Actors Union Blasts Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Against Alec Baldwin For 'Rust' Shooting
The actors union SAG-AFTRA came to actor Alec Baldwin's defense and reiterated its never an actor's job "to be a firearms or weapons expert" after the New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney announced Baldwin would be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.
The charges against Baldwin stem from an incident on the set of the unreleased film Rust in 2021 when he discharged a revolver used as a prop which killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.
SAG-AFTRA acknowledged Hutchins' death was a "preventable" tragedy but said in a statement her death isn’t “a failure of duty or a criminal act on the part of any performer.”
\u201cSAG-AFTRA released the following statement on today's news regarding charges in the 'Rust' tragedy. https://t.co/v3JEo0nwjV\u201d— SAG-AFTRA NEWS (@SAG-AFTRA NEWS) 1674169357
The organization added:
“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.”
SAG-AFTRA disputed the prosecutor's "contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set," calling it "wrong and uninformed":
"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."
It also noted that industry standards for firearm safety and the use of blank ammunition on film sets "require an experienced, qualified armorer to be put in charge of all handling, use and safekeeping of firearms on set."
It is not the responsibility of performers, SAG-AFTRA concluded, to check any firearm because they are expected to perform and "are not required or expected to be experts on guns or experienced in their use."
SAG-AFTRA's statement has received polarizing responses online.
\u201cSorry SAG, you are wrong. The reason he was charged with manslaughter is because he was careless. He pointed a gun without personally checking the weapon himself in or even used a prop gun. He aimed a lethal weapon and took it for granted it wasn\u2019t loaded https://t.co/mMRtphyFZV\u201d— Irony\u2019s Child Stands with Ukraine against Putin! (@Irony\u2019s Child Stands with Ukraine against Putin!) 1674233046
\u201cExactly what I\u2019ve said for months.\n\n\u201cThe prosecutor\u2019s 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\u2019s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert.\u201d https://t.co/agHqgq9B1j\u201d— Geoff Pilkington (@Geoff Pilkington) 1674328645
\u201cI am a dues-paying @sagaftra member (all opinions only my own). The 1/19/23 "SAG-AFTRA Statement on\nRust Charges" does not speak for me\nre the charges or anything related to Alec Baldwin. #sagaftra #sagaftramember #sagaftramembers\u201d— Chuck Slavin (@Chuck Slavin) 1674348671
\u201c@sagaftra should back Alec Baldwin up. I\u2019m thinking a ban on all projects being filmed in New Mexico. #SAG\u201d— Julian Spivey (@Julian Spivey) 1674267280
\u201cAs much as I can't stand Alec Baldwin, actors aren't weapons experts & it's not their job to know if there's a live round in a gun or magazine. \nSAG Actors Union Defends Alec Baldwin, Calling Manslaughter Charges \u2018Wrong and Uninformed\u2019 https://t.co/PrEyVK7oOe\u201d— Ryk Comerford (@Ryk Comerford) 1674230704
\u201cAs our \u201cunion\u201d they need to do way more than press releases for Alec. \n\nStep it up #Sag \n\nhttps://t.co/YoN3w8LJoD\u201d— \u26a1\ufe0fNick Principe\u26a1\ufe0f (@\u26a1\ufe0fNick Principe\u26a1\ufe0f) 1674418940
\u201cAlec Baldwin must stand trial. SAG- AFTRA is wrong on their stance. They might have to be schooled in the law. SAG -AFTRA can see there's losing money. \n\nhttps://t.co/xFAJtRJ4Px\u201d— BobFanucchi (@BobFanucchi) 1674170112
Baldwin has spent over a year defending himself from any suggestion that he bore responsibility for the killing of Hutchins, telling investigators that he was explicitly told the gun he was rehearsing with that day did not contain live ammunition. He also sought to avoid financial liability for the shooting in an arbitration demand against his fellow producers.
But Andrea Reeb, a special prosecutor appointed by Santa Fe County’s district attorney to help handle the case, said in an interview that the judicial system is "trying to definitely make it clear that everybody’s equal under the law, including A-list actors like Alec Baldwin."
Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has also been charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. In April 2022, the state of New Mexico fined the production company, Rust Movie Productions, $137,000 for ignoring firearms safety regulations, revealing that Gutierrez-Reed's time as armorer was extremely limited.
Assistant director David Halls agreed to plead guilty to negligent use of a deadly weapon, and received a suspended sentence and six months of probation after it was revealed he disregarded safety protocols.