Official proposes eliminating live guns on film sets

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LOS ANGELES — A city councilman has introduced a resolution to support legislation that would eliminate live guns and ammunition from television and movie productions, following the on-set death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in New Mexico by a prop weapon fired by actor Alec Baldwin.

While movies can be convincing and very realistic — they are supposed to be make-believe,” said City Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the resolution Oct. 27. “A single gun accident, let alone a fatality, like the one that occurred on the ‘Rust’ set … [destroys] the lives of not only the victims and their families, but the lives of the other actors and crew who forever after are burdened with the emotional trauma of avoidable accidents.

The idea that even one misfire has caused danger is outrageous,” he added. “The clear solution is banishing live guns and ammunition from the sets of television and motion picture productions to eliminate all possibility of human error in the handling of weapons so that flawless oversight and restrictions guarantee that these kinds of accidents never happen again.”

On Oct. 21, Baldwin, 63, was rehearsing a scene outside a church on the set of the western “Rust” south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, when he discharged the prop weapon, killing the 42-year-old Hutchins and injuring the film’s director, Joel Souza, 48.

Baldwin spoke publicly for the first time since the incident Oct. 30. Tracked down by paparazzi on the side of a road in Vermont alongside his wife Hilaria, Baldwin said he couldn’t comment on the investigation into the shooting.

“I’ve been ordered by the sheriff’s department in Santa Fe [not to comment on the case]. … It’s an active investigation in terms of a woman died, she was my friend,” Baldwin said. “We were a very, very well-oiled crew shooting a film together, and then this horrible event happened.”

Baldwin, appearing annoyed at times when his wife interrupted to chastize reporters, confirmed that he had met with Hutchins’ husband Matthew and the couple’s 9-year-old son, adding that the husband was “overwhelmed with grief.”

There are incidental accidents on film sets from time to time, but nothing like this,” he added. “This is a one in a trillion episode. It’s a one in a trillion event. … We’re eagerly awaiting for the sheriff’s department to tell us what their investigation has yielded.”

Asked if he would ever work on a film set again that involved the use of real firearms, Baldwin said he wouldn’t know how to answer that question, but added that he is “extremely interested” in “limiting” the use of firearms on movie sets.

But remember … how many bullets have been fired in films and TV shows in the last 75 years? This is America. How many bullets have gone off in movies and on TV sets before? How many, billions in the last 75 years? And nearly all of it without incident,” Baldwin said.

“So, what has to happen now is, we have to realize that when it does go wrong and it’s this horrible, catastrophic thing, some new measures have to take place. Rubber guns, plastic guns, no live — no real armaments on set. That’s not for me to decide. It’s urgent that you understand I’m not an expert in this field, so whatever other people decide is the best way to go in terms of protecting people’s safety on film sets, I’m all in favor of and I will cooperate with that in any way that I can.”

Baldwin added that he doubted production would start up again on “Rust.”

Meanwhile, the armorer on the set of the film has denied reports that crew members had fired live rounds from prop weapons, and insisted she did not know how live ammunition wound up on set.

In a joint statement Oct. 29, attorneys for Hannah Gutierrez Reed called Hutchins “an inspiration to women in film who Hannah looked up to.”

Hannah is devastated and completely beside herself over the events that have transpired,” attorneys Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence said in the statement on behalf of Reed.

She would like to address some untruths that have been told to the media, which have falsely portrayed her and slandered her,” the attorneys said. “Safety is Hannah’s No. 1 priority on set. Ultimately, this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced. Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from.

Hannah and the prop master gained control over the guns and she never witnessed anyone shoot live rounds with these guns and nor would she permit that. They were locked up every night and at lunch and there’s no way a single one of them was unaccounted for or being shot by crew members,” the statement continued. 

“Hannah still, to this day, has never had an accidental discharge. The first one on this set was the prop master and the second was a stunt man after Hannah informed him his gun was hot with blanks.”

Citing an unnamed person familiar with activity on the set ofRust,” The Wrap reported that several members of the film’s crew had taken prop guns from the set the morning of the Oct. 21 shooting and used them to go target shooting, with live ammunition. The gun Baldwin later fired during rehearsal, killing Hutchins, was among them, according to The Wrap.

Baldwin, 63, was rehearsing a scene outside a church on the set of the western film when he discharged the prop weapon, killing the 42-year-old Hutchins and injuring film director Joel Souza, 48. Baldwin also was a producer on the film.

Officials said the bullet struck Hutchins in the chest then lodged in Souza’s shoulder as he stood behind the cinematographer.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza confirmed that the lead projectile apparently fired by Baldwin was recovered from film director Joel Souza’s shoulder. The gun had been declared safe by an on-set assistant director who handed Baldwin the weapon, but the discovery of the lead bullet indicates the gun was actually loaded with a live round, Mendoza said.

Mendoza added that people who inspected or handled the firearm before it got to Baldwin have been interviewed, “and there’s some follow-up questions that we need to do.”

We’re gonna try and determine exactly how that happened and if they should have known that there was a live round in that firearm,” Mendoza said.

According to an affidavit filed last week in support of a search warrant in Santa Fe, investigators stated that first assistant director Dave Halls picked up one of three guns from a mobile cart that had been prepared by the production’s armorer, Reed.

Halls allegedly declared “cold gun,” meaning the weapon was not loaded, as he was handing it to Baldwin. The shooting occurred moments later as Baldwin was practicing drawing the weapon, a .45-caliber Colt revolver.

According to another affidavit, Halls acknowledged to investigators that he did not check all of the rounds in the weapon before handing it to Baldwin and declaring it a “cold gun,” according to media reports out of New Mexico. He told investigators that Reed showed him the weapon earlier and “he could only remember seeing three rounds. He advised he should have checked all of them, but didn’t, and couldn’t recall if [Reed] spun the drum.”

In their statement, Reed’s attorneys described overall “unsafe” conditions on the “Rust” set.

Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” they said. “She fought for training, days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department. The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings. This was not the fault of Hannah.”

Mendoza said investigators seized more than 500 rounds of ammunition from the set, an apparent mix of blanks and dummy rounds, along with some suspected live ammunition.

We suspect that there was other live rounds that were found on the set,” he said. “I won’t comment further on how they got there — but we suspect that they are there. That will be determined when testing is done by the crime lab in reference to whether or not they are officially live rounds or not.”

The “Rust” production company issued a statement earlier saying the safety of the cast and crew is a top priority. 

“We will continue to cooperate with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation and offer mental health services to the cast and crew during this tragic time.”

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