Last week, actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot a live round of ammunition from a gun while rehearsing for the upcoming western film “Rust”— killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. The news of the tragedy shocked the world, and left everyone wondering how something like this could happen. In the wake of the mishap, investigators are considering bringing criminal charges, and are trying to determine what exactly went wrong and who exactly is to blame for the negligence that brought on this highly preventable tragedy.
While investigators still haven’t commented much on the “Rust” tragedy, they have announced that the gun which Alec Baldwin shot contained a live round, and that they have already seized over 500 rounds of ammunition from the set, which included a mix of blanks, dummy rounds and live rounds— according to ABC News. The idea that there were live rounds of ammunition lying around a movie set is enough to make anyone uncomfortable. But barring that, investigators have also seized three ‘prop’ guns— two of which were non-functioning and plastic, but the latter was a functioning period-specific Colt revolver. The Santa Fe county district attorney, Mary Carmack-Altwies, took issue with the term “prop gun,” claiming that it was misleading. “It was a legit gun,” she said, “It was an antique-era appropriate gun.”
As more information emerges surrounding the “Rust” tragedy, it becomes increasingly clear that this was a highly preventable disaster. In fact, several days before the shooting, several crew members raised red flags about the production’s safety— after Baldwin’s stunt double accidentally fired two live rounds after being told that the gun didn’t have any ammunition. According to The New York Times, there were at least two earlier accidental gun discharges as well. “We’ve now had 3 accidental discharges. This is super unsafe,” an unnamed crew member texted the unit production manager prior to the fatal shooting. Prior to that fateful rehearsal, seven crew members had walked off the set to express their concerns over safety conditions and their accommodations, according to one of the crew members who had left.
And yet, even with all of these alarms being raised, the production of the film went on as normal. As the investigation continues, many have drawn comparisons to the 1993 accidental death of Brandon Lee— the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. Brandon Lee died while filming the 1994 film “The Crow” after actor Michael Massee fired a gun that was improperly loaded with rounds directly into the actor’s chest. Brandon Lee later died on the operating table after six hours of emergency surgery. Like the 1993 tragedy, Baldwin had been told that the gun was “cold,” when the gun actually had live ammunition in it. Both incidents seemed to be infuriatingly preventable, and have caused widespread public outrage about the use of guns in Hollywood sets.
In the wake of the “Rust” shooting, many are calling for Hollywood to take action to prevent any such tragedy from happening again. A petition on Change.org that was started by filmmaker Bandar Albuliwi has called for a ban on live firearms on set, and has since garnered over 41,000 signatures. “There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century. Real guns are no longer needed on film production sets,” the petition states. “This isn’t the early 90’s, when Brandon Lee was killed in the same manner. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost.” As the dust begins to settle on the tragedy, let’s just hope that we aren’t having this same conversation again— 28 years from now.