Alec Baldwin’s fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and, non-fatally, director Joel Souza on the set of “Rust” in October has put accidents involving firearms heavily into the mainstream-media news; however, rates of accidental deaths involving a firearm in the U.S. have been steadily declining from what were already low rates. The NRA's rules of gun safety, and the overall culture of gun safety the NRA has led the way with promulgating across the U.S., are largely responsible for this decline in accidents.
“Gun safety” should be a clear-cut concept everyone can agree on. Unfortunately, the term has been grabbed by the gun-control crowd and treated by much of the media as if it were a synonym for gun control. This politicization and distortion of the critical concept that there are rules to gun handling has not made America safer; instead, it has left people like Baldwin, who has engaged in anti-Second Amendment activism, with no idea what real gun safety is.
In 2018, Baldwin joined a celebrity coalition called “No Rifle Association” (NoRA). “We’re going to shine a bright light on what you and your organization do to America,” the NoRA initiative wrote in a 2018 letter. “We’re going to make sure the whole world sees your bloody hands. We’re coming for your money. We’re coming for your puppets. And we’re going to win.”
Baldwin would later tweet: “The Second Amendment is not a moral credit card that buys you all the guns you want. That law needs to be rethought.”
The Second Amendment is, of course, a constitutional amendment, not a law.
“Clearly, Baldwin was not a western action shooter,” said Stephen Hunter, the author of the “Bob Lee Swagger” series of thrillers, writing for Powerline blog about the gun Baldwin was using when this horrific accident occurred (a replica of a Colt Peacemaker). “One must further wonder if his reputed anger issues or his CEO status as producer precluded some old-salt type from giving him a basic rundown on what he could or could not do or what he should never do with the pistol. If so, that would be one more catastrophe in the chain of catastrophes that killed Ms. Hutchins.”
Clearly, a lot more respect for guns, and for the NRA’s hard work to create and culturally instill sound rules for gun safety, would have made this tragic error almost an impossibility.
Gun Owners are Safer Today According to Dr. Gary Mauser, writing for Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), in 1999, accidental deaths involving a gun in the United States were low, accounting for only 0.29 deaths per 100,000 people. By 2019, the rate had fallen even lower to only 0.15 per 100,000. Mauser notes that this rate is below those accidental deaths occurring from cycling, boating and ATV use. He also notes that this low and steadily declining rate is no doubt thanks to the serious focus on safety found throughout the firearms community.
Safety is always paramount in the Second Amendment community, as anyone who has taken a firearms course, shot in a competition, joined a club, picked up a gun publication or visited any high-quality range could attest. And accidental deaths from firearms have been declining as gun ownership numbers have dramatically risen.
Alec Baldwin let an unsafe culture grow until this worst-case scenario happened, with his finger on the trigger.
The Gun Industry Preaches Safety The firearm industry has taken steps to reduce these tragedies. One example is the Safer Communities program, which includes the National Shooting Sport’s Foundation’s (NSSF) Project ChildSafe initiative. In this, NSSF has partnered with 15,000 law-enforcement agencies to distribute 40 million firearm safety kits that include locking devices.
Every firearm must be treated as if it were loaded, and every firearm not in use should be stored responsibly. These are things that cannot be coerced by government diktat. But they are things that gun owners, new ones especially, need to hear.
Accidental deaths still happen, however, as we saw with Baldwin's tragic incident. He was reportedly handed a loaded gun he was told was “cold,” or not loaded. He apparently did not check the gun himself, nor did he follow the other basic safety rules. As previously noted, Baldwin is a well-known anti-Second Amendment advocate who has often sneered at the firearms industry and at the NRA in particular. But if those on the far Left are so concerned about deaths involving firearms, shouldn’t they be doing everything they can to amplify actual gun-safety messaging?
Baldwin Did Break the Rules of Gun Safety In the wake of the tragic shooting, Baldwin called for yet more safety rules to be implemented in Hollywood. Perhaps so, given there was an apparent lack of knowledge of gun handling on a set he controlled, but plenty of safety rules were already in place that should have prevented the tragedy.
In a movie production, some scenes do call for guns loaded with blanks to be pointed at other people. Extra rules and care must therefore be taken to ensure everyone's safety. But, according to press reports, this tragedy didn't occur in such a scene.
Baldwin was seated in the pew of a “church” on set practicing drawing and cocking a single-action replica of the Colt Peacemaker. As he did this, he presumably didn’t check to make sure the gun wasn’t loaded. (A basic rule of gun safety is that all guns are always loaded.) Next, did he know that the muzzle had drifted onto the camera crew? (Never let your muzzle cover anything you aren’t willing to destroy.) Third, while practicing, did his finger inadvertently pull the trigger as he cocked the single-action revolver? (Don’t touch the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.)
Live ammo should not have been on that set. Hopefully the authorities will find out how live ammunition got onto this movie set. Also, if press reports are accurate, Baldwin let an unsafe culture grow until this worst-case scenario happened, with his finger on the trigger.
Safety information is always freely available from the NRA (gunsafetyrules.nra.org); however, instead of being amplified, actual gun safety is often repressed by the mainstream media. Gun-control organizations have even argued that gun-safety education for children should be abandoned. Apparently, to the Left, teaching children what to do if they encounter a gun (“Stop! Don’t touch! Run away! Tell a grown-up!”) is somehow less safe than just hoping they never see one.
The truth is just the opposite. For example, we decrease drowning deaths by teaching people to swim. Likewise, we decrease firearms accidents by teaching safe gun handling and safe gun storage.
Dianna Muller, founder of the DC Project (a group specializing in working with legislators) said, “Education, not legislation, is the key to safer communities! This is why we believe it’s important to implement firearms education in schools. States have seen measurable results in reducing firearms accidents after including hunter’s education in schools.”
As we can see from the already low and steadily decreasing numbers of firearms-related accidental deaths, what the Second Amendment community is doing works. And everyone who claims to care about gun safety should be advocating for—not sneering at—what works.