Hollywood has a thing for guns and their sensationalism because frankly, like the Kardashians promoting make-up products, it sells.  

I’m all for creative freedom and understand that actors act. I cannot lose my mind because one moment they are shooting a machine gun in Tropic Thunder and the next sending letters to the NRA about gun control.

Some of my favorite actors have wildly different opinions on politics, guns, and religion than I do, and that’s ok with me. I can separate the two and would rather have Hollywood continue to have full expressive freedom than to start calling bullshit on any sort of gun hypocrisy. Think about that for a second before you go full cancel culture on me. Would we really want Hollywood as an industry to get rid of firearms? What next? No sex? No nudity? 

As easy as it would be to kick Alec Baldwin while he’s down I’m not going to do this. It was clear to me he was let down by an incompetent armorer and that’s a shame.

Accidentally killing that young mother is something he will live with for the rest of his life and I don’t wish that on most people.

Let’s talk about what we can learn from this rather than go after Baldwin and most of the press which is pushing carefully crafted talking points from a public relations agency. 

If anyone is accountable here it’s the on-set armorer responsible for gun safety, Hannah Gutierrez (essentially a range safety officer for film sets), who apparently handed him a loaded weapon with real bullets and said it was “clear”.

What qualifications does she have? Range Safety Officer school? I suspect not.

The issue at hand is the lack of professional standards regarding gun and explosives safety. You’d be surprised at how many stories I hear from ex-Special Ops guys who are consulting on sets where the people in charge of guns and explosions are very much like Danny McBride’s explosive expert character in Tropic Thunder.  “Let’r rip!”

Let’s take a step back and really think about how to solve the problem at hand. Like my first SEAL mentor Tom said, “Have a problem, better be prepared to propose a solution.”

Wise words.

The system and lack of professional standards are what we need to go after.

We can publicly hang the Catholic priest for molesting the innocent child or, as the movie Spotlight pointed out, we also go after the system and leadership that allows the abuse to pervasively exist. 

The armorer should surely be held accountable, and never work on a set that has firearms again.

The entertainment industry needs to fix the laziness towards firearms. The film industry should know better especially when it comes to firearms.

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You only have to look to the military and special operations community and range safety guidelines for standards that have been written in blood. 

I’ve been a SEAL, a sniper, sniper instructor, and a range safety officer with a decade of live-fire training with millions of live rounds and blanks fired and have had zero incidents.

A few years back I co-produced a show and handled the live-fire scenarios for National Geographic’s Pirate Hunters. 

The show involved dynamic live-fire shooting scenarios with multiple individuals.  

Zero incidents and perfect safety because of the strict standards learned from being a range safety officer in the SEAL Teams. 

Now, reports are also streaming in that most of the camera crew walked off set because of a long list of complaints, the most relevant being the insider reports on the lack of gun safety and several accidental discharges, or what we call in the SEAL Teams an “AD.” 

Have an AD and you’re likely to have your SEAL pin pulled and be sent to the regular Navy or discharged. I’ve seen this happen several times in my past career, and it sends a clear signal to everyone in the community. 

You don’t handle firearms drunk. 

You don’t clean firearms while drinking. 

You check everyone’s weapon yourself. Get a buddy to check yours, and then check it again yourself.

An individual should be accountable for any weapon in their hands. They should personally check the weapon for its condition.

Always hand someone a clear and safe weapon that is never loaded with blanks or real bullets in the chamber. 

This last part is where the armorer let Baldwin and the entire crew on the set down. If the actor had been taught to properly identify the difference between a blank and a real bullet and had been given personal responsibility this accident would have been avoided. 

Never mix blanks and live rounds on a range and location. Doing so is an accident waiting to happen. This likely contributed to the accident with Baldwin shooting and killing the cinematographer.

I only hope this terrible incident will drive home the importance of safety and standardization where guns are concerned, and that the people responsible will be held accountable. I hope that the system will change so we can continue to enjoy the incredible content that the streaming entertainment industry puts out. 

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