SAG-AFTRA have issued a statement defending Alec Baldwin after he was indicted last week for involuntary manslaughter following the shooting of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
A grand jury in New Mexico (where the movie was filmed) indicted the actor last week (January 19) after initial charges were dismissed in April. According to the BBC, attorneys for Baldwin have said: “We look forward to our day in court.”
Baldwin was the co-producer and lead actor on Rust, which was in production just outside Santa Fe in October 2021. Hutchins was killed after a bullet was released from a prop gun held by Baldwin, also wounding director Joel Souza.
“An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert,” the union said. “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.”
The full statement from SAG-AFTRA read: “To the extent that the charges filed on January 19 are based on an accusation of negligent use of a firearm predicated on this or any actor having a duty to inspect a firearm as part of its use, that is an incorrect assessment of the actual duties of an actor on set.
“An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for use on set under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm.
“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.’”
They continued: “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.”
Baldwin has maintained that he only drew back the hammer of the pistol, not pulling the trigger. As per the BBC, special prosecutors in New Mexico have found that the weapon analysis concluded it couldn’t have been fired without the trigger being pulled.
He was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter, but the charges were dropped in April after evidence suggested the gun could have been modified, potentially causing malfunction.
The film’s armourer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, was charged in January 2023 with evidence tampering and two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Her trial is scheduled to take place on February 21, 2024.