They may not have been the first publication to publish such an opinion piece, but the first place I saw one — fittingly — was in the U.K. Guardian.
The Guardian — a left-wing, British-favored rag written by the kind of Labour Party die hard that still doesn’t get what was so extreme about Jeremy Corbyn — published the piece Friday. Headline: “Rust shooting sparks fresh debate over gun violence on screen: Firearms remain commonplace in major blockbusters but industry figures say Hollywood is led by audience demand.”
Never mind that this “fresh debate” was mostly happening in the pages of the Guardian. The header image for the article was Keanu Reeves carrying what appears to be a silenced pistol in the 2014 movie “John Wick.”
This is important because, while I was unable to find reliable data on the first film, MovieWeb reported in 2019 that the eponymous character fired 302 shots in the second film, hitting his targets 242 times. Of these hits, 104 were head shots, with a further 90 hitting the target in the chest. One shot even hit someone in the foot.
There’s no count of shots fired by the baddies in “John Wick: Chapter 2,” but given that they appear to be intergalactic descendants of the Imperial Stormtroopers in the “Star Wars” universe — at least when it comes to a genetic predisposition to itchy trigger fingers and terrible eyesight — there were a lot of fake gunshots fired.
According to New Zealand’s NewsHub, through three movies, the fictional Mr. Wick has killed 299 people. Here is the number of people who have been killed in actuality on the set of those three movies: zero.
Those who might be persuaded by the Guardian’s hot take on guns and cinema in the wake of the “Rust” tragedy, keep those numbers in mind. Keep in mind, too, the reported last words of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins seconds after being shot by Alec Baldwin during the filming of the Western in New Mexico last week.
A report in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times detailed the events of the day of the shooting, including what happened in the moments leading up to Hutchins’ mortal wounding. The Times reported that Baldwin “had been preparing to film a scene in which he, as a grizzled 1880s Kansas outlaw, becomes involved in a shootout in a church. He was just going through the motions, giving the camera crew a chance to line up their angles.”
Those on set say the final moments began as Baldwin put his hand on a holstered Colt .45 revolver, which was supposed to be loaded with a dummy round with no gunpowder. “I guess I’m gonna take this out, pull it, and go, ‘Bang!’” he said.
Baldwin had been assured the Colt .45 was a “cold gun” — as in, no live ammunition was loaded. As he demonstrated what he was supposed to be doing when filming commenced, however, he shot both Halyna Hutchins and director Joel Souza.
“What the f*** was that? That burns!” Souza screamed after he was shot.
“What the f*** just happened?” Baldwin yelled; the Times reported he “put the gun down on a church pew” and “looked down in horror at his two injured colleagues, repeating his initial question like a mantra.”
Crew members gathered around Hutchins, with a boom operator saying, “Oh, that was no good.”
“No,” Hutchins said. “That was no good. That was no good at all.”
Those were her last recorded words, and in a few hours she would be pronounced dead.
The problem with those using “Rust” as part of a wider debate around gun violence in Hollywood is that very basic firearm safety measures — both in the entertainment industry and in real life — would have precluded this from ever happening.
Plenty has been made about the entertainment industry’s best practices for firearm safety. First and foremost, no live ammunition should be present on set. According to NBC News, attorneys for armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed said she had “no idea” how the live rounds got there and the “set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced.”
“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” the statement read.
“She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings.”
“Rust” assistant director David Halls — another focus of the investigation — reportedly admitted to authorities he should have checked the gun he handed Baldwin more thoroughly before it was handed off.
“David advised when Hannah showed him the firearm before continue rehearsal, he could only remember seeing three rounds,” a search warrant affidavit read, according to NBC News. “He advised he should’ve checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if she spun the drum.”
Furthermore, Baldwin violated basic rules of gun safety. The California Department of Justice, in their Firearm Safety Certificate study guide, lists six of them. Of the first three, Baldwin violated at least two and arguably a third.
The first rule, inculcated in every gun user (and plenty of people who aren’t) from the day they’re around firearms: “Treat all guns as if they are loaded.” Rule number two: “Keep the gun pointed in the safest possible direction.” Rule number three: “Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.”
First, yes, live ammunition isn’t supposed to be present on a production set. Even still, if Baldwin treated the gun as if it were loaded, we wouldn’t be talking about this. Second, the demonstration could have been done in a way where the gun was pointed away from people. Also, while we don’t know where Baldwin’s finger was, what we do know is that it somehow found its way to the trigger — and he was not ready to shoot, either on camera or in real life.
You may find it either surprising or predictable that Baldwin, a staunch gun-control advocate, either didn’t know or exercise these basic gun safety rules. The failure, however, cannot be blamed on firearms — not when this accident happened in one of America’s most liberal industries and to a man who once said the “Second Amendment is not a moral credit card that buys you all the guns you want.” Corners were cut and rules were broken.
The Guardian, however, looks at the firearm first, which shouldn’t shock anyone. First, a Hollywood workplace safety incident puts the blame on the people it usually lionizes within its pages. Second, noting the fact three John Wick films can pass without a single major firearms injury while a low-budget Alec Baldwin Western claimed one life would open up too many unsettling ideological doors for them. After all, if those on the left admit the firearm wasn’t the problem here, imagine how much else about gun violence they would have to re-examine.
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