23 February 2024

Rust - A basic stupidity

Reading about the trial of the young woman who was the "Armourer" on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie, Rust, now taking place in New Mexico, USA, my hackles rise at the sheer stupidity of all concerned with the management of that film set and their blatant disregard and/or ignorance of the fundamental principles of firearms safety!  Here is an excerpt of the BBC report:


A movie set weapons handler who loaded a gun for actor Alec Baldwin before it fired and killed a cinematographer was "sloppy", her trial has heard.

"Negligent acts" by armourer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 26, led to Halyna Hutchins' death during the production of Rust, prosecutors told the court.

Ms Gutierrez-Reed's lawyers laid the blame at the feet of Mr Baldwin, who they argued violated basic safety. 

During opening statements for the trial in Santa Fe on Thursday, prosecutors argued that the defendant's "unprofessional" on-set conduct led to an avoidable tragedy in which live ammunition found its way into a weapon.

"You will hear testimony that she routinely left guns and ammunition lying around the set unattended and her gun safe and ammo cart were constantly disorganised," special prosecutor Jason Lewis said.

    To make their case, prosecutors showed jurors boxes of ammunition that were on set the day the shooting took place, which they said contained live rounds interspersed with dummy ones.

    They allege that Ms Gutierrez-Reed negligently brought live ammunition from her home to the set that day, including the bullet that struck and killed Ms Hutchins.

    Ms Gutierrez-Reed's defence team, however, denied any wrongdoing and instead argued that it was Mr Baldwin who violated "some of the most basic rules" of operating a firearm.

    "The first event that had to happen is the actor Alec Baldwin pointed a gun on that set and he either had his finger on the trigger and the hammer cocked or he pulled the trigger," attorney Jason Bowles said.

    Court submissions show assistant director David Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin,  did not know the gun contained live ammunition, and indicated it was unloaded by shouting "cold gun!" 

    Sante Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza said police had recovered 600 pieces of evidence so far - including three firearms and 500 rounds of ammunition.

    He (Baldwin) also says he "didn't pull the trigger" of the gun during the incident, and adds: "Someone put a live bullet in a gun. I know it's not me."


    The arguments regarding who did what, when, are not relevant to my opinion regarding the lack of basic firearms safety procedures on this film set.  It is a fundamental rule that no live ammunition is allowed on any film set where firearms are used unless very specific safety procedures are observed.  No ifs or buts.  It is the responsibility of the armourer and the producer to make sure procedures are in place to enforce this rule.  This has been the case on any film set that I have been on.  There are various organisations around the world that promote certain standards in the film and television production industries.  I would think that most of them have a clause in their mission statement that promotes or even requires certain standards of health and safety from their members, and I would urge all of them to review their requirements regarding the use of arms and ammunition on film and TV productions. Perhaps the closest to a list of suggested rules is that published by the American Labour Management and Safety Committee.

    Its 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 a firearm must be thoroughly briefed at an 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

    But the committee points out its guidelines are "not binding laws or regulations" and its safety document appears to have been last revised in 2003.

    There should be strict security protocols in place to prevent firearms and ammunition from being brought on to a production location by anyone but the official armourer. There should be protocols in place that require the armourer to be fully trained and qualified in the handling and safety of firearms, and for the management of the prop firearms and dummy ammunition on set. It should never be a free-for-all, unmanaged situation! All of the actors who are required to handle firearms on a production set should be given basic firearms safety training as a contractual requirement. The fact that Alec Baldwin pulled the trigger of a handgun without first checking to see if it was loaded and if so, what it was loaded with, illustrates blatant ignorance of firearms safety procedures. The fact that he was handed the handgun by the assistant director who told him it was a "cold gun."  The assistant director, Dave Halls, also demonstrated blatant ignorance and/or negligence in basic firearms safety by not checking the handgun first. I have taught firearms safety for many years and in my opinion, the firearms safety protocols on the film set of "Rust" were either absent or totally inadequate.   It's not rocket science!!

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