The Shot Heard ‘Round the World

As the investigation into the “Rust” shooting becomes more complex, who should we hold accountable?

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Hollywood stopped in its tracks on October 21 when tragedy struck a film set. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was wounded on the set of the now-suspended film “Rust” after Alec Baldwin allegedly fired a live round from a prop gun.

This incident has since sparked much debate about firearm safety and legal troubles for all those involved.

In the days leading up to the shooting, crew members advocated a potential strike in regards to the working conditions on set. Specifically, it was the responsibility of Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, the production’s armorer and daughter of renowned Hollywood armorer Thell Reed, to triple-check the firearm for safety. Gutierrez-Reed had received past complaints about her handling of firearms, which is why it is unfortunately unsurprising that her unthorough firearm checks led to the death of one of her coworkers. Furthermore, assistant director Dave Halls, who told Baldwin that the gun was “cold,” was also responsible for abandoning the proper safety measures on set. One crew member on one of his previous productions even said, “[Halls] is a liability. He’s going to [EXPLETIVE] kill someone someday.” It is crucial that before anyone touches a prop gun on set, it is thoroughly checked. This is the armorer’s job; if they fail to perform their duties, they endanger themselves and others. The combination of an unsafe work environment and crew members who failed to do their jobs before culminated in a horrific tragedy.

However, there is one key person that hasn’t been discussed yet: Baldwin. Having shot the gun that killed Hutchins, there has been much debate about whether he is culpable for her death. Technically, it is not Baldwin’s job to check the prop gun, as the armorer should have gone through and fully cleared it. However, new evidence reveals that Baldwin may have had intent to shoot. In a lawsuit against the actor, script supervisor Mamie Mitchell argued that Baldwin “intentionally, without just cause or excuse, cocked and fired and loaded gun even though the upcoming scene to be filmed did not call for the cocking and firing of a firearm.”

On December 2, Baldwin spoke in an exclusive interview, where he denied all allegations, maintaining that the bullet placed into the gun was not supposed to be on set. “I don't know what happened on that set. I don't know how that bullet arrived in that gun. I don't know,” he said. Baldwin then detailed his day, including working with Hutchins on gun placement. When it came time to fire the weapon, Baldwin explained that he did not pull the trigger. “The trigger wasn't pulled. I didn't pull the trigger.” Hypothetically, the gun could have fired mechanically, but the chances of this happening are slim considering the internal safeties that prevent it from going off on its own.

The actor, who is also a producer on this film, maintained his distance from the hiring of Gutierrez-Reed throughout the interview. Baldwin acknowledges that she might not have been fit to perform these duties but even if so, he should not be held accountable for that. In the end, Baldwin himself even stated that he doesn’t “give a [EXPLETIVE] about [his] career anymore,” reeling with the trauma from this incident.

Baldwin’s interview was most likely meant to garner sympathy for the actor but ended up seeming like he and his lawyers were trying to dig themselves out of an irreparable situation. Allegedly, he did not shoot with intent as they were performing a scene that required him to cock his gun (contrary to the allegations in the lawsuit against him). But his lack of oversight and accountability when it came to checking the gun before it was shot, like many celebrities who are handling firearms do, led to a fatal error that he actively participated in.

At this point, the “Rust” investigation has become a “blame game,” as “The Daily Beast” puts it. Hutchins’s husband, Matthew, has acquired representation, Baldwin is liking posts that shift the blame in Halls’s direction, and Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers are zoning in on an unidentified crew member who supposedly sabotaged the gun by loading it with real bullets. The public still mourns Hutchins and remains divided on who is responsible for the tragedy. Only further investigation and the results of the legal proceedings will help determine what really happened, but it is clear that this horrific shooting is not the sole fault of one, but that of many.