Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Alec Baldwin is in a little bit less trouble today. Working on a movie, he apparently shot and killed a fellow actor during a rehearsal when he fired a gun that he didn’t realize was loaded. Originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, the charges have apparently been reduced, although the story I was reading did not say to what. It did mention that the maximum potential jail time dropped from five years to eighteen months.
Now I must admit that I am not familiar with all of the facts. I’m sure many of the details are being kept under wraps until the legal process is complete, but I honestly don’t understand why Alec was charged. First of all, I do know that these sets hire property managers who are in charge of being sure that any weapons used are safe and unloaded or loaded with blanks, and this property manager was indeed charged as well. Second, Alec was doing as told, and while aiming and firing a gun is always risky, he was following orders.
But the incident does raise the question of gun safety. Although I’m sure it’s not industry standard practice, it seems to me that any production that requires the use of real guns should also require gun safety training for all of the actors. The person handling the guns should always be responsible for the final safety check even if a weapons wrangler is on set, and required to check the weapon before use. Whether or not Alec is found guilty, the reality is that he will live with the memory of this mistake for the rest of his life.
Less than six months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the only gun laws that are Constitutional are the ones that are “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition”, meaning consistent with the laws at the time of the framing of the Constitution. In other words, laws that are passed to protect the general public are now null and void. This is a wonderful advancement for the gun manufacturers wanting to line their pockets with money soaked in the blood of gun violence victims, but certainly turns a blind eye to the pain and suffering from mass murders, accidental shootings and gun related violence. It shows where the loyalty of the new conservative majority of the Supreme Court lies, and removes gun safety laws from states and relegates it to opinion pieces written by blog dinks like me.
So here it is. As a gun (collection) owner and a concealed carry permit holder, gun violence is simply getting out of hand. Hollywood has demonstrated the absolutely wrong way to hand off a gun to another person, and it feels to me like as gun ownership is increasing, gun safety knowledge is dropping fast.
It seems as if most people I speak with believe that the proper way to give a handgun to another person is to hold it by the barrel and hand the person the handle. This is to prevent pointing the gun at the other person, but as one does this, the gun is actually pointing towards you, the giver. Why would you want to do that?
The proper way to hand off a gun is to, first, remove the clip if applicable (open the cylinder if it’s a revolver). Second, clear the barrel by pulling back the slide and looking down the barrel (or remove the bullets from the cylinder if it’s a revolver). Personally, I take this a step further, either by locking back the slide or leaving the cylinder open so there is no way for the gun to go off even if I did miss a round. Third, instead of handing the gun to another person, lay it on a surface pointing in a safe direction. Let the other person pick it up, and when they do, the very first thing that they should do is check to clear the gun even if they just saw you do it a moment ago.
The gun should always be secured and impossible for children to get, but what’s more, never leave a round in the chamber. If a round is chambered, the pull on the trigger is very slight, and easy for a toddler to discharge if they find one in a car while mommy or daddy are driving. In a semi-automatic, this is the equivalent of leaving the hammer pulled back. If you’ve never been to a gun range, go. Get some knowledge, and pay attention to how hard it is to pull the slide of a gun, or cock the hammer. For a toddler or even small child, it would be very difficult, especially without being noticed. Every time I hear a story about another toddler firing a gun they find, I know immediately there was a round chambered, or the hammer was cocked. And it’s always the gun owner’s fault.
What happened with Alec is ridiculous. It never should have happened, and he should have had gun safety training and does have responsibility if he did. Our nation is becoming far too cavalier in gun ownership and safety, as is evident from the Supreme Court ruling that the rights to make money on gun sales trumps public safety. But isn’t it time to pull back from the edge?