By Ally Uhlendorf
In October 2021, tragedy struck in New Mexico on the set of the upcoming western film “Rust” when actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun that unknowingly held a live round in it and killed the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins. On Jan. 19, prosecutors announced that Baldwin is to be charged with involuntary manslaughter, along with the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed.
Due to the fact that he was not aware of the live bullets inside of the prop and was not warned to not fire the weapon, Baldwin should not be charged for the incident.
Obviously, Baldwin should not receive any special treatment or be treated with more leisure when it comes to the charges just because he’s famous. However, he should not immediately be at fault either.
In order to prove involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors have to find that the accused suspect behaved negligently. As of what we know now, there has been no evidence that the actor was behaving so. The current situation seems to appear as an accident on his part.
Of course, there should have been careful measures taken to ensure the prop was safe. I believe that that is the duty of the prop director/designer. Although he was the one holding the gun, Baldwin had been assured that it was not loaded with ammunition.
In that case, Baldwin was not acting negligently or unsafely — he was told that the prop was safe. The question now seems to be if he should have checked to see if the gun was loaded before use or was right to believe the word of the prop director or those who were in charge of the firearm.
Sometimes accidents are truly just accidents. Sometimes, nobody is to blame. In this case, I do not believe the actor should be held accountable for the tragedy.
If Baldwin is convicted under the lesser charge, he could face up to 18 months in prison. But, if he is convicted of a firearm enhancement in addition to that charge, he could serve a five-year sentence, according to a statement from New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies.
If anything, this incident was a wake-up call for the need to secure stricter rules and more careful safety protocols on all movie sets. This is not and should not be a common occurrence. The tragedy was horrendous and unfair, and is something that should not be taken lightly in the film industry.