough jolt can cause the pin to strike the round’s primer with enough force to set it off.”
This still doesn’t make it probable, Gutowski said, noting it was more likely that the trigger was accidentally pulled. And that still doesn’t make it exculpatory by a long shot.
“There is a reason the basic gun safety rules are redundant,” Gutowski wrote. “You’re never supposed to put your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to fire. You’re never supposed to assume a gun is unloaded. You’re never supposed to point a gun at anything you don’t want to shoot.”
At least the latter two safety precautions weren’t taken. The first may never be known — and even still, that doesn’t mean Alec Baldwin evades responsibility.
“The Hunt for Red October” and “30 Rock” star wasn’t just the lead actor in the movie but its producer. That pretty much made him the most powerful person on the New Mexico set, both in terms of star wattage and executive leverage. Thus, when reports began to emerge of numerous safety lapses on the set of “Rust” — including a crew walk-off to protest safety conditions just hours before the fatal shooting and two prior prop-gun discharges, according to an Oct. 22 Los Angeles Times report — Baldwin can’t just deflect.
Baldwin doubtlessly feels remorse and this shouldn’t be taken as a cri de coeur to charge the actor with a crime. However, there are only two acceptable ways for the actor to proceed when it comes down to it, neither of which he seems to be taking.
The first is being open to taking responsibility for what happened, whatever that responsibility may be. Given what we know, the likelihood is that some of it falls on Baldwin — but the problem with that route is that it opens him up for legal problems, both of the criminal and civil varieties.
The second, which his lawyers would doubtlessly prefer, is for him to shut up. Don’t talk to the media unless talked to. The problem with this, of course, is that it’ll permanently damage whatever remains of his career, but the likelihood of him facing legal repercussions is significantly diminished.
Instead, Baldwin is taking a third path, insisting none of the blame falls on him, even with considerable evidence he was the producer and star of a movie being filmed on an unsafe set where he (among others) was flouting basic gun safety regulations. He may not be charged with anything, but his comportment since the death of Halyna Hutchins has been nothing short of disgraceful.
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