Blank Gun safety

No actual details of how it happened yet, but there’s been several short news pieces out now about the recent injury of an RSC actor using a blank firing prop gun. I’ll of course pass on any details if and when I can find them out.

Interestingly, I haven’t heard any theatrical connection mentioned in the other recent UK blank gun coverage, about the banning of Olympic starter revolvers. From the BBC article, you get the impression these are used for track & field events, or street crime, and with the frequency they mention its low price and ease of conversion (which I’m wondering about, having had difficulty drilling through the hardened steel on a blank revolver once), it almost seems like they’re encouraging would-be petty criminals to try it while they still can.

My own contact with these has been purely in fringe theatre: This one’s a pretty common model for theatres in the US, where it’s available in more realistic color choices.

As the BBC so responsibly emphasizes: The Olympic 380 BBM: Easily converted

As used by many US theatres

The UK certainly is faster to ban objects as potentially dangerous than the US is.  Can you imagine an elected official in the US saying we should ban pointy kitchen knives, or going on like this?

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson said:

“Knife carrying for whatever reason is unacceptable and those involved in these need to know that due to changes in the law and tough police enforcement, they are now more likely to be caught than ever before. And that once caught, they are also at least twice as likely to face being locked up until their trial.

“While, we will continue to tackle attitudes to knife carrying and violence in the long term, we also need to send a clear message now, that carrying a knife in public is a serious offence for which individuals will be required to face serious consequences.”

Yep.  He said carrying a knife for any reason is unacceptable.  I don’t think I need to dignify that with my own rant.

In general, blank guns and modelguns have been more popular in the countries where the real deal is harder to get- the UK, Japan, Hong Kong, etc.   It’s easier for me to buy a real handgun than a front-venting blank gun here in the US, due to our own ambiguity of laws and sensitivity to liability issues.  The UK has really clamped down this last decade though, with the VCR Bill effectively dismantling the mainstream market.  It’ll be interesting to see what theatres are able to do in the long term, once the existing stock wears out- one hopes some provisions will be made that aren’t either too expensive or legally intimidating to your average theatre.

All this is a side note as far as safety and accidents are concerned- Despite my firm belief in “shit happens”, I remain convinced that safety training and proper handling are the answer to 99.999% of all accidents in theatre and film firearms portrayal, and if anything that remaining .001% is likely to come from malfunctions due to lack of access to proper props (and subsequent use of improvised props, old worn out props, or real firearms), not from inherent danger in blank firing guns.

The US remains split on firearms issues, and real shootings here tend to result in polarized reactions amongst different people; some want to get as much distance as possible from anything firearm related, others want to arm themselves and feel like they could defend themselves or their loved ones.   Both are valid reactions if done rationally and safely, and as I tell actors, making choices is part expressing your character; go for it.  But either way, let’s keep our boundaries between fantasy and reality straight, make sure that our storytellers still have the tools they need to do their jobs, be it an actor with a blank firing revolver, a re-enactor or martial artist training with swords,  or a stagehand being able to carry a knife.

And by all means, if you’re going to use one: get a professional to assist you!

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2 Comments

  1. Posted April 21, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    There’s been a whole thing in Boulder (and Denver) lately too about cigarettes. We’re smoke-free cities, but there’s been a big stink (pun intended) about allowing smoking onstage, as a freedom-of-expression thing.

    • Posted April 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Interesting- it’s been decades since I lived there, but that doesn’t surprise me. Seattle restaurants and clubs have been smoke free for a while now, but I don’t know how that applies to theatres, especially since a lot of fringe theatres have the audience just feet from the performers.

      Apparently we need tobacco and nicotine-free “Stage cigarettes”. I knew someone in college who had some herbal cigarettes that just smelled like green tea…


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