Was it a freak accident or the inevitable result of incompetence?
The troubling answer is taking shape as facts surrounding the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins come to light.
Hutchins was on the set of the film “Rust” on Thursday in Sante Fe County, New Mexico, when actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot her and wounded director Joel Souza while rehearsing with a firearm.
The assistant director reportedly had just assured Baldwin the weapon was “cold,” meaning it had no live rounds, when the shooting occurred.
Many have been quick to blame Baldwin, who has a history of anti-gun rhetoric that includes taunts about accidental shootings.
“You hook your friends with that line? Shoot em in the face? Cheney style?” Baldwin said in a 2015 comment on Twitter alluding to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s unfortunate 2006 hunting accident.
“This is Alec Baldwin,” Errol Webber, a fellow Hollywood insider, tweeted with some of the actor’s worst moments, including that line that didn’t age well.
This is Alec Baldwin. pic.twitter.com/zClz80i0yo
— Errol Webber (@ErrolWebber) October 22, 2021
It’s true that the tragedy on set would have been avoided if Baldwin had followed basic rules of firearm safety, including treating all guns as if they are loaded.
However, it was the armorer on set, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was responsible for making sure the weapons were safe and movie-magic ready — and some say she has a history of sloppiness with basic firearm safety protocols.
During the making of “The Old Way” with Nicolas Cage earlier this year, Gutierrez-Reed drew the ire of the cast and crew with a cavalier attitude toward safety that some said “put the cast and crew in several unnecessary and dangerous situations,” according to The Wrap.
She brought weapons and live rounds onto the set without warning and broke a cardinal safety rule by allowing firearms to be pointed at people, the report said.
Gutierrez-Reed also carried handguns under her arms, sometimes situated so they would be pointed directly at anyone behind her, and she carelessly palmed rifles that were scene-ready.
She also accidentally fired a blank while trying to test whether horses used for production would be spooked by the sound, an incident that led one of the film’s stars to storm off the set, according to The Wrap.
Twice in the span of three days, the film’s young armorer fired a weapon — including the accidental discharge — while forgoing the required warning to those present, and Cage was incensed by it, the report said.
“Make an announcement, you just blew my f***ing eardrums out!” Cage blew up before leaving in a huff, Stu Brumbaugh, who worked as a key grip on the Western, told The Wrap.
Brumbaugh similarly took such an error as a sign that Gutierrez-Reed didn’t belong on the production.
“I told the AD, ‘She needs to be let go,’” he recalled saying to the assistant director. “After the second round, I was p***ed off. We were moving too fast. She’s a rookie.”
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) October 26, 2021
It was only after this incident that Brumbaugh learned it was the first film for Gutierrez-Reed, who no doubt was hired at least in part because she is the daughter of longtime Hollywood armorer Thell Reed and he is said to have trained her.
A producer for “The Old Way” denied this account of the armorer’s experience on the film, however.
“I have no such recollection of this event on our set. I asked my partners the same,” the producer told The Wrap. “The details on some of these accounts specifically when it pertains to ‘The Old Way’ have been blown out of proportion.”
Still, the mistakes and missteps she’s said to have committed may explain the tragedy on the set of “Rust,” especially in light of what the Guitierrez-Reed herself admitted just last month about working on the Cage western.
“You know, I was really nervous about it at first, and I almost didn’t take the job because I wasn’t sure if I was ready,” she admitted on a podcast on Sept. 11. “But doing it, like, it went really smoothly.”
Maybe this is just another Hollywood tale involving a temperamental movie star, but it seems plausible that safety protocols were flouted given what happened on the “Rust” set.
The fact that Baldwin had access to a firearm loaded with anything when the scene called for a “cold” gun reveals that precautions were not taken to prevent such a mixup.
While it’s true that there’s no need to fear guns as most leftists do, a healthy respect for the destructive power of firearms is the first rule of gun safety.
Even guns that are set up to be used as movie props are to be treated at all times like the deadly weapons they are — and the only way such an accident could occur would be if that fact were ignored.
Maybe Guitierrez-Reed witnessed her father’s competence and ease around weapons and mistook his experienced confidence for indifference.
Or it’s possible that Baldwin shirked his own responsibility to make sure the weapon was clear before using it to rehearse the scene, a fact that may in part lead to charges for the actor, according to Fox News.
Whatever the eventual conclusion, the death of Hutchins at the hands of an actor is a good reminder that guns must be treated as if they’re loaded and never pointed at anything the person holding the weapon isn’t willing to destroy.
And those lessons are, unfortunately, too often learned the hard way.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.