Deadly Shooting on the sets of ‘Rust’: Death, Negligence, Gun Politics and more


Photo Credit: CBS News

On October 21, 2020, the 42-year-old director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, and the 48-year-old director Joel Souza were shot at after actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on a New Mexico film set. Hutchins passed away after being flown to a hospital by helicopter, while Souza, who was taken from the scene by ambulance, has survived.

It is under examination that what type of projectile left the prop gun and how. As of now, no charges have been filed. 

Baldwin has starred in numerous TV and film roles since the 1980s. He is well-known for his role as Jack Donaghy on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock and for his portrayal of Donald Trump on the sketch show Saturday Night Live

In an affidavit released, the film’s director, Joel Souza, said Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he drew a revolver from his holster and pointed it toward the camera, which Hutchins and Souza were behind. In a statement, the International Cinematographer’s Guild said Ms. Hutchins’ death was “devastating news” and “a terrible loss.”

Similar incidents to this fatal shooting on the Rust film set have taken place earlier, albeit rarely. Typically, filmmakers use real firearms loaded with blank cartridges when filming scenes involving firearms. This way they are able to get the desired effect of a flash and a bang without having to fire any projectile from the weapon.

This incident has raised the politically sensitive issue of gun control in the United States in America. The possession and usage of guns in films and life in general in the United States of America has been a controversial topic for a long time. The Rust movie set shooting has renewed tea calls to ban firearms with many advocating that real weapons must be replaced by computer-generated effects or CGI.

After the incident, the film producers have been blamed by the critics for Hutchins’ death citing “negligence and unprofessionalism” among those handling weapons on the set, and alleging that an inexperienced armorer was hired for the job.

While details are still emerging about how Baldwin accidentally shot Hutchins and Souza, some political onlookers swiftly assigned guilt to some of Hollywood’s most prominent liberals. The incident has become highly politicized particularly owing to the involvement of Baldwin who has been a vocal critic of the gun lobby in the country. He is being widely mocked by the far-right on social media.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican, cited a tweet of Baldwin’s last year supporting Black Lives Matter protesters in which Baldwin said he was going to make T-shirts that read: “My hands are up. Please don’t shoot me!” Boebert wrote, “Alec Baldwin, are these still available? Asking for a movie producer.”

In response, Boebert also received widespread criticism. Actor George Takei said Boebert had “no soul.” Actress Rosanna Arquette wrote: “This was a tragic and horrible accident. Ms. Boebart and you should be ashamed of yourself politicizing it.” 

However, Boebert stood by her tweet, stating: “You crazy Blue Checks want to take away our right to defend ourselves with a firearm, and know NOTHING about basic gun safety!” She continued, “If this was a conservative celebrity you’d be calling for his head.”

Right-wing pundits and politicians have long chafed at Baldwin’s criticism of former President Donald Trump and his Trump parody on “Saturday Night Live.” 

Within hours of the shooting, Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance asked Twitter to let Trump back on the social media platform that banned him after the insurrection on the capitol in January. “We need Alec Baldwin tweets,” Vance wrote. 

While this incident is heart-breaking for normal people, increasingly it is felt that there’s something about US politics right now that is driving people away from our shared humanity creating political mileage from such a tragic event. This event and the insensitive conversations that have stemmed from it should cause people to ask themselves what topics should be politicized and what topics just require conversations based on humanity and empathy.

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