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We Should Be Showing Alec Baldwin a Little Compassion

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Every once in a while we hear news about a terribly tragic situation where a gun accidentally discharges in a home, killing someone’s family member. With most of those cases, the accident is one involving a tragic cascade of events that remove the final result from any one person’s control. Certainly, parents who are negligent with gun safety should be held responsible for clearly avoidable accidents, but that doesn’t mean we must always go looking for a guilty party when often the tragedy they have suffered is lasting punishment enough. Despite some of that negligence, we still find ways to show these people compassion for the tragedies that befall them.

Is it because we don’t know them, or is it because we don’t know all of the circumstances that led to the tragedy, or is it because we can insert ourselves into the circumstances of that same tragedy by tapping into how we may have felt had we endured it? Regardless, those deep feelings of remorse and being empathetic to those are what allow us to understand and show compassion to those involved in accidental gun deaths.

As we have seen from the last dozen or so hours, many have chosen to deny Alec Baldwin that same compassion. And I get it. Alec Baldwin is a total and complete piece of shit. That I will not be arguing.  Whether it was the treatment of his daughter or his actions against a flight attendant doing her job or any of the other more than dozen actions Baldwin has made in the past, none of them should justify any of us experiencing any joy over what Baldwin may be facing.

If we use the same rubric that we use to decide (whether intentionally or unintentionally) how we feel about other shooting accidents, we will quickly realize that we should be showing him compassion.

The first is that regardless of what we may think we know about Alec Baldwin, the vast majority of us do not know him. We know he is an actor and we know he can be a huge asshole, but that doesn’t mean that those two things preclude him from our compassion. I am sure if the worst most of us had ever done was front-page news every time it happened, what people think of us might be slightly stained.

The next is probably the most important to take into consideration: We still do not know the facts of exactly what happened. From the varying accounts we have heard, Alec Baldwin discharged a firearm on the set of a movie, which caused a woman to be killed and another man to be injured. On any movie set, the firearms are controlled by an expert propmaster, who at any point is accountable for the condition of those props and, in the case of them being used on scene, is mere feet away to take control, should the conditions arise that could lead to injury or death.

Among the restrictions that that propmaster must work within is that no live ammunition is to be used, yet on the set of “Rust,” there was (as reported here by Nick Arama) For one to believe that Baldwin is culpable in this death, one would have to assume that he either loaded live rounds into the gun or that he knew it was loaded with live rounds, and still pointed the gun at someone else and pulled the trigger.  At this point, the details suggest only that a horribly tragic turn of events led to the death on set, and that Baldwin is hardly at fault for that. Certainly, there is a time and place to discuss gun safety (as my pal Brandon Morse does here); now is not the time to start slinging accusations of fault.

However, if we took the time to imagine ourselves in the same circumstances, we likely would be begging for understanding from our fellow man. A lot of the tired arguments I am hearing are from firearms experts saying they would never point a gun at someone, regardless of how unloaded they may be. The same people likely have a library of movies that contain numerous films in which guns are pointed at other people. The same people aren’t calling for the arrest of the man who shot Brandon Lee on the set of “The Crow” in 1993, despite he never facing criminal charges. What they are seeing is a man who they have disagreed with facing a tragedy with which they believe they can tear him down.  Yet, if they stood back and placed themselves in the same terrifying circumstances, they too would be begging for understanding. If you were believing that the prop gun you are using was just set to go boom and everyone was going to go home, you too would have likely squeezed that trigger the same that Baldwin did.

No one is asking you to forgive Baldwin for being a jerk, or of the litany of offenses he has committed over his career. No one is asking you to act in a way you believe he would act if the tables were turned. No one is demanding that you reach a final conclusion today on what happened yesterday. What is being asked of you is to show a little compassion for the man, regardless of his history, for the pain he may be suffering in accidentally committing one of the worst acts a person can commit.

Be better than what you’ve been shown. Stand a bit taller. Show more compassion than they would.  You’ll feel better for it.