SAG-AFTRA Calls Alec Baldwin’s ‘Rust’ Charges ‘Wrong and Uninformed’

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The actors union SAG-AFTRA has issued a strongly worded statement rebuking the decision to charge Alec Baldwin for involuntary manslaughter in the death of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, calling the move “wrong and uninformed.”

“The death of Halyna Hutchins is a tragedy, and all the more so because of its preventable nature,” says the statement, which was released on Thursday. “It is not a failure of duty or a criminal act on the part of any performer.”

In October 2021, Baldwin fired the shot that killed Hutchins while the “Rust” crew was inside a church building on the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, N.M. Both the actor and the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who loaded the weapon, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter by Mary Carmack-Altwies, the First Judicial District Attorney in Santa Fe. The film’s first assistant director, David Halls — who handed the firearm to Baldwin on the set — agreed to plead guilty to a charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

“If any one of these three people — Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez Reed or David Halls — had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today,” said Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by Carmack-Altwies to oversee the case, in a statement. “It’s that simple. The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously.”

In its statement, SAG-AFTRA takes issue with the prosecutor’s line of reasoning.

“The prosecutor’s contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed,” says the statement. “An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for their use under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm. In addition, the employer is always responsible for providing a safe work environment at all times, including hiring and supervising the work of professionals trained in weapons.”

The union points to codified industry standards from the Labor Management Safety Commission that require “an experienced, qualified armorer to be put in charge of all handling, use, and safekeeping of firearms on set.”

“The guidelines do not make it the performer’s responsibility to check any firearm,” the statement continues. “Performers train to perform, and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use. The industry assigns that responsibility to qualified professionals who oversee their use and handling in every aspect.  Anyone issued a firearm on set must be given training and guidance in its safe handling and use, but all activity with firearms on a set must be under the careful supervision and control of the professional armorer and the employer.”

Baldwin has said that when Halls handed him the gun that killed Hutchins it was “cold” — in other words, containing dummy rounds. The gun was found to contain one live bullet, and other live rounds were found throughout the set.

Industry experts have noted that it is common practice for actors handling firearms to follow general safety practices that Baldwin allegedly did not on the “Rust” set, according to on-set video, including keeping one’s finger off the trigger during rehearsals and never pointing a firearm directly at other individuals. Baldwin has repeatedly said he is not at fault for Hutchins’ death, and his lawyers have pointed to a series of alleged errors by Halls, Gutierrez Reed and others for the shooting.

This is the full statement from SAG-AFTRA:

“The death of Halyna Hutchins is a tragedy, and all the more so because of its preventable nature. It is not a failure of duty or a criminal act on the part of any performer.

“The prosecutor’s contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed. An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for their use under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm.  In addition, the employer is always responsible for providing a safe work environment at all times, including hiring and supervising the work of professionals trained in weapons.

“The Industry Standards for safety with firearms and use of blank ammunition are clearly laid out in Safety Bulletin 1, provided by the Joint Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Commission. The guidelines require an experienced, qualified armorer to be put in charge of all handling, use, and safekeeping of firearms on set. These duties include “inspecting the firearm and barrel before and after every firing sequence,” and “checking all firearms before each use.”

“The guidelines do not make it the performer’s responsibility to check any firearm. Performers train to perform, and they are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use. The industry assigns that responsibility to qualified professionals who oversee their use and handling in every aspect.  Anyone issued a firearm on set must be given training and guidance in its safe handling and use, but all activity with firearms on a set must be under the careful supervision and control of the professional armorer and the employer.”

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