“I did not pull the trigger.”
That was the headline this morning when I sat down to my computer. Alec Baldwin, for reasons that are completely inexplicable to me, has been quoted as saying in an interview that he never pulled the trigger on the firearm that killed his cinematographer.
There is no indication that he is acting outside the advice of his attorney, which would suggest to me his legal counsel is fine with him making such public pronouncements.
Without being too dramatic, I would consider his statements a secondary negligent discharge.
The firearm is currently under the control of the local law enforcement agency. The functionality and workings of the gun are going to be inspected, re-inspected, and, ultimately, reports will be made. Here is the thing… that particular gun does not necessarily need a “pulling of the trigger” for the gun to discharge.
A “dropping of the hammer is more than sufficient.”
The condition of the hammer was not mentioned in the interview by Mr. Baldwin.
Now, to be sure, the action of a single-action revolver requires two separate events to take place for the gun to go bang.
First, the hammer needs to be in the rear position, or at least far enough back that when it is released, the hammer has sufficient speed and strength to cause the firing pin to strike the primer on the cartridge.
Second, the trigger either needs to be pressed to allow the cocked hammer to be released, or pinned to allow the hammer to fall on its own…
There is a third possibility though… and one I think Mr. Baldwin most likely encountered, and it revolves around the first condition above.
The hammer on a single-action revolver does not lock to the rear until it has been pulled back almost to its full arch of extension. During that time if the hammer is released, it will fall back to its de-cocked position. Depending upon the amount of travel it needs to make before coming to rest against the striking plate, the amount of force exerted on that plate will vary.
If the hammer is pulled back an eighth of an inch, there is very little likelihood the gun will discharge. If the hammer has been pulled back almost to its full arch, it will still release and strike with enough force that the gun will discharge.
Mr. Baldwin has now made dispositive statements in public about his actions. He has referenced the trigger and that his finger was nowhere near the trigger. The fact that he has purposefully and knowingly neglected to mention the status of the hammer is instructive.
This might suggest Mr. Baldwin is well aware of the functionality of a single-action firearm and is completely aware of his culpability in this matter.
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He has stated he has no idea where the ammunition came from. This is entirely possible. The lack of controls on the set and the relaxed safety standards have been written about in countless articles. It also has been reported that the same gun used to film the scene was also used by crew members to engage in target shooting earlier.
How the ammunition came to be in the gun is interesting and certainly raises negligent actions against others as well… but it does not get Mr. Baldwin off the hook.
Mr. Baldwin is well aware of the workings of the weapon in question. Even if we were to assume facts seem incredulous that he had limited knowledge of how the gun worked at the time of the event, it would be extremely unlikely that at the time of the interview he still had such limited knowledge.
A reasonable person, especially someone similarly situated in Mr. Baldwin’s position, would want to know the reason the gun went off when he didn’t intend it to. Mr. Baldwin has access to many people who could tell him exactly what I mentioned above.
The fact that he has now made a public statement and purposely chose to avoid talking about the actual part of the gun that caused it to go off, and his manipulation of that part, suggests he is well aware of his own complicity in the event.
We know that Mr. Baldwin either knowingly or unreasonably recklessly chose to disregard the four cardinal rules of gun safety. We also know the pointing of the gun was not done during the actual filming of the scene… it was done while “practicing” for the scene.
In the final analysis, Mr. Baldwin’s actions were reckless, inexcusable, and, in my opinion, criminally culpable.
Let’s see if the DA agrees.