When I was in high school, I took a law class. In that class, we learned that that “ignorance of the law is no defense.” What this means is that if I’m from New York City and driving a car in Nashville and get pulled over for speeding, I can’t tell the police officer that I’m not from around these parts so please don’t give me a ticket. In fact, just the opposite is true. It’s my responsibility to know the speed limit and all the other local traffic laws.
This same logic can easily be applied to what happened with Alec Baldwin on the set of Rust. Alec Baldwin fired a weapon, an antique Colt .45 revolver at Halyna Hutchins, killing her and injuring director Joel Souza. He told George Stephanopoulos in an interview that he never pulled the trigger. He just cocked the gun and let go of the hammer. Before continuing, let me say that my 30 years of Martial Arts training and having fired many different firearms including Colts, qualifies me to address this story.
I’m not someone who believes in magic or fantasy. Facts, are facts. And the only way the weapon could have fired, since he actually admitted it, is for the hammer to strike the bullet, causing the gun to discharge. Whether or not the hammer struck the bullet using the trigger or by Baldwin releasing the hammer and it hitting the bullet, makes no difference. Generally speaking however, the trigger would have to be pulled in order for the hammer to release. If his finger was not depressing the trigger, the hammer should have locked in place unless there was a problem with the firearm.
That brings us to who is responsible. I’m not an attorney and would never address the legalities. However, my experience with firearms and gun safety, tells me that the armorer, is 100% responsible for ensuring that when she handed the Colt to anyone on set, it was not live. Having said that, Never, Ever, Ever, should anyone handling a firearm, assume it’s unloaded. You must always assume it’s loaded, erring on the side of caution. Alec Baldwin, before aiming the weapon at anyone, should have checked that it was unloaded. And while he may not be legally responsible, and while it may allow him to sleep better at night, ultimately, he was holding the firearm and was directly responsible for the death and injury of two human beings.
On the Niseido Jujitsu Shodan (Black Belt) exam, the system that I practice, we use real firearms in the Defense Against Pistols category. Before we hand the firearm to the tori (the defender), we hand the firearm to the uki (the attacker). The uki thoroughly checks the weapon to ensure it’s not loaded with live ammunition. Then the tori checks the firearm. Then the Sensei’s check the firearm. Multiple people check the firearm so that there is no chance of error. This type of “accident” simply can not happen and is 100% avoidable. Therefore it’s not an accident but a case of negligence and someone needs to be held accountable. Whether that’s the armorer or Baldwin or someone else on the set, is obviously up to the DA to decide.