How a Hollywood tragedy reignited the gun debate in America
A look at the recent accident on the set of Alec Baldwin’s movie Rust.

Alec Baldwin, a 63-year-old actor known for various movies like Beetlejuice, The Cooler and The Departed, is now known for shooting two crew members at the set of his new movie, Rust. On October 14, Baldwin accidentally shot Halyna Hutchins, a cinematographer working at the set of Rust, and Joel Souza, the director of the movie. While Souza was wounded and survived the terrible incident, Hutchins tragically passed away, raising questions about the safety of film sets and the precautions taken for stunt props. How did this accident happen in the first place? 

Baldwin was playing the character of an outlaw who was supposed to shoot a gun in a scene and was reportedly handed the gun by the assistant director. The crew members confirmed that it did not have any live rounds in it. It wasn’t until Baldwin shot the gun that the crew realized the fatal mistake. The bullet wounded Sousa and went through Hutchins’s shoulder and dreadfully, she did not survive. 

For a while after the incident, Baldwin remained silent, partially due to the sheer shock of having just killed a crewmate, and partially because of the ongoing investigation. Then he finally tweeted:

“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 I am in touch with her husband, offering my support to him and his family. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”

Baldwin’s wife told reporters that she was trying to take Baldwin away from the city, as he was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Many celebrities like Timothée Chalamet, James Gunn, and Elijah Wood expressed their sadness through social media, which gave rise to many questions about gun safety on Hollywood sets. People tend to believe that guns on Hollywood sets are much safer than they are. However, most of the time the guns in the movies are actual guns with “fake” ammunition, called blanks. When guns with blank ammo are fired, they create a flash from the barrel of the gun and a loud realistic sound but there is no projectile involved. Many Hollywood sets prefer these because they make the scenes more realistic than with special effects. However, these guns are still real and can fire “live rounds” or bullets. 

So, when the crew of Rust confirmed that the gun did not have any live rounds they were basically saying that the gun was safe to fire at someone, and Baldwin trusted them. The investigation into the accident is still ongoing, so new information can always surface about how the events unfolded. However, people, especially critics of Baldwin, were eager to voice their opinions about the matter. 

Donald Trump Jr. started selling t-shirts with the slogan “guns don’t kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people” on his website. Some people think that Trump Jr. is specifically targeting Baldwin since Baldwin is a huge anti-gun advocate who is also famous for mocking Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. Trump Jr.’s supporters and pro-gun individuals have spun this tragedy to fuel their pro-gun agenda by arguing that being pro-gun will provide better gun education, preventing such incidents. One of these people, Eric Davis, president of Gun Owners of Vermont, wrote that Baldwin should’ve been more careful in personally watching the gun, pointing into a certain direction, or pulling the trigger. Davis claims that Baldwin’s mistakes are “the very first thing one learns in an NRA safety class.” 

Even though some people are turning this into a pro-gun issue, many others are concerned about gun safety both on Hollywood sets and in real life. According to Gun Violence Archive, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans in 2020. Gun violence and gun safety is a highly prevalent and life-threatening issue. Considering Hollywood action movies often glorify the use of such weapons, it is critical that production crews start reconsidering their precautionary methods, and actors reconsider the message they want to convey to their audiences. After all, guns pose a great danger in non-professional people’s hands, whether regular people or Hollywood celebrities.

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