How One Simple Habit Could Have Prevented the Rust Movie Tragedy

by | Oct 27, 2021 | Be Vigilant Book | 0 comments


I’m Len Herstein, the author of “Be Vigilant!” I’m also a sheriff’s deputy and I’ve been in business, and marketing for last 30 years and I wanted to do a quick video on what happened on this movie set this week. Rust I think was the name of the movie is with Alec Baldwin, I’m sure you all heard about it.

A woman by the name of Halyna Hutchins tragically lost her life when Alec Baldwin, during some sort of rehearsal, was handed a firearm that was supposed to be unloaded and safe. It turns out it was not, he pulled the trigger, and this woman Ms. Hutchins lost her life in the most tragic way.

And so, this has been bothering me a lot, has been on my mind a lot and I just want to kind of get it out because there’s two things here. One is, obviously, one of my passions right now is this idea of complacency and vigilance and there’s so much here in this, in this incident that is related to complacency and a lack of vigilance and the other thing, another one of my other passions is gun safety and obviously just so much of the rules of gun safety broken here and I think they are broken a lot in Hollywood and that bothers me too.

So very quickly, obviously there’s a lot of attention being placed on the assistant director and the prop master in terms of mistakes made. Obviously live rounds should have never been on a movie set. Someone is obviously supposed to check these things before they hand a weapon over to an actor and you never call something unloaded, or as they would call it “cold.” unless you absolutely know that it is, and you’ve checked it.

So, many things broken along the way, and I think it probably relates back to just an over confidence and a self-satisfaction and a smugness that they felt like they had this all under control because they’ve done it hundreds or thousands of times before. And the reality is that’s when complacency sets in and, unless you have processes in place to fight with vigilance, mistakes happen and, in certain situations, these mistakes are life and death and this is absolutely horrible and disturbs me to no end, as I’m sure it does, you.

Here’s the thing. So obviously, you know, there’s a lot wrapped up in what the first director and assistant director and the prop master had to do. But, to me, one of the things is a simple habit could have prevented all of this at the end. It could have negated all that complacency at the end.

And to me, unfortunately, this falls on Alec Baldwin as an actor and as any actor in this situation, whereas anybody that’s handed a weapon where ultimately, you’re going to be the one pulling the trigger. It is in my mind, ultimately your responsibility to know that that weapon is safe or is set up the way that you think it is supposed to be set up.

So, if I was someone in that position, the first thing and the thing I would do every time I was handed a weapon I’m told is safe, was supposed to be safe, I would pop out that magazine, rack that slide, I would take a look inside, I would stick my pinky in there, I would make sure I racked it a few more times and I pointed in a safe direction and I would pull the trigger and I would make sure that that weapon was safe. And now I know not just because someone told me, but because I know.

Now that takes 10 seconds, maybe 10 seconds. And, over the course of Alec Baldwin’s career, he’s probably handled a lot of weapons, I don’t know all his body of work, but I’m sure he has before and I’m sure everything’s gone right. But in a situation where things usually go right, but if they go wrong, they could go very wrong, this is where you need a habit that is put in place, so you don’t have to think about it, you’re not deciding, do I do it now, do I not do it every time. Every time you’re handed a firearm, you make sure that that firearm’s safe yourself, no matter what anybody else told you and you know what, if it’s supposed to be loaded with some sort of blanks or dummy rounds, you should know what those look like and feel like compared to a live round so that you can decide and make sure that you’re in a safe position.

So, one simple habit could have been in place here that would have saved all this tragedy and all this sorrow. And so, I want you to think about that. I’m not going to draw a lot of conclusions as it relates to business right now because I just want to stay focused on the tragedy here, but I’m sure you can draw the lines between what this means in your life and your business. But specifically, right now I want to just keep it focused on firearms because it’s so important. So that’s, that’s kind of what I have to say about what happened on this Rust set.

I always want to take the opportunity to talk about gun safety. So, for those of you who don’t know or even if you do know and you want a little refresher, I’m going to go very quickly through the four basic rules of gun safety.

Number one, treat every gun as if it’s loaded. You cannot tell by looking at it whether it’s loaded. I can almost guarantee unless you’re an expert. Treat every gun like it’s like it’s loaded.

Never point a gun at something you’re not willing to destroy.

Keep your finger off the trigger and out of the trigger guard until you’re ready to fire that gun. I see this broken all the time in Hollywood, you see people running around and they’ve got their finger in the trigger on the trigger and it’s just it’s just terrible. It’s just displaying an utter disregard for firearms safety, and it sends the wrong signal. So that’s number three, keep your finger off the trigger and the trigger guard.

Number four is being aware of your target and beyond, which I talk a lot about that in my book as well. And you can see even in this situation that round unfortunately went through Ms. Hutchins and then hit someone behind her. Thankfully he seems like he’s going to be okay.

But, again, absolute tragedy brought on by complacency. You must identify the fact that complacency is present and that you’re vulnerable to it and you must put processes in place to fight it proactively and, again, this all could have been solved at the end. I’m not trying to put any blame on Mr. Baldwin or make him feel any worse than he already does but this is a learning opportunity for everybody to say if you’re going to handle a firearm the ultimate responsibility if you’re going to pull that trigger is on you. So, make sure that if someone hands you a weapon that is supposed to be safe, that you check, that you know how to check to see that weapon is safe.

All right. So that’s all I have to say on that.

Please be safe. Please be vigilant. And we’ll talk soon.

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