Tragedy on Movie Set
Movie set gun tragedy prompts calls for regulation. No set rules to follow
Tragedy struck the film industry recently when a gun that was supposed to be just a prop went off and fired real bullets, killing Halyna Hutchins, a cinematographer working on the set of “Rust.” Actor Alec Baldwin fired the gun. According to the New York Times on October 27, no charges will be filed against Baldwin. Reportedly, the incident is still under investigation by authorities in New Mexico where it happened.
The so-called accident took a life, but it never should have happened, say experts. There are supposed to be checks and balances on TV and movies sets that should have prevented a prop from being loaded with real bullets.
“The responsibility for the use of guns and other weapons lies with each production's property master or armory expert,” reports BBC.com. “They secure the weapons when they are not being used and instruct actors on their proper and safe use. They also load the firearms and check them before and after each scene.”
There is no set of rules on the use of firearms in the film industry, adds the BBC. According to the Associated Press, the U.S. federal workplace safety agency doesn't regulate gun safety on set, and many states leave it to the industry to create and follow its own rules.
In California, arguably the base for much of the film industry, calls are being made to pass strict regulations for the use of firearms. In fact, argues ones state senator, real firearms shouldn’t even be allowed on the set.
California Senator Dave Cortese, who is chair of the Senate Labor Committee, said he would push a bill banning live ammunition on movie sets in the state. “There is an urgent need to address alarming work abuses and safety violations occurring on the set of theatrical productions, including unnecessary high-risk conditions such as the use of live firearms.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, a petition has been launched to ban the use of real firearms on film sets. Several actresses, including Olivia Wilde and Holland Taylor tweeted their support for the petition, which suggests the creation of Halyna’s Law.
“Hollywood: It’s time to create “Halyna’s Law”, which will ban the use of real firearms on film production sets and create a safe working environment for everyone involved. - Sign the Petition!” Wilde tweeted.
The petition, which at press time had secure 19,000 signatures of the 25,000 it was seeking, reads: “We need to make sure that this avoidable tragedy never happens again. There is no excuse for something like this to happen in the 21st century. Real guns are no longer needed on film production sets. This isn’t the early ’90s, when Brandon Lee was killed in the same manner. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost.”
According to the Chicago Sun Times, different states follow different rules. “New York prohibits guns from being fired overnight on movie sets but does not otherwise regulate their use. Georgia and Louisiana, where the film industry has expanded rapidly, regulate pyrotechnics on movie sets but have no specific rules around gun use.”
Law enforcement in Louisiana has nothing to do with firearms on movies sets, reports the Post-Journal of New York. “We don’t have anything to do with firearms. We only regulate the special effects exploding type stuff,” Capt. Nick Manale, a state police spokesperson said. In Louisiana, the film industry was credited with creating more than 9,600 jobs last year and generating nearly $800 million for local businesses.
In New Mexico, where the tragedy occurred, there are no specific gun safety laws regulating the film industry reports the Post Journal. Like many states in recent years, New Mexico has used tax credits and incentives to entice the movie industry to the state, not really interested in what actually happens on set. New Mexico hosts Netflix and NBC Universal production hubs.
Some states rely on the industry regulating itself. The Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee has issued the following set of rules, but it has no legal power.
· Refrain from pointing a firearm at yourself or anyone else
· Never place your finger on the trigger unless you're ready to shoot
· Anyone involved in using a firearm must be thoroughly briefed at an on-set safety meeting
· Only a qualified person should load a firearm
· Protective shields, eye and hearing protection should be used by anyone in close proximity or the line of fire
· Any actor who is required to stand near the line of fire should be allowed to witness the loading of the firearms
Despite loose regulation of firearms on movie sets, deaths are rare, reports NPR. An Associated Press report from 2016 determined that from 1990 until the time of publication, at least 43 people died on sets in the U.S. and more than 150 had been left with life-altering injuries.
One of the most memorable incidents happened back in 1993, when Brandon Lee – son of martial arts icon Bruce Lee – was shot by a gun on the set of “The Crow” that was supposed to be filled with blanks. An autopsy, however, revealed a real bullet inside Lee.