Letter to the Editor: Lessons learned from Halyna Hutchins’ death

Stock image | Photo by JohnAlexandr/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

OPINION — On Oct. 21 while rehearsing a scene for the movie “Rust,” actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed the director of photography, Halyna Hutchins. Unfortunately, the gun used in the scene was mysteriously loaded with at least one live round. The blame game has been furious and anyone whose name has been floated has retained legal counsel.

Local law enforcement officers in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, where this tragedy occurred are working at a fever pitch to figure out whose fault it was. In the end, there will be plenty of theories as to who could have prevented this fatality. In the meantime, I have my own.

As a Wisconsin Game Warden, part of my job was to teach hunter and firearms safety. I taught countless numbers of classes to thousands of students of all ages during my career. Then as the Recreational Safety Specialist for South Central Wisconsin stationed in Madison, I trained and supervised 250-plus volunteer hunter safety instructors. On top of that, all firearms related hunting accidents in my region were investigated by myself, a duty carried out way too often during the hunting seasons, if you ask me.

To avoid accidents, there are four basic principles or rules that must be obeyed when it comes to handling firearms. The first one says, “Treat every firearm as if it was loaded.” What does that mean? Well, among several things, it means that you never assume the gun you take into possession is or is not loaded. In the fatal gun accident on the set of “Rust,” assistant director David Halls handed a revolver to Alec Baldwin and allegedly said, “Cold Gun” just before Baldwin took possession. In reality, neither of the two men knew for sure if the gun was loaded. Rather, an assumption was made which ultimately cost a young lady her life.

At this point in the story, I see an excellent opportunity to educate people about that first rule of firearms safety.

Stock image | Photo by Bytmonas/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The person offering the firearm should keep the muzzle end pointed in a safe direction. If it’s a revolver like the one David Halls offered to Alec Baldwin, the cylinder should have been released to the side of the gun’s frame so that any rounds of ammunition were clearly visible. This is when both parties should have inspected the type of ammunition in the cylinder’s chambers.

If it’s a rifle with a removable magazine, the safest way to hand it off to someone is to point the muzzle in a safe direction, remove the magazine, and then work the receiver handle to eject any round that may in the chamber. The bolt is then locked to the rear for inspection by both parties. When the person receiving the firearm is satisfied and has a firm grasp on the gun, they say, “Got it” or something to that effect, at which time the offeror releases their hold on the gun.

This may seem like a lot stuff to remember, but in practice, it’s a very safe and efficient way to hand a gun to someone else. Look at it this way: If David Halls had opened the cylinder of that pistol when he picked it up from the table and had inspected the chambers, or if Alec Baldwin had refused to take possession of the gun until Halls opened the cylinder for inspection, Hylana Hutchins would still be alive today. Both men bear responsibility for her death, in my mind.

Here are the four basic rules of firearm safety:

  • Treat every firearm as if it was loaded.
  • Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
  • Be certain of your target and what is beyond it.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

How many of these rules do you think were broken that day on the set? I say three. I also see changes coming to Hollywood when guns are involved in movies, and that’s a good thing.

Submitted by PAT LISI, Ivins.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!