SAG-AFTRA Defends Alec Baldwin Over Rust Charges, Calls Prosecutor Wrong and Uninformed

The acting guild SAG-AFTRA defended Alec Baldwin over the impending involuntary manslaughter charges against him in the “Rust” case, calling out the New Mexico prosecutor as “wrong and uninformed” and said the burden of making sure firearms are safely handled on set should not be the actor’s duty.

“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,” the statement reads. “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 guild, while not naming any other members of the crew by name, says the industry-standard guidelines for firearms and the use of blank ammunition require an experienced armorer responsible for handling guns on set and that it should also fall under the supervision of the employer.

In this case, the armorer on “Rust” was Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who the New Mexico DA announced on Thursday morning would also face two involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins. Charges are expected to be filed at the end of the month. No charges were mentioned for any other producers or employers involved in the film, though the film’s assistant director Dave Halls agreed to a plea deal.

The penalty under New Mexico law for involuntary manslaughter is up to an 18-month prison sentence along with a $5,000 fine, and that would apply for each charge to be brought against Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed.

The impending criminal charges come more than a year after a fatal accident on set of the independent Western film “Rust” on October 21, 2021, in which star and producer Baldwin held the prop gun that discharged while containing a live bullet, killing Hutchins and injuring the “Rust” director Joel Souza. Hutchins had wanted to line up a camera angle and had instructed Baldwin to remove the weapon from his holster while aiming it at the camera, at which point it fired and struck Hutchins in the torso.

“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. It’s that simple,” Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor appointed by the DA to the case, said in a statement earlier today. “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.”

Read the full statement from SAG-AFTRA below:

“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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