A bill to ban real guns and live ammunition from all film and theater sets was proposed over the weekend in response to the fatal accidental shooting of a cinematographer by actor Alec Baldwin at a movie set in New Mexico last week.
On October 21st, while shooting a scene for the movie “Rust” at the Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico, Baldwin was given a gun which he was told contained blanks with no live ammunition. However, due to circumstances still under investigation, the weapon contained at least one real bullet, which was then fired. The bullet struck cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the clavicle, resulting in emergency services being called. While Souza was later released for his injury, Hutchins died in Albuquerque after being airlifted to a hospital.
The incident is still currently under investigation in New Mexico, although many involved, including Baldwin, have already been largely cleared as innocent due to the accidental nature of the shooting.
There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation to address how this tragedy occurred and
— AlecBaldwin(HABF) (@AlecBaldwin) October 22, 2021
However, due to the fatality on the set, as well as several questions over the safety practices conducted, Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) announced during the weekend that he would introduce new legislation during the next California legislative session in January that would ban live ammunition and guns that can fire live ammunition from all film and theater sets.
“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,” said Senator Cortese in a statement on Saturday.
“It is important that California establish new safety standards and best practices for all those who work in the industry and particularly in our own state. Those working behind the scenes to entertain and bring joy to millions all over the world shouldn’t go to set worrying if they will return home safely to their family. Our entertainment industry must do a better job of ensuring safe working conditions for our hardworking crews.”
“I intend to introduce legislation that would ban live ammunition on sets in California to prevent this type of senseless violence and loss of life. I offer my support in any way to the family of Ms. Halyna Hutchins during this time of tragic loss.”
Our entertainment industry must do a better job of ensuring safe working conditions for our hardworking crews. I intend to introduce legislation that would ban live ammunition on sets in California. https://t.co/CgWKaxH8A6
— Senator Dave Cortese (@SenDaveCortese) October 23, 2021
Bill will be introduced in coming months
While the bill has yet to be fully written and no other lawmakers currently are attached to the bill, many insiders have said that the bill is likely to pass due to the urgency of the matter, support from many in the film industry, and national and international focus now on the proposed bill.
“It’s rare that state level bills get this much attention when a draft isn’t even available,” said “Dana,” a state capitol staffer to the Globe on Monday. “But when they do, it’s usually during the initial announcement or when it’s called for in reaction to a major event. The firearm on set proposal was both.”
“And with more details of the incident likely to be released for awhile, the incident will stay in the public’s eye for quite some time, so it’s not going to be forgotten like other bills that were announced and then soon fizzled out. This won’t be a ‘flash in the pan’ bill. Too many eyes are on it.”
Early industry support for the bill includes the family of actor Brandon Lee. Lee, the son of famed actor Bruce Lee, was killed in a similar accidental gunfire incident in 1993 while filming the movie “The Crow.”
On the use of real weapons on movie sets, Lee’s sister Shannon Lee said during the weekend that “It is not necessary, and I would love to see some changes made industry-wide. My brother’s fiancée and I have been talking about it. I think we wish we had thought to do more 28 years ago, and we would love to do that now.
“There were rules in place on the set of ‘The Crow’,” she noted. “Unfortunately, there was negligence of the rules. I don’t want to speak to the incident on ‘Rust,’ but in Brandon’s accident, there were many rules that were not followed and corners that were cut, which led to the tragedy on that set. It did not have to happen.”
“It is unfortunate that it is something like this that is bringing it back up to the forefront. Hopefully one of the things that come out of this is it does lead to meaningful change. I think that in this day and age with all the special effects that are possible and all of the technology, there is no reason to have a prop gun or a gun on a set that can fire a projectile of any sort. The entertainment industry must do a better job of ensuring safe working conditions for our hardworking crews.”
Many productions, including many shows on ABC, have already banned the use of live firearms after the Rust incident.
Senator Cortese’s bill is likely to be introduced in the Senate early next year.
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