If Alec Baldwin was correct, we would have a safer world. We could worry less about guns. After Baldwin shot and killed his friend, cinematographer Halyna Hutchins last week, he declared it a "one in a trillion event."
If only this were true... If so, gun accidents would rank among the least of our concerns — right up there with a meteorite smacking us in the head, which happens to about one person globally each decade. By contrast, gun accidents kill roughly 500 men, women, and children in the United States alone each year. If not for Baldwin's fame, this shooting would be routine local news.
Sadly, we probably cannot stop every psychopath who shoots up a school or a church. We cannot stop every robber, burglar, or terrorist wielding a rifle or handgun. We can't stop all murder-suicides. Even Norway, with some of the strictest gun laws in the world, could not keep terrorist Anders Behring Breivik from murdering 69 people with a gun at a youth summer camp 10 years ago.
One thing we can reduce, if not eliminate entirely, is the tragic repetition of accidental shootings.
We have enough problems in this country with adults who don't lock up guns ammunition to keep them away from children. We have enough accidental shootings that result from individuals of all walks of life — pro-gun and anti-gun — who don't know much about guns.
No one — repeat no one — should die from a gun mishap on the set of multi-million-dollar film productions. Yet, we have seen this too many times before. Never forget Jon-Erik Hexum and Brandon Lee, who died from gun mishaps during show productions. Hutchins' killing, likely born of ignorance and remarkable carelessness, occurred in the presence of a professional armorer employed to prevent gun accidents.
After the armorer allowed live rounds in the gun, which should never have occurred, an assistant director handed it to Baldwin. He declared a "cold gun" on set, never having inspected it. "Cold" means unloaded.
If the assistant director had been through a typical hunters' safety course as a child or had any elementary level of gun instruction, he should have known to fully inspect the gun for live ammo before letting anyone touch it. Likewise for Baldwin. The most basic and fundamental gun instruction, which used to be common in elementary and high schools, would have taught all involved to individually inspect the gun for live rounds — chamber and barrel.
The first rule of gun safety is to assume all guns are loaded all the time. Other versions of this rule tell gun users to personally ensure a gun is in a safe condition before pointing it — unless the user intends to lawfully kill.
Indisputable fact: had the first rule been obeyed, Hutchins would live. After at least three people handled the gun and neglected rule No. 1, the second rule could and should have saved Hutchins.
The second rule of gun safety is to never point a gun at anything the user does not intend to destroy. Other versions of this rule tell gun users to never point a gun in an unsafe direction. Either way, this principled practice saves lives.
Though Hutchins cannot be replaced, this high-profile killing could save others the unfathomable suffering her friends and loved ones — including Baldwin — will endure for the rest of their lives.
In the real world, and on movie sets, we have guns. For the cause of public safety, everyone needs to know about guns. They need to understand these weapons whether they plan to own and use them for self-defense, sport shooting, hunting, or collecting. All individuals, including those who oppose guns and gun rights, should learn basic gun safety. As we know from Baldwin, even a vociferous gun-rights opponent can end up in the presence of a gun.
Let's remember Hutchins and the needless cause of her untimely death. In doing so, parents, school board members, and politicians on both sides of the gun debate should consider funding and advocating more gun education in households, schools, and places of employment. Baldwin should consider leading this effort to honor his friend.
Our country contains more guns than humans. Love or hate this fact, we need all individuals to treat guns with the minimal respect required to avoid more senseless deaths.