Alec Baldwin has been charged with manslaughter and many in the pro-gun world are celebrating. Well, my fellow pro-gun people, I think you may be in for a letdown. I am going to play devil’s advocate because frankly, I like the mental exercise. I’m going to lay out the elements for proving manslaughter for this case. Let’s start with the definition of manslaughter in New Mexico, where Baldwin was charged. Pay particular attention to section B. The section reads as follows.

 “Universal Citation: NM Stat § 30-2-3 (2021)

Manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.

A. Voluntary manslaughter consists of manslaughter committed upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion.

Whoever commits voluntary manslaughter is guilty of a third degree felony resulting in the death of a human being.

B. 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.

Whoever commits involuntary manslaughter is guilty of a fourth degree felony.” 

So, in order for Baldwin to be found guilty the prosecutor will need to show Baldwin acted with an absence of “due caution and circumspection.” So then, what would the level of caution and circumspection be in this case? This is where my pro-gun family is getting hung up. Anyone who has any basic training at all with firearms knows, you, the holder of the firearm, are responsible for it being safe. And they are expecting this responsibility to apply to Baldwin. To further accentuate this point of view, pointing a gun at someone is so forboden in the pro-gun world that even pointing a child’s toy gun at another person makes us feel uneasy. But in this case Baldwin, who is about as anti-gun as they come, believed by media accounts I’ve heard, that the gun was “cold” and thus safe. Again, just to show how different the mindset of a pro-gun person is, if a person hands us a firearm and says, “it’s safe” or “not loaded,” we still personally check the firearm ourselves. I teach firearms safety and I tell my students that even if “I” hand them a firearm telling them it’s unloaded or safe, they are to check it themselves. I and other pro-gun people take no offense to this, as we know it is done in the furtherance of safety.

Again, you need to prove that Baldwin knew or reasonably should have known to check the weapon. OK, so follow me here, would you hand a firearm to a toddler and expect them to safely handle the firearm? Certainly not, because a toddler would be incapable of acting with due caution and circumspection. My point is that Baldwin isn’t much better than a toddler in that he doesn’t have the training (we can debate about his judgment) to safely handle a firearm. But, just as a parent would be responsible for injuries arising from a toddler handling a firearm, in this case there were personnel hired by the movie company specifically to ensure firearms safety! The armorer on the set is absolutely responsible. I will go out on a limb and say that the armorer is responsible for creating policies and procedures on set to ensure the firearms are handled safely. Additionally, the Assistant Director, David Halls inspected the gun prior to Baldwin handling it. Halls took a plea admitting to negligent use of a deadly weapon which furthers my point about who is responsible here. My belief is the armorer is going to be guilty of at least the same charge and possibly manslaughter as well. 

I do want to give some caveats to all of what I’ve written. If in the case, the prosecution shows Baldwin was given training or instruction on how to handle guns on set, and he failed to follow the training, then all bets are off, and I’d say he’s going to be found guilty. Another point that may change things is common practices on a movie set. If Baldwin can be shown to have broken a widely known rule or practice in the movie making world about pointing weapons at people, then showing an absence of “due caution and circumspection” likely can be proven. 

The irony in all of this, is that Alec Baldwin is a vocal anti-gun activist who has demonized pro-gun people. Yet it is Baldwin’s ignorance that got someone killed in a manner unlikely to have happened if a pro-gun person was handling the gun.