“Rust,” Guns, And The Barn Door Fallacy

Barn door

The Barn Door Fallacy drives me crazy, and right now a particularly absurd outbreak of it is underway. The phenomenon, named after the old saw about “locking the barn door after the horse is gone,” is the product of pure emotionalism trumping reality: take extreme measures after a rare and perhaps preventable (though not necessarily) tragedy or accident as if doing so will change the fact that the unfortunate event happened. The “defund the police” madness was an obvious example: see, if there are no police, no police officer will ever unjustly kill an unarmed black man ever again! Problem solved! Brilliant!

These over-reactions are many things, all of them wrong. They are virtue-signalling by public officials who care less about solving a real problem than showing their empathy and outrage at something that “shouldn’t have happened.” They are irresponsible, because they advocate rushing into radical “solutions” to problems that are magnified by the proximity of the tragic event, and because the barn door fallacy advocates usually are insufficiently knowledgeable, often shockingly ignorant, in fact, regarding what they are grandstanding about. Moreover, the nostrums frequently are fueled by logical fallacies and rationalizations, such as “We have to do something!” and “If it saves just one life…!”

Much of the time, measures inspired by the Barn Door Fallacy make many things worse without making anything better. That is the likely result of the current Bran Door Fallacy freakout over the fatal gun accident on the set of “Rust,” in which a prop gun wielded by the movie’s star and producer, Alec Baldwin, fired a bullet that killed one and wounded another.

Now many in the movie industry are demanding that real guns be banned from all movie productions. Dozens of cinematographers have signed a pledge not to work on projects using functional firearms. A state lawmaker in California is drafting legislation that would ban operational firearms from sets.

Now, here’s a quiz: how many deaths from firearms have occurred on movie or TV production sets in the last, say, 50 years? Think about all the hundreds, thousands of gun battles and shootouts you have seen or know about. How many shooting deaths?

Continue reading