Actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed are both going to face charges of involuntary manslaughter over the shooting on the set of Rust that resulted in the death of assistant director Halyna Hutchins.
The October 2021 incident made headlines around the world and sparked a million debates on liability. A gun that was supposed to only contain blanks was handed to Baldwin on set. That gun was actually loaded with live rounds and when discharged, they caused death and serious injury. A statement by special prosecutor Andrea Reeb said:
“…if any one of these three people – Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls – had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple.”
In response, Baldwin attorney Luke Nikas said Baldwin:
“…had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun…”
He goes on to describe the charges as:
“…a terrible miscarriage of justice. We will fight these charges, and we will win.”
The actors union – The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have released a pointed statement about the charges levelled at Baldwin:
“The death of Halyna Hutchins is a tragedy, and all the more so because of its preventable nature. It is not a failure of duty or a criminal act on the part of any performer.
The prosecutor’s contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed. An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for their use under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm. In addition, the employer is always responsible for providing a safe work environment at all times, including hiring and supervising the work of professionals trained in weapons.
The Industry Standards for safety with firearms and use of blank ammunition are clearly laid out in Safety Bulletin 1, provided by the Joint Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Commission. The guidelines require an experienced, qualified armorer to be put in charge of all handling, use, and safekeeping of firearms on set. These duties include ‘inspecting the firearm and barrel before and after every firing sequence,’ and ‘checking all firearms before each use’.
The guidelines do not make it the performer’s responsibility to check any firearm. Performers train to perform, and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use. The industry assigns that responsibility to qualified professionals who oversee their use and handling in every aspect. Anyone issued a firearm on set must be given training and guidance in its safe handling and use, but all activity with firearms on a set must be under the careful supervision and control of the professional armorer and the employer.”
This one is going to run and run, with all of Hollywood looking on and potentially far-reaching consequences for the use of firearms in movies and television productions.