Alec Baldwin was on the set of his new movie, Rust, and was practicing drawing the pistol to be used in an upcoming scene. He assumed that it was unloaded—or loaded with mere blanks—but he was wrong. The gun discharged, and fired a live projectile, wounding one of the crew and killing the cinematographer, Helyna Hutchins. There is an ongoing investigation, but certainly this is a tragedy almost beyond words.

Accidents like this are rare, but they do happen. It is normal to look for something sinister in this shooting (like we see in other crime movies), but it is most likely a horrible mistake.

Baldwin, the star and co-producer of the film, is devastated.

There is a person on every movie set to handle dangerous props. The armorer on this one, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, says that she doesn't know how the live round was brought onto the set. Weapons are kept under lock and key. But she had more than one job to do and perhaps was distracted. Evidence of complacency. There was obvious carelessness.

I don't know how, or even if, Alec Baldwin's life will change because of this. The great pastor, George W. Truett, was in his early days at First Baptist Church, Dallas, when on a quail hunting trip, he accidentally stumbled and killed his friend, J. C. Arnold, the Chief of Police for the city of Dallas. It profoundly affected the rest of his life. He said that he would never preach again. He was gradually persuaded otherwise and went on to have a powerful ministry. But people said thereafter a certain pathos could be heard in Truett’s voice-- a sadness, as if he were carrying the weight of the entire world on his shoulders.

I have never been comfortable around guns. Only once in my life have, I even been hunting. Several years ago, my friend Martin Whitmer invited me to go with him and Colonel Oliver North to Maryland to hunt ducks. I was nervous the entire time we were out. I did get one, though. Or at least they said it was my gun that brought the bird down—maybe not. But I never returned to the field. Nothing against guns or hunting, please understand, it's just not for me.

I do know that our words can be loaded weapons sometimes. They are fired off at someone in anger or just by accident, and only then do we realize the great destruction that they can cause. A child crumples at our feet at some burst of profanity or undeserved rebuke. A co-worker loses all her self-confidence at our venting. Maybe we meant to harm a certain person, but someone else, an innocent by-stander, was in the line of fire and became "collateral damage.” We want to take it all back, of course, but it is too late. When the smoke clears, we see that irreparable damage has been done.

Alec Baldwin was sitting in a church pew when the gun was fired.




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