“I Didn’t Pull the Trigger”

To whom do liberals go when they want to tell their career-threatening stories to a sympathetic listener? Well, to be fair, they have several choices, but George Stephanopoulos is perhaps the favorite. So Alec Baldwin sought out Stephanopoulos to explain how he came to shoot and kill Halyna Hutchins. Today ABC News released a preview clip of that interview:

In his first interview since the deadly Oct. 21 shooting, a tearful Baldwin told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos he has “no idea” how the live bullet ended up in the firearm.

“The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” Baldwin said in a preview clip of the interview released on Wednesday.

“I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them, never,” he said.

I believe that Baldwin was shocked to find out that there was a live bullet in the gun. This is why the first rule of firearm safety is to treat every gun as a loaded gun. He says that he would never point a gun at a person and pull the trigger. I should hope not! But the second rule of firearm safety is never to point a gun at another person you do not intend to shoot, period.

I want to focus on Baldwin’s attempt to defend himself by saying that he didn’t pull the trigger. This claim is undoubtedly false. Firearms are not magical objects. A gun does not mysteriously “go off.” A gun is fired when someone pulls the trigger, as Baldwin obviously did here.

On the other hand, it is possible to pull a trigger accidentally. That is why we have the concept of “trigger discipline,” i.e., you don’t put your finger inside the trigger guard until you are ready to shoot. Baldwin obviously violated that rule, too.

There is no doubt that Baldwin pulled the trigger, but is it plausible that he didn’t mean to do so? I doubt it. The gun he fired was a revolver; I don’t know whether it was single action or double action. With a double action firearm, pulling the trigger does two things: it cocks the hammer, and then releases it. In a single action firearm, pulling the trigger only releases the already-cocked hammer.

If the revolver was single action, it could only have fired if Baldwin had already cocked the hammer. We will see what he says when the full interview is released, but it doesn’t sound like that is his story. If he did cock the hammer, his negligence is even worse than we thought.

On the other hand, if it was a double action revolver, it takes a long pull on the trigger to first cock the hammer, and then release it. It might not be impossible to fire a double action revolver without meaning to pull the trigger, but it is, at best, a highly implausible scenario.

It is easy to understand why Alec Baldwin, faced with the disaster of accidentally killing a crew member and potentially facing criminal charges for doing so, would try to erect a last line of defense by claiming that he didn’t pull the trigger of his revolver. But–I am trying to be moderate here–that is an extremely implausible claim. And, in any event, by his own account he violated the basic principles of firearms safety, and is guilty of manslaughter under New Mexico law:

Involuntary manslaughter consists of manslaughter committed in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to felony, or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.

I am a firearms novice, and many of our readers know more about these topics than I do. So please weigh in via comments.

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