SANTA FE, N.M. – Warrants linked to the Alec Baldwin “Rust” movie set tragedy in New Mexico that left cinematographer Halyna Hutchins dead and wounded director Joel Souza show conditions fell far short of film industry standards for gun safety.
In response to an inquiry from Fox News Digital for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees’ written rules about gun safety on movie sets, the union provided guidelines from the Contract Services Administration Trust Fund (CSATF).
In all caps with bold, underlined letters, the first line reads, “BLANKS CAN KILL. TREAT ALL FIREARMS AS THOUGH THEY ARE LOADED. ‘LIVE AMMUNITION’ IS NEVER TO BE USED NOR BROUGHT ONTO ANY STUDIO LOT OR STAGE.”
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But Santa Fe Sheriff Adan Mendoza said last week that it appeared that a live bullet had been loaded into the revolver Baldwin used during rehearsal at the Bonanza Creek Ranch on Oct. 21.
Furthermore, guns should never be pointed at anyone “unless absolutely necessary to do so on camera,” according to the CSATF guidance.
“Refrain from pointing a firearm at anyone, including yourself,” the protocols read, and “NEVER place your finger on the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.”
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Guns are never to be left unattended or used for “horseplay.”
According to a trio of search warrants released by the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department, assistant director David Halls allegedly handed Baldwin a loaded .45 revolver during a scene rehearsal, telling him it was “cold,” or safe. The warrant adds that Halls said he was not aware that there was a real bullet inside.
Halls’ attorney disputed the timeline of events laid out in the warrants in an interview with Fox News’ Martha MacCallum on Monday and declined to answer questions about who handed Baldwin the pistol.
After the A-list actor had it in his hand, a projectile flew out of the barrel, striking Hutchins in the torso before lodging itself in Souza’s shoulder.
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Armorer Hannah Gutierrez Reed told detectives that she had checked dummy rounds in the weapon before a lunch break earlier in the day, according to the warrants. And she said that “no live ammo is ever kept on set.”
A film’s property master or designated weapons handler is tasked with “Checking all firearms before each use,” the CSATF guidelines state, and unloading them when not in use for filming or rehearsals. They are also supposed to ensure the “control and distribution of all firearms on set.”
Gutierrez Reed’s lawyers, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, told NBC’s “Today” Wednesday that the guns were left unattended from around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the day of the shooting and said they were looking into whether the ammunition had been sabotaged by disgruntled crew members – some of whom walked off the job a day earlier. They were reportedly replaced with nonunion camera operators.
Before any scene or rehearsal involving the use of a firearm, the standards state that all involved parties should be briefed in an on-site safety meeting. And “No one shall be issued a firearm until he or she is trained in safe handling, safe use, the safety lock, and proper firing procedures.”
Lane Luper, a lead cameraman on the film who resigned in protest a day before the shooting, told “Good Morning America” Wednesday that he’d only been invited to two such safety meetings despite having a prominent role impacted by safety concerns.
As for “live ammunition,” it’s only to be used during “very rare occasion[s]” and “very special circumstances” under even stricter guidelines. And live bullets should not be stored anywhere near blanks or dummies.
Last week, Sheriff Mendoza said authorities had uncovered a mix of dummy rounds, blanks and real bullets from the set.
Gutierrez Reed had told detectives that there weren’t supposed to be any real bullets at the ranch, according to the warrants.
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At least four people handled the gun on Oct. 21 – Baldwin, Gutierrez Reed, Halls and prop master Sarah Zachry, court documents show. Authorities have focused on the first three, all of whom are cooperating with investigators, according to the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Department.
Gutierrez Reed through her attorneys last week appeared to try and shift the blame to the movie’s producers for alleged unsafe conditions on set.