The police investigation into the shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and the wounding of director Joel Souza during the filming of the movie Rust is still ongoing. Civil suits are almost certainly on the way. And actor Alec Baldwin could very well face legal and civil consequences for his role in the shooting. After all, the gun was in his hand when it fired, and as a producer on the set Baldwin may very well have some legal liability for the conditions on the set, even if police clear him of any criminal negligence or wrongdoing.
If I were Baldwin’s attorney, my advice would be simple. Shut the **** up. Go on vacation somewhere; nothing too fancy, but someplace quiet and of the way. Catch up on your reading, but turn off your phone. Don’t post on social media, don’t talk to reporters, and for crying out loud, don’t offer up your half-baked thoughts on how to make movie sets a safer place.
“Every film/TV set that uses guns, fake or otherwise, should have a police officer on set, hired by the production, to specifically monitor weapons safety,” he wrote on Instagram on Monday.
I look forward to seeing plaintiffs’ attorneys ask Baldwin under oath why, if he believes that is such a good idea, he didn’t have such a policy in place on the set of Rust.
And not only was it a dumb thing for Baldwin to put out there from a legal perspective, it’s also just a dumb take. You don’t need a cop on film sets to ensure that all firearms are treated responsibly. How, for example, would a police officer’s presence have changed this?
An affidavit filed by a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office detective states that Hannah Gutierrez, the armorer on set for the “Rust” film, had set up three prop guns in a gray cart before the shooting. Assistant director Dave Halls, handed the weapon to Baldwin and yelled, “Cold gun!” — an industry term to indicate that it did not contain a live round. According to the affidavit, he was mistaken.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza has said that a “lead projectile” had been recovered from director Souza’s shoulder, and a central concern remains for authorities to determine how a live round wound up in the .45 Long Colt revolver that Baldwin discharged.
The police investigation is still underway, but based on previous reports that crew members were using the prop guns to go plinking in the desert, including on the morning of the shooting, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that proper policies and procedures regarding guns on set were completely disregarded by some crew members. Those safety protocols only work if they’re followed, and the moment live ammo was introduced to the set the risk of an accident or a negligent discharge increased dramatically.
Considering the rarity of incidents like this, it seems to me that it’s not that movie and television sets should have police officers in place, but that the producers involved in these projects have a responsibility to ensure that the rules and regulations regarding firearms on set are followed. There’s no need for productions to hire police officers to babysit guns on set, at least as long as there are actual adults in charge of the production in the first place.