The film industry is shocked and saddened about what happened last week on the set of ” Rust” in New Mexico. Many production companies still use guns-real guns- when filming, according to published reports. Despite rules and regulations, people can get killed, as what we saw happen last week when Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins after he was handed a weapon and told it was safe. The fatal tragedy has led some in Hollywood, along with other observers and groups to protest and ask: Why are real guns used on set, when computers these days can create gunshots in post-production?
The assistant director of “Rust,” Dave Halls, had been taken off a previous production over gun safety violations. According to a press agency, discussing Halls prior production job, it was confirmed he had been dismissed back in 2019. The incident occurred after a crew member, incurred a minor and temporary injury when a gun was unexpectedly discharged, the statement said. This is by no means no suggestion that Halls was at fault for the “Rust” incident. Halls was removed from the set immediately after the prop gun discharged. Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time. An affidavit filed over the “Rust ,” incident said Halls had handed the gun to Alec Baldwin during a rehearsal and called out “cold gun,” as he did so, meaning the weapon had no live ammunition. According to the affidavit, the assistant Halls did not know live rounds were in the prop gun.
Investigators, as of press time, are hoping that an analysis of ballistic evidence will shed some light on what kind of projectile was fired from the gun and how it got there. The director Joel Souza was injured when the revolver that Baldwin was using during rehearsal discharged. No charges have been brought yet. Prior to the incident, camera operators had walked off the set to protest against working conditions. According to the AP news, the US federal workplace safety agency doesn’t regulate gun safety on set, and many states leave it to the industry to create and follow its own rules. Calls have been made for more safety on the movie production set in light of Hutchins death although investigations are ongoing. Let’s look at a list of suggested rules that is published by the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee. It’s advice includes: Blanks can kill. Treat all firearms as though they are loaded; Refrain from pointing a firearm at yourself or anyone else; Never place your finger on the trigger unless you’re ready to shoot; Anyone involved in using an firearm must be thoroughly briefly at on-set safety meeting; Only a qualified person should load a firearm; Protective shields, eye and hearing protection should be used by anyone in close proximity or the line of fire; Any actor who is required to stand near the line of fire should be allowed to witness the loading of the firearms. While the committee points out the guidelines, they are not binding laws or regulations, it appears the last time the guidelines were revised was in 2003, according to Professor Leonard from Chapman University in California.
Warner Bros film studio has published its own weaponry rules, while the Actors Equity Association has advice for performers. Tragic incidents like the one on the set of “Rust,” are very rare. In fact, I believe that the last fatal prop gun accident occurred back in 1993. The son of Bruce Lee, Brandon Bruce Lee, 28-years-old at the time was also killed in an on-set with a prop gun. The gun was supposed to fire a blank, but an autopsy showed he had a bullet lodged next to his spine. Civil lawsuits will likely be in the “millions and millions “ of dollars for the producers.