Alec Baldwin fires prop gun; kills crewmember


Photo Credit: The New Mexican

Baldwin outside of the Santa Fe Country Sheriff’s Office after being interviewed by police.

Aleks Lam, Section Editor

Prolific American actor Alec Baldwin shot a prop gun October 21st, on the film set of Rust in New Mexico. Baldwin was told the firearm was a “cold gun,” meaning it was safe to use, and only could contain a blank charge for practical effects. (A blank charge usually refers to the absence of an actual bullet, but the inclusion of primer or gunpowder in order to create the desired flash effect.) While blocking a scene, Baldwin demonstrated how he would move when the cameras started rolling. Then he fired. Two people were hit by the stray bullet: cinematographer Halyna Hutchins (42) and director Joel Souza (48). Although Souza was just wounded, Hutchins died at the University of New Mexico Hospital. A gofundme has been set up to support those she left behind, namely her husband and son. 

Prior to the accident, safety concerns had already been raised about the filming for Rust. According to the camera crew, two accidental discharges by the prop guns had already occured prior to the incident. The rounds were fired by Baldwin’s stunt double, after also being told that the guns were “cold”. 

Although Hutchins had been advocating for better working conditions for her peers, the camera crew walked off in a response to unsafe COVID conditions, insufficient gun inspections, and long hours with low wages. 

Both the camera crew and Hutchins are part of The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the worker’s union for those in live theatre. This includes motion picture/television production, concerts, and construction shops: essentially all areas that support the entertainment industry. When the camera crew walked off, they were replaced with non-union members. IATSE Local 44, the local representing prop masters, reported that none of their members were present when the incident occured. 

As of November, a search warrant revealed that assistant director David Halls did not check all the rounds within the firearm before declaring it a “cold gun.” No further information has been released on whether he has had any charges placed on him. 

The standard set safety guidelines for television and motion pictures indicate that live rounds are not to be used, instead blanks are. Larry Zanoff, a prop weapons manager, commented. “We have a series of guidelines in the industry that govern the use of blank firearms and ammunition on set,” he said. “So my question is, of course, firstly, was that protocol followed?”

Zanoff is another giant in the industry: with film credits to action movies and TV shows like “Captain America: Civil War” and “Westworld.”