By now, everyone knows the story, Alec Baldwin pointed a gun, pulled the trigger, and discharged a live round. The result was catastrophic, resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injury to director Joel Souza.
This tragedy has been characterized in the media as an accident caused by the “misfire” of a prop-gun—all incorrect characterizations.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Baldwin told PEOPLE “there was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.” <Source>
(1) This was not a “prop gun” with built-in safeguards to prevent the discharge of a projectile. This was a functioning weapon used as a prop.
(2) It appears that there are significant issues with the control, loading, and discharge of the weapon involving other crew members. (Especially the armorer/prop master and first assistant director.)
(3) It is not an accident or a misfire when someone pulls the trigger on a correctly functioning weapon and a loaded round discharges.
(4) While the death and injury resulted from an unintentional series of events, this is an example of negligent homicide where industry norms and procedures appear to have been violated in the control, loading, and use of what is being described as a prop gun.
(5) That anti-gun activist Alec Baldwin did not, himself, check a weapon provided to him speaks to his ignorance in the basics of gun handling. One, know your weapon and the ammunition you are using – there is a significant difference between the look of a blank, with its crimped closure, and a live round topped with a bullet. Two, always assume the weapon is loaded. Three never aim a weapon at a person unless you mean to kill that person. In his failure to properly handle a firearm as an actor and to double-check with the armorer/prop master as the producer, Baldwin has some degree of culpability as the shooter/producer.
IATSE Local 44, which covers prop masters, sent an email to its members early Friday morning that said the gun used in the scene contained “a live round” and the production’s propmaster was not a member of Local 44. Director Joel Souza also was hit and injured by a bullet and was treated at an area hospital before being released…
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Rios told the New York Times that the incident happened in the middle of a scene that was being rehearsed or filmed. “We’re trying to determine right now how and what type of projectile was used in the firearm,” he said.
What is not presently known are the precise details of the event.
SODDI – Some other dude did it…
An assistant director grabbed one of three prop guns that the film’s armorer had set up outside on a gray cart, handed it to Mr. Baldwin, and, according to an affidavit signed by Detective Joel Cano of the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office, yelled “Cold Gun!” — which was supposed to indicate that the gun did not have any live rounds in it.
When Mr. Baldwin fired the gun, law enforcement officials said, it struck and killed the film’s cinematographer and wounded its director — and raised new questions about firearms safety on film sets.
The assistant director “did not know live rounds were in the prop-gun” when he gave it to Mr. Baldwin, according to the affidavit, which was made as part of a search warrant application. The affidavit did not specify what kind of ammunition the gun had been loaded with.
The affidavit said that the three guns had been left on a gray cart outside the structure where Mr. Baldwin was working on a scene “due to Covid-19 restrictions.” With the search warrant, the detectives were seeking additional evidence that could help shed light on the events leading up to the fatal shooting: footage or video captured during the filming, computer and cellphones left on set, as well as other firearms and ammunition.
There have been reports of labor unrest on the set of the film, where Mr. Baldwin also served as a producer. Several members of the crew walked off the set earlier this week over working conditions, according to several people familiar with the shoot. <Source>
The people involved according to published reports...
The gun was one of three that the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, had set on a cart outside the wooden structure where a scene was being acted, according to the records. Assistant director Dave Halls grabbed the gun from the cart and brought it inside to Baldwin, unaware that it was loaded with live rounds, a detective wrote in the search warrant application. <Source>
The person in charge of overseeing the gun props, known as the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, could not be reached for comment. The 24-year-old is the daughter of veteran armorer Thell Reed and had recently completed her first film as the head armorer for the movie “The Old Way,” with Clint Howard and Nicolas Cage. <Source>
Something is very, very wrong…
‘Rust’ crew describes on-set gun safety issues and misfires days before fatal shooting
Safety protocols standard in the industry, including gun inspections, were not strictly followed on the “Rust” set near Santa Fe, the sources said. They said at least one of the camera operators complained last weekend to a production manager about gun safety on the set.
Three crew members who were present at the Bonanza Creek Ranch set on Saturday said they were particularly concerned about two accidental prop gun discharges.
Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two rounds Saturday after being told that the gun was “cold” — lingo for a weapon that doesn’t have any ammunition, including blanks — two crew members who witnessed the episode told the Los Angeles Times.
“There should have been an investigation into what happened,” the crew member said. “There were no safety meetings. There was no assurance that it wouldn’t happen again. All they wanted to do was rush, rush, rush.”
A colleague was so alarmed by the prop gun misfires that he sent a text message to the unit production manager. “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” according to a copy of the message reviewed by The Times.
The actor was preparing to film a scene in which he pulls a gun out of a holster, according to a source close to the production. Crew members had already shouted “cold gun” on the set. The filmmaking team was lining up its camera angles and had yet to retreat to the video village, an on-set area where the crew gathers to watch filming from a distance via a monitor.
Instead, the B-camera operator was on a dolly with a monitor, checking out the potential shots. Hutchins was also looking at the monitor from over the operator’s shoulder, as was the movie’s director, Joel Souza, who was crouching just behind her.
Baldwin removed the gun from its holster once without incident, but the second time he repeated the action, ammunition flew toward the trio around the monitor. The projectile whizzed by the camera operator but penetrated Hutchins near her shoulder, then continued through to Souza. Hutchins immediately fell to the ground as crew members applied pressure to her wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding. <Source>
Where union and non-union crew members clash, sometimes union-member sabotage and other mischief follow...
Labor trouble had been brewing for days on the dusty set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe. As the camera crew — members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — spent about an hour assembling their gear at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, several nonunion crew members showed up to replace them, two of the knowledgeable people said.
One of the producers ordered the union members to leave the set and threatened to call security to remove them if they didn’t leave voluntarily. “Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,” the knowledgeable person said. The shooting occurred about six hours after the union camera crew left. <Source>
As the actor who fired the fatal shot, Alec Baldwin appears to have little liability, however, as the film's producer and key-decision-maker, Baldwin may face more responsibility. If anything, this clearly appears to be a case of negligent homicide. Charges for key crewmembers can include involuntary manslaughter which does not require “specific intent” of wanting a person’s death. (A fourth-degree felony carrying a penalty of 18 months jail time and up to $5,000 in fines.) If live ammunition was loaded into the weapon, that would be a grossly negligent act, and whoever loaded the weapon will be held responsible. If this turns out to be sabotage, the penalties would be elevated to possibly include more serious charges.
However, he does not walk free – likely to suffer psychological and financial damages that exceed insurance coverages. Especially from civil suits that are likely to be filed by multiple parties.
Friends are asking me if I feel sorry for Baldwin. The short answer is no – I feel sorry for the innocent victims. I feel as sorry for Baldwin as Baldwin did when he viciously mocked Vice President Dick Cheney for a hunting accident where Cheney shot a close friend or a police officer who shot an attacking assailant.
Perhaps Baldwin could learn something from conservative director/producer John Milius or fellow-lefties Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- all experienced gun handlers.