Will Hollywood Ban Real Guns on Set After the “Rust” Tragedy?

The preventable death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins should inspire stricter safety protocols

Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo on January 28, 2019 in Park City, Utah.
Halyna Hutchins attends the SAGindie Sundance Filmmakers Reception at Cafe Terigo on January 28, 2019 in Park City, Utah.
Getty Images for SAGindie

Since the horrific accident on the set of the movie Rust last Thursday — in which Alec Baldwin accidentally discharged a prop gun during rehearsal, shooting and killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza — questions have swirled over how this could have happened. That investigation is still underway, but one thing’s for certain: it wouldn’t have happened if filmmakers had stopped using guns on set.

The tragedy has inspired calls for Hollywood to stop using real guns — which, even when loaded with blanks, can misfire or otherwise accidentally injure someone — on set and instead rely on visual effects in post-production to simulate gunfire. As Deadline points out, a Change.org petition launched on Friday by filmmaker Bandar Albuliwi calling for a ban on real guns on film sets has already topped 25,000 signatures.

“We need to make sure that this avoidable tragedy never happens again,” the petition reads. “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 90’s, when Brandon Lee was killed in the same manner. Change needs to happen before additional talented lives are lost. Please sign this petition and demand for Alec Baldwin to use his power and influence in the Hollywood film industry to make change and ban real guns on film sets.”

Several prominent filmmakers have echoed the sentiment. Olivia Wilde tweeted out a link to the petition and wrote, “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.” Mare of Easttown director Craig Zobel revealed the popular crime drama didn’t use real guns, writing, “There’s no reason to have guns loaded with blanks or anything on set anymore. Should just be fully outlawed. There’s computers now. The gunshots on Mare of Easttown are all digital. You can probably tell, but who cares? It’s an unnecessary risk.”

Eric Kripke, the showrunner for Amazon’s The Boys, pledged to stop using guns loaded with blanks on his sets. “Someone hurt or killed on my set is my worst nightmare,” he wrote. “Sending love to Halyna Hutchins’ family, @JensenAckles, cast & crew of ‘Rust.’ I’m so sorry. In her memory, a simple, easy pledge: no more guns with blanks on any of my sets ever. We’ll use VFX muzzle flashes. Who’s with me?”

In an age where just about anything can be replicated via special effects, having real guns on set feels like a totally unnecessary risk. There was clearly a breach of protocol on the Rust set — an assistant director reportedly yelled “cold gun,” meaning he was under the impression the weapon didn’t contain any live rounds despite the fact that it actually did, before handing it to Baldwin. But even when the strict protocols outlined in recent days by industry professionals are properly adhered to, there’s still too much room for error. Humans make mistakes. Guns jam and misfire. Why not remove them from the equation entirely and ensure that a preventable tragedy like this never happens again?

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