On Oct. 16, actor Alec Baldwin accidentally fired live rounds with a “cold” gun and fatally killed director Halya Hutchins on the set of Rust.
The shooting occurred at Bonanza Creek Ranch, a Western themed movie set in New Mexico. Baldwin was reportedly practicing his shot for his scene in Rust, which required him to draw his gun and point it at the camera. According to the LA Times, Baldwin took out the gun and mistakenly shot director of photography Halyna Hutchins, 42, near her shoulder and shot through to director Joel Souza, 48.
As someone not part of the movie industry, this incident is not Alec Baldwin’s fault, considering that the term “cold” was used to describe the gun—assuming that there was no live ammunition, which includes blanks.
According to affidavits filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, the gun that was used was a Colt .45 revolver. The assistant director, Dave Halls, took the gun from armorer Hanna Gutierrez-Reed. Halls then handed Baldwin the gun, confirming that the gun was “cold” and contained no live ammunition.
Investigators in Santa Fe recovered around 500 rounds of ammunition from the movie set. The rounds included blanks and live rounds. Blanks are often used in films to imitate live ammunition—blanks create an explosive effect very similar to actual gunshots.
There should not have been live rounds on set at all in the first place. Armorer Bryan W. Carpenter questions why there were no sufficient safety checks before the gun was handed to Baldwin. “And I cannot stress enough the importance of safety checks. There should never be a thought that there’s a live round in there. When you’re checking for blank rounds, you’re always looking for the possibility of anything else being there,” Carpenter shares with Fox News.
Art director Keith Walters, shares with Yahoo Sports about gun safety on set. “The bottom line is, there is no reason for a set to have a live round, a cartridge with a bullet designed to kill.”
Supposedly, hours before the shooting incident occurred, the Rust camera crew walked off set to protest the working conditions they were facing. In order to stay on budget, non-experts were being brought in, and safety protocols were not being met. Even though a film is low budget, gun safety is not a place to cut corners on. It is crucial that firearm experts and professionals always handle guns and ammunition on set, or else accidents like Baldwin’s can occur.
This incident has brought up the idea of the stricter enforcement of gun safety laws on film sets. There have been multiple occurrences of accidental shootings on movie sets. For instance, Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, was killed on the set of “The Crow” in 1993 after a co-star shot a gun with a live bullet. As well, actor Jon-Erik-Hexum accidentally shot himself in the head with a gun on the set of “Cover Up” in 1984.
Despite this, there are no conclusive rules on firearm safety on film sets. There is a list of safety procedures and protocols, but this list has not been updated since 2003. Technology and special effects has changed much since then.
Even though following these guidelines can guarantee accidents to not occur, there needs to be stricter enforcement of these rules on movie sets so accidents can be completely avoided.
According to Hollywood directors, real guns are used on movie sets to achieve a realistic and believable scene. CGI and special effects could easily bring the same result as firing blanks from a real gun on set.
Hutchins’ death on the set of Rust is a call for a higher enforcement of firearm safety in Hollywood. In order to prevent accidental shootings on movie sets, safety checks and detailed procedures must be done to secure everyone’s well-being.