The Preventable Fatal ‘Rust’ Shooting
By: Jane Cameron
Alec Baldwin accidentally shot the cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, on the set of his new movie Rust. Hutchins, 42, was to the left of the camera filming Baldwin when he fired the gun loaded with live ammunition unbeknownst to Baldwin. Live ammunition is not allowed on a movie set and guns are supposed to be checked before being used in a scene; this occurrence brings a plethora of questions about what led to this incident. This tragic event and the clear violations on this movie set call attention to the need for the implementation of more gun safety laws.
The production proved to have multiple complications involving the crew caused by the mismanagement of employees on the set. The day before this incident six members of the camera crew submitted resignation letters. The production had been delayed previously due to the need to find replacement crew members after many had left. A former member of the crew reported that he had been alarmed by the safety conditions on the production. The lack of
safe conditions led to two accidental gun discharges on set signaling the incident was not isolated. The lawyers on this case charged that “the whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings.”
The set of Rust was in trouble from the beginning when the production hired an unreliable team to manage the weaponry. The armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, was in charge of weaponry on a set. In a podcast, conducted just this year, she admitted she almost didn’t take her recent job as head armorer and admitted, “I wasn’t sure if I was ready.” She has reportedly had several complaints filed against her during previous work on other sets. Additionally, she has a history of not adhering to safety measures and discharging weapons without warning.
But Gutierrez-Reed was not the only one responsible for checking the guns before handing them to actors; the first assistant director, Dave Halls, had this role as well. Both Gutierrez-Reed and Dave Halls, the individuals in charge of protecting those on set, have been the subjects of complaints on prior productions. Halls was fired from a movie when a gun discharged unexpectedly on set and injured a crew member. Ultimately, the two in charge of dangerous weapons both had incidents of endangering others. These occasions are well documented and surely known to whomever hired them.
There are no regulations for movie sets regarding firearms despite the immense number of guns used in films. The production's property master or armoury expert is responsible for the use of guns and other weapons which proved fatal on the production set of Rust. Hannah Gutierrez Reed did not possess special training or licenses to ensure she was qualified for the job. While there is a list of suggested rules published by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee, movie productions have no obligation to follow them. These suggested rules have not been revised since 2003, meaning there have been no changes since the development of new weaponry or in consideration of mistakes made on productions.
Hollywood relies on firearms for weaponry in productions making it undesirable to call upon the industry to drive change, even if needed. The sole reason real guns are used on movie sets is authenticity, productions believe a fake gun would not be as convincing. The initial report that Baldwin “misfired” a “prop” gun is entirely false. This was a real weapon that had the potential to injure someone and the trigger was purposefully pulled. Baldwin may have been under the impression that the gun was not loaded with live ammunition, but nothing about this was an accident. Given the risks associated with having weaponry on set it is questionable if costs like these outweigh the desire for “authenticity.”
A life was ended due to the lack of safety and the recklessness of the Rust production. This death was labeled as “preventable” and illustrates the need for more gun regulations in this country. If a place as well known as Hollywood lacks oversight, then it is likely there are insufficient protocols across several fields. Multiple dangerous incidents occurring on a set without any new precautions being put into place is cause for alarm. The country should not need more tragedies to make gun safety a salient issue.