Bang for the Buck: Alec Baldwin Shooting Reveals Hollywood’s Love for Real Guns

Actor trained in firearm safety killed woman

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Alec Baldwin shooting and killing his cinematographer on a movie set has given the public a rare view inside the Hollywood world of guns. I talked to people in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera, for insight. All say this was not an accident but a safety failure.

"Alec Baldwin has been on sets with guns for 40 years. I just don’t understand how this happened,” a veteran actor told me.

"It is well known that you never point a gun, even a prop gun,  at someone unless the gun has been inspected and cleared with the camera rolling,” the actor said. “The finger never goes to the trigger, unless you’re in the process of pulling it.”

Baldwin killed 42-year-old mother Halyna Hutchins with a shot to the chest.  Director Joel Souza was also injured.

Search warrants made public in court documents Sunday give more details into the horrifying events caused by violating gun safety rules. Read my first story on this case to catch up on the details:

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A Bullet or a Blank? How Alec Baldwin Shot and Killed a Woman With a Real Gun
Sign up for just my newsletter “Emily Gets Her Gun” about gun-control issues at the button below: The Hollywood version of the Alec Baldwin story is that the actor killed a woman with a prop gun and a blank and is not at fault. The true story is that Baldwin shot two people with a real gun and did not follow firearm safety rules…
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Baldwin was rehearsing a “cross draw”, which means pulling a gun from a holster on the opposite side of the body. Baldwin was seated in a church pew and practicing aiming the gun at the camera, where Hutchins and Souza were standing. 

Robert Baumert is a retired NYPD detective who is on the ATF-NYPD joint firearms task force.

“They call the it an accident in Hollywood, but for police and military, we call it negligent discharge.” he told me in an interview Monday.

“Alec Baldwin should not have been pointing that gun at someone,” said Baumert. “He should have held that gun like an atomic bomb would go off if he pulled the trigger.”

Baumert said rubber or plastic guns are used on sets when there’s no shooting required. But real firearms are used when shooting. 

Real guns and armorers

"It’s impossible for an actor to recreate recoil," an actor told me on Sunday. "It always looks phony"

Of course, the more realistic shooting scenes lead to better ratings and ticket sales. Producers care mostly about the bottom line. 

The industry uses experts called armorers to supply the guns and handle them on set. 

Chris Corrado is a veteran assistant director who has worked on shows such as  “The Unit”, “Castle” and others you can see on his  IMDB page.

“Armorers are common on big action movies with a lot of guns,” Corrado explained to me. “But they’re highly specialized and an extra expense for production, so they aren’t brought in unless they’re really necessary. On smaller shows, they sometimes only bring them in for a day or two for their ‘big gun days.”

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There is a system for how guns are handled. 

“Each set has its own armory -- a trailer or a shipping container,“ said Baumert.  When it’s time for the actor to  actually fire the weapon, the armorer brings it to set and gives it to the actor to shoot the scene, then the armorer takes it from the actor.”

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, 24,  was the armorer for Baldwin’s movie.  She is the daughter of a veteran armorer named Thell Reed. The father’s IMDB page says:

"Gun Coach to the Stars" Thell Reed has coached everyone with a gun from Steve McQueen to Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Val Kilmer, Jeff Bridges, Edward Norton, Don Cheadle, Sharon Stone, Sam Elliot...

According to the search warrants, Gutierrez-Reed left three guns on a table outside the church set because of COVID restriction. Dave Halls, the assistant director, handed one of those gun to Baldwin and told him it was “cold.” This term in Hollywood means it’s not loaded with blanks.

Corrado says Halls could have prevented this tragedy. “The safety measures typically done by the first AD would have prevented it.”

Bullet or a blank?

It’s still not known what was in the gun — a bullet or a blank.  The affidavit says Souza described the sound as a “ship and then loud pop.” He told investigators that he saw blood on Hutchins and that she “complaining about her stomach and grabbing her midsection.” Souza said he was bleeding from his shoulder. 

Remember the production company for “Rust” and Baldwin released a statement to media that said: 

There was an accident today on the New Mexico set of Rust involving the misfire of a prop gun with blanks.

The statement was surely cleared with lawyers. So is it possible that Hutchins was killed by a blank?  Baumert says yes. 

“Blank ammunition does not necessarily just make a noise. If you were to fire that blank at close distance, the cardboard  inside to create that pressure is still a projectile. If it's close to somebody, it could penetrate flesh.”

Baldwin does not admit fault

Baldwin is clearly using his power to direct the media to blame everyone else. You’ll see many stories about the “inexperienced” cinematographer or the “irresponsible” assistant director and the union that protested working conditions. But the rich movie star did not follow safety rules he knows well. 

“It is the actor's responsibility to not proceed until the gun is proven safe,” an actor told me. “The stakes are too high not to.”

A film actor told me that, even with all these breaks in protocol with the armorer, Baldwin should have checked the weapon to see if it was loaded when it was handed to him. He said that even when he’s used rubber guns or airsoft, he treats it as if it were a real, loaded gun. 

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Baumert said if this shooting had happened in New York State, Baldwin would be charged with a serious crime for his actions. “His intent was not to kill anybody,  but pointing that gun and not practicing good gun protocols, he was reckless and killed someone. He is guilty of reckless endgame and somebody was killed, that’s manslaughter.” 

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