Fact check: Alec Baldwin didn't pull the trigger, says 'I let go of the hammer — bang, the gun goes off'
Firearms experts say malfunction is extremely unlikely
Alec Baldwin is a good actor, but his story has more holes than a target in a gun range.
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Baldwin insists that he is not responsible for shooting and killing a woman because the gun fired on its own. The movie star is banking on the power of his celebrity and the public not knowing enough about firearms and gun safety to get away with it. The experts say it’s a legal misfire.
As I wrote earlier from the ABC preview, Baldwin said he never pulled the trigger when he shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. We got the rest us of his defense Thursday night on ABC when Baldwin said, "I let go of the hammer - bang, the gun goes off."
Baldwin told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was aiming the gun at Hutchins because she told him to do so for the rehearsal. He said that he was told later that it was “aimed right below her armpit." He shot her in the stomach, and the bullet went through her and lodged in Souza’s shoulder.
Baldwin described his back and forth with Hutchins:
In this scene, I am going to cock the gun. I said, “Do you want to see that?’” And she said “Yes.”
So I take the gun, and I start to cock the gun. I’m not going to pull the trigger. I said, “Did you see that?”
She said, “Well just cheat it down and tilt it down a little bit like that.”
And I cocked the gun, “Can you see that? Can you see that?” And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off.
Stephanopoulos asked, “It wasn’t in the script to pull the trigger?”
“The trigger was never pulled. I never pulled the trigger,” insisted Baldwin. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never. Never. That was the training that I had. You never point a gun at someone and pull the trigger.”
“The very first thing people say when a gun discharges is that they didn’t touch the trigger,” said Michael Cargill, the owner of Central Texas Gun Works, who is a handgun and private security instructor.
“It’s a common mistake for new people. It’s unconscious. They truly believe they didn’t have their finger on the trigger.”
I talked to Cargill on the phone after we both watched the interview. He said one possible explanation is Baldwin had his finger on the trigger and used his thumb to pull the hammer back. The slang term for this is “fanning the hammer” on a revolver.
He said there were two remote ways the gun could have malfunctioned without pulling the trigger.
The first way he called “push off” which could happen if the trigger is not properly engaging the hammer and a “flick with the finger” moves it to fire. The second way is a “bump fire” which is when the hammer is pulled back and then bumped forward into the primer causing the discharge.
Cargill is a federally licensed gun dealer who sells old and new guns, including relics. He told me if Baldwin’s revolver malfunctioned in these two ways in which he didn’t touch the trigger, it would be the armorer’s fault for for not catching it.
“It’s his fault or the armorer’s fault. Someone is at fault,” he said.
But Baldwin said the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, is not to blame. He also told viewers that the gun fired fine before the scene.
Baldwin: We spent an hour and a half shooting the pistol — her giving me all her safety instructions.
Stephanopoulos: Nothing she did raised any red flags with you?
Stephanopoulos: In this training course, what did she tell you?
Baldwin: She’d say things like, remember, this is a blank round so you have to create the discharge yourself because there’s no projectile. So if you shot the gun, you go bang [He put his finger to the air like a gun recoil.]
So if Baldwin says the gun was firing fine with the armorer, the malfunction theories don’t hold, and he pulled the trigger.
Witnesses and evidence
There was no video or film of the incident — at least that is publicly known.
The first camera assistant Lane Luper, who was not on the set at the time of the shooting, told the LA Times this:
“Guns don’t just go off. The single action Colt .45 revolver handled by Alec Baldwin required multiple active steps to discharge and kill Halyna Hutchins.”
“The gun had to be loaded with live ammunition, held and pointed, the hammer of the weapon manually cocked, and the trigger pulled. It was not a magic self-firing weapon.”
But, assistant director Dave Halls was on the set and handed the gun to Baldwin. His lawyer told ABC that:
Dave has told me since the very first day I met him that Alec did not pull that trigger. His finger was never in the trigger guard.
Baldwin is clearly trying to pull a fast one over the mainstream media — that doesn’t know the facts about firearms — and their audience.
“I doubt he’s telling the truth because it took him so long to come up with this story,” said Cargill. “He probably sat down with someone who said, it could happen this way or that way.“
A lawyer in the gun industry echoed this, telling me, “He is clearly coached by lawyer. I believe he has hired experts to coach him on what to say.”
Baldwin admits that the gun fired properly for over an hour. It cannot lose functionality by being handled to the set. He had his finger on the trigger and either didn’t realize it or is lying.
The movie star blames the shooting on the mystery person who loaded a live round.
“There is one person who is supposed to make sure that what is in the gun is right and what’s wrong is not in the gun. One person has that responsibility to maintain the gun,” said Baldwin.
“What is the actor’s responsibility?” Stephanopoulos asks.
Baldwin paused for several seconds to think. “That's not my responsibility. Whose responsibility it is remains to be seen.”
Actually, it’s seen now by anyone watching the interview. Baldwin knows the three gun safety rules. If he had not been so arrogant to believe he was above checking if the gun was loaded, Hutchins would be alive today.
10 excuses from Alec Baldwin
I know many of my readers don’t care at all about Alec Baldwin — while others are as interested as me. So I’m going to write part 2 of this story in a separate post that only gets emailed to the people who subscribe to my newsletter “Emily Gets Her Gun.”
If you’re not sure if you subscribed to that newsletter, you can check the link below to see if it’s written. I have six pages of notes from the Baldwin interview, and I’m going to unpack over the weekend!
ABC News: Attorney for 'Rust' assistant director Dave Halls says Alec Baldwin 'did not pull that trigger'
ABC News: Alec Baldwin exclusive: 'The trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger'
Los Angeles Times: ‘Rust’ camera assistant says: ‘Guns don’t just go off.’
F. Lli Pietta website