Alec Baldwin Tragedy Reminds Us To Never Break Gun Safety Rules, Says RICHARD MADELEY | Richard and Judy | Columnists | Comment

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We were walking through his fields – it was a farmer from Shropshire – on our way to a small pasture where I was to take a shooting lesson. My grandfather regularly used shotguns on his farm and had been a rifleman in the trenches during WWI. I proudly carried my birthday present from him, a Webley & Scott .22 air rifle, over the crook of an arm. At 11, I felt very tall and excited.

Suddenly he stopped halfway and glared at me.

“Give me that. Give me the gun. Now. Cannon pointing down, please.

Puzzled, I handed over my gift. “What’s wrong, Grandpa?” What did I do?”

He was freezing cold. “He was pointing fingers at me. You let him rock and he was pointing at me. Never, NEVER point a gun at anyone. We return to the farm. I confiscate this for a week.

“But it’s not loaded, grandfather! And I didn’t want to point it at you! It was a mistake!”

The old man was relentless. “We treat every gun like it’s loaded, Richard. “

My gift was locked up for seven days – a punishment that taught me a lesson I will not forget. Never, NEVER point a gun at anyone. Always, ALWAYS assume it is loaded. There is no such thing as a “cold” gun, and certainly not when there are other people around.

These are universal rules, so it’s quite astonishing that a crew member on the set of Alec Baldwin’s new western Rust was accidentally shot last week.

I do not moralize or pass judgment on Baldwin himself, who held the accessory weapon involved and is devastated by the tragedy.

But there was clearly a breakdown in the rules and protocols governing the use of firearms on a film set – or anywhere else, for that matter – otherwise the accident would simply not and no could not have happened.

Already several breakdowns seem to have been identified – an inexperienced gunsmith; a live cartridge somehow loaded into the vintage Colt revolver instead of a safer white (although even whites can be lethal at close range); and would have the actor himself, as he rehearsed a scene, unsheathing the gun (which he believed was discharged) and pointing it at a camera with the doomed cinematographer standing directly behind it.

The gunshot exploded and Halyna Hutchins, 42, was shot and died shortly after in hospital.

It wasn’t until I was growing up that I learned why my grandfather was so freezing angry with me that day in the fields.

A close friend and comrade in the trenches had accidentally been shot down while cleaning his rifle, the very day before their platoon relief. Grandpa never forgot him.

Hollywood must learn its own lasting lesson from the appalling death of Halyna Hutchins in the desert.


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