State lawmakers and regulators rely primarily on gun safety protocols set by the film industry and its unions


Safety standards developed by film studios and unions are the primary protection for actors and film crews when a scene requires the use of propeller guns. Industry-wide guidelines are clear: “White people can kill. Treat all firearms as if they were loaded.

Shootings nonetheless left people dead and injured as cameras rolled, including the late cinematographer and the director who was injured this week as no one noticed a prop pistol fired by the actor Alec Baldwin while filming “Rust” carried live bullets that are far more dangerous than white.

Despite some industry reforms in the wake of previous tragedies, the Federal Workplace Safety Agency in the United States is silent on the issue of gun safety on set. And most of the preferred states for film and television productions take a largely hands-off approach.

New York bans nighttime gunshots on movie sets, but does not otherwise regulate their use. Georgia and Louisiana, where the film industry has grown rapidly, regulate pyrotechnics on film sets but do not have specific rules regarding the use of firearms.

“We have nothing to do with guns. We only regulate explosion-type special effects, ”said Captain Nick Manale, spokesperson for the Louisiana State Police Department, where the film industry has been credited with creating more than 9,600 jobs. last year and nearly $ 800 million for local businesses. “I don’t know who does this, or if anyone is doing it.”

New Mexico, where court records show an assistant director handed Baldwin a loaded gun and told him it was “cold” or safe to use, while filming “Rust” on Thursday, did no specific safety laws for the film industry. Much of the legislative debate on the industry, as in other states, has focused on tax credits and incentives to attract the lucrative entertainment business, not what happens on sets. shooting.

This approach has worked well for New Mexico. In addition to attracting major film productions, the state is home to major production hubs for Netflix and NBCUniversal. It recorded a record $ 623 million in direct spending on productions between July 2020 and June of this year.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat and staunch supporter of the film industry, praised the industry’s precautions for a pandemic over the summer, saying she had put safety at foreground and paved the way for the return to work.

Workplace safety is paramount in all industries in New Mexico, including film and television, governor’s spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Friday.

“State and federal workplace safety regulations apply to industry as to all other workplaces, and the state’s Office of Occupational Health and Safety is investigating,” Sackett told About the tragedy that unfolded at a movie ranch near Santa Fe. “This is an ongoing investigation, and we are awaiting further facts in order to understand how something so terrible and heartbreaking came about. could have happened. “

A search warrant released on Friday said a deputy director on the set handed Baldwin a loaded gun and said it could be used safely, unaware it was loaded with live ammunition. The shooting killed director of photography Halyna Hutchins, who was shot in the chest, and director Joel Souza, who stood behind Hutchins, injured.

New Mexico’s workplace safety officials have confirmed they will review whether the crew meets industry standards. The agency does not routinely conduct set and studio safety inspections unless they receive complaints.

Instead of regulating the use of firearms on film and television sets, many states leave it to the industry to follow its own guidelines. These recommendations, issued by the Workplace Safety Committee and Industry Management, call for the limited use of live ammunition and detailed requirements for the handling and use of firearms of all types. Safety meetings should be held, actors should keep their fingers on the triggers until they are ready to fire, and firearms should never be left unattended, according to guidelines.

Without specific state or federal regulations, it is primarily up to people working in productions to ensure that firearms are used safely. Brook Yeaton, vice president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees which represents workers in Louisiana and parts of Mississippi and Alabama, said his approach is to act like all the guns are real and never allow live tours on a set.

“They shouldn’t be in the truck. They shouldn’t be in the same car, ”said Yeaton, master of accessories for over 30 years. “You really have to make sure that your inventory is completely separate from the real world and that whatever you bring onto the set is safe.”

In one of the world’s largest movie centers, New York, productions must adhere to a code of conduct that spells out parking rules, notifies neighbors, and other details. Safety rules have sections on covering cables and obtaining permits for exotic animals. But the only mention of the gunshots is under the heading “community relations”: the sound of gunshots should not ring outside between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m.

The Texas Film Commission website says productions using prop guns – which can be replicas or real guns that fire blanks rather than live ammunition – must have security policies, gun handling experts and proof of insurance. The Texas governor’s office, which oversees the commission, has not responded to calls from The Associated Press asking how these rules are being enforced.

California, still the capital of the film industry, requires an entertainment firearms license, although it’s not clear how the licensing requirements are enforced.

The deadly Cackling shooting near Santa Fe follows gun-related deaths and injuries on film sets.

Actor Brandon Lee died in March 1993 after being shot in the abdomen while filming a scene from “The Crow”. Lee was killed by a makeshift bullet that remained in a gun from a previous scene. The US Occupational Health and Safety Administration fined the production $ 84,000 for violations after the actor’s death, but the fine was later reduced to $ 55,000.

In 2005, OSHA fined Greystone Television and Films $ 650 after a crew member was shot in the thigh, elbow and hand. As it turned out, the balloon breaker cartridges were in the same box as the blanks that were supposed to be used in the guns.

New Mexico state lawmaker Antonio “Moe” Maestas, an Albuquerque attorney and his state’s film incentive champion, questioned whether security legislation could have prevented the fatal shooting on the set of “Rust”.

“How can you discourage an unintentional act? ” He asked.

Maestas said production companies might consider using post-production effects to mimic the sights and sounds they now rely on propeller guns to create.

“This is the only way to really make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

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