Oct. 21, Alec Baldwin accidentally shot two workers on the set of his new movie “Rust,” injuring one and killing the other. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital but succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead by medical personnel. Director Joel Souza, 48, was also injured in the incident and was taken to Christus St. Vincent’s Regional Medical Center by ambulance. His injuries are non-life-threatening.
Hutchins, who has worked on films such as “Archenemy” and “The Mad Hatter,” was fatally struck by a bullet from a prop gun that was presumed to not be loaded. Baldwin was handed the weapon and told by Assistant Director Dave Halls that it was a “cold gun,” a film industry term meaning that there are no projectiles in the firearm, presumably unaware that there was a live round in the gun.
Contrary to popular belief, prop guns are often not fake guns. Instead, they’re usually normal guns loaded with blank rounds. The term “blank rounds” is also misleading, referring to a cartridge that still contains gunpowder but is absent of a slug. Though less dangerous than a live round, blank rounds can still be deadly, with the most notable incident happening in 1984 when actor Jon-Erik Hexum died while playfully holding a gun to his head on set.
This was hardly the first incident on the set of “Rust” — twice, Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired blank rounds after being told the gun was “cold.” A woman from the prop department also accidentally shot herself in the foot with a blank round. Additionally, in between sets, including on the day that Hutchins was killed, various crew members would set up beer cans and try to shoot them with live rounds.
Six crew members walked off the set that same day as a protest towards the conditions they were working in, specifically citing concerns over gun safety as one of the reasons for doing so, along with long hours and commute times.
Hannah Gutierrez Reed was the relatively inexperienced head armorer for the movie, just recently finishing her first job as head armorer for the movie “The Old Way.”
Denying accusations against her, Reed has come under fire for her alleged mishandling of the weapons on set, blaming two other incidents on the prop master and a stuntman. This isn’t her first reported incident regarding gun safety, the first being when she reportedly handed an 11-year-old child a gun that had not properly been checked over.
An investigation into the shooting has been launched by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department. Santa Fe County District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has also said that they are considering criminal charges. The investigation is mainly focused on what rounds were used and how the live bullet got into the gun.
This comes at a time where gun violence in the U.S. is at an all-time high, with over 37,000 gun-related deaths in 2021 as of Nov. 1. While the total gun death rate has gone down in recent years, it remains higher than it was in 2010. Less than a month ago a Madison police officer shot another police officer on State Street, the first time an officer had been shot in the line of duty in over 20 years.
In an industry that takes gun safety very seriously, it’s surprising to most, if not all, that an incident like this happened. Plenty of precautions are in place in order to avoid this. The problem is that these precautions weren’t taken seriously on the set of rust.
Several staff members complained about gun safety, but nothing was done. These instances are rare, and the fact that an accidental fire happened more than once on this set is incredibly alarming. This is a wake-up call for gun safety in the film industry and is expected to be dealt with as soon as possible.
The production of “Rust” has been paused until further notice.