Alec Baldwin shooting: Should live prop guns be phased out?
- Alec Baldwin is an American actor and activist known for his comedic talent as Jack Donaghy on NBC’s 30 Rock, doing impersonations of Donald Trump on SNL, as well as playing many other versatile roles.
- On October 23, 2021, Baldwin discharged a prop gun on the set of the movie “Rust” in New Mexico that tragically killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured Director Joel Souza.
- Information was released via search warrants showing Baldin was “practicing” a cross draw with the prop gun before being fired. An assistant director had handed the gun to Baldwin notifying him of a “cold gun,” but Cameraman Reid Russell said he was unsure if the weapon was checked before firing.
- The Actors’ Equity Association lists safety tips for use of firearms.
- The difference between a live cartridge and a blank is the absence of a bullet. In a blank, a “wad” made from paper or plastic is released and gun powder and gases are released.
We must remember that actors, along with the crew, caterers, joiners, electricians, and others working on a film, are really just employees doing a job, and they all deserve to go home safely at the end of their shift. OSHA demands that hazards be controlled in order to ensure a safe workplace for all employees. In other fields, this often involves using the least powerful tool or product and eliminating as much risk as possible so that if there were to be a human error, the consequences would be limited. The film industry should be no exception. While it isn't yet known what caused this tragic incident, it's highly likely that human error will be involved at some stage. By removing live prop guns from the film industry, we can ensure this type of incident doesn't happen again.
Live prop guns certainly aren't needed in the modern age of filmmaking. Yes, they look and feel real on-screen and are undoubtedly easier to use than adding computer effects in post-production, but that simply isn't a good enough reason to put the lives of all of those working on a film set at risk. There are both technological and creative workarounds for using live prop guns, which makes much more sense and far more interesting storytelling anyway.
Finally, the stakes are simply too high. The lives of the families of those lost in this terrible tragedy will be forever altered because of a careless mistake. Alec Baldwin will live with the fact that he killed and wounded his colleagues for the rest of his life. These consequences are not worth it simply for a realistic-looking gunshot.
The recent apparent accidental shooting by actor Alec Baldwin using a prop gun with live ammunition on the set of his current movie is tragic. On that, everyone can agree. However, today's society is seemingly made up of knee-jerk reactions. We often want to 'do something' before we understand what the problem is or even if there is a problem. Before making any changes, like eliminating prop guns from sets, it first must be determined how this happened. Were the proper procedures followed or not? Were there persons missing from their posts, thus flouting their responsibilities at this job site? At this point, the facts are still rolling in as the shooting is now under investigation.
According to a 2016 Associated Press report, 43 people died and 150 had life-altering injuries from movie set accidents in the US from 1990 through the article's publication date. Most of these were not related to prop guns. That is not a particularly high total given the number of people employed in the film industry and the number of movies and television shows produced each year. To that point, film and television prop experts have stated that injuries or death from prop firearms are exceedingly rare.
While we would like to wish it were so, life is not risk-free. Even commuting to work in your car each day requires a certain degree of calculated risk. Taken to the extreme, we can eliminate all risks of movie set accidents by not making any movies or television shows requiring anything dangerous. Instead of getting rid of prop guns, we should first understand what happened here and take steps to avoid the already rare circumstance.