Actor Alec Baldwin will no longer face criminal charges in relation to the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the western movie Rust in 2021. The decision was announced by Baldwin’s attorneys after prosecutors in New Mexico dropped the charges. Baldwin was pointing a Colt .45 pistol at Hutchins during a rehearsal when the gun went off, killing Hutchins and wounding the director Joel Souza. Baldwin has maintained that the gun went off accidentally, and that he was informed by crew members that the gun was not loaded. He has also insisted that he did not pull the trigger.
Baldwin had pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in February and agreed to the court’s terms to finish filming the low-budget film, as well as a ban on using guns and consuming alcohol. ABC News and CNN first reported that New Mexico prosecutors had dropped charges against Baldwin. Shortly later, Baldwin’s attorneys said they were “pleased with the decision to dismiss the case”. They added, “We encourage a proper investigation into the facts and circumstances of this tragic accident.”
The Santa Fe district attorney’s office had previously announced in February that it had dropped the gun enhancement charge against Baldwin, which would have carried a five-year sentence. The charge was also dropped against the film’s armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter. The dropped charges come just weeks after Mary Carmack-Altwies, the New Mexico district attorney who charged Baldwin, stepped down from the case.
In a statement released by Carmack-Altwies’s spokesperson last month, Carmack-Altwies was said to have stepped aside in order to “focus on the broader public safety needs in New Mexico’s first judicial district.” A few weeks prior to Carmack-Altwies stepping aside, another special prosecutor, Andrea Reeb, stepped down after Baldwin’s attorneys argued that it was unlawful for her to simultaneously serve as part of the state judiciary and legislature.
The incident has brought the issue of gun safety on film sets into the spotlight. The Rust shooting has prompted calls for tighter regulations and increased safety measures to be put in place. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents film and television crew members, has been pushing for stricter safety protocols. They have called for the implementation of a “no firearms policy” on film sets, as well as the hiring of professional armorers to handle weapons.
In response to the shooting, the film industry has taken steps to improve safety on sets. The Motion Picture Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee issued new guidelines in December 2021, which included the recommendation that live ammunition should never be used on set. The guidelines also called for the hiring of trained professionals to handle firearms and for actors to be given adequate time to rehearse scenes involving guns.
The Rust shooting has also raised questions about the use of real guns on film sets. Some have argued that the use of real guns is unnecessary and that they should be replaced with replica guns or digital effects. Others have argued that the use of real guns is important for the authenticity of certain scenes. The debate around the use of real guns on film sets is likely to continue in the wake of the Rust shooting.
The Rust shooting has had a significant impact on the film industry and has highlighted the need for improved safety measures on sets. While the decision to drop charges against Baldwin may be controversial, it is important that the incident is used as an opportunity to improve safety and prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.