While Santa Fe Sheriff’s investigators continue to determine what happened on the set of the Alec Baldwin movie Rust, a California lawmaker is moving forward with plans to introduce legislation that would restrict the use of live ammunition on film sets, along with and weapons capable of firing such rounds.
State Sen. Dave Cortese said that he has received input from the state legislative counsel’s office on the draft of the bill, though the exact text can’t be released yet under Senate rules.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed and director Joel Souza was injured on October 21 when Baldwin, while rehearsing a scene, fired from a prop gun. Authorities in New Mexico said that a live lead round was in the gun that was handed to the actor. No one has been charged.
Cortese, the chair of the Senate Labor Committee, said in an interview that his legislation would ban firearms capable of shooting live ammunition of any kind. That would include any kind of gun capable of setting off gunpowder, which is used for real bullets and blanks.
The Industry Wide Labor Management Safety Committee guidelines prohibit live ammunition on sets, except in rare instances. They allow for the use of firearms to shoot blank ammunition, but under a set of stringent safety standards (read the guidelines here).
Cortese said that the intent is to craft legislation “so that everybody uniformly is complying to the same rules and knows that there are legal consequences if they don’t.”
He said that the legislation’s penalties will be civil, such as via fines by the state Labor Commissioner, as opposed to criminal misdemeanor or felonies.
Cortese said that the legislation would restrict the use of blanks because “to shoot a blank you have to have a firearm capable of shooting a non blank. That is not good from a firearm safety standpoint.” He noted that blanks can still cause harm if fired close enough to another human. And while the industry in California “has done a good job on managing blanks,” Cortese said that “you have to put into the law something that makes sense.”
He said that he has spoken with a representative from IATSE about it, but industry groups have not yet weighed in on it because the text has not been released. That is a function of the legislature being out of session, he said, and it will be up to the Senate Rules Committee on when the proposed legislation can be made public. Last year, that came in early December.
Cortese said that the lack of regulation around live ammunition on film sets was “very problematic” as there as “sort of a big loophole,” what with industry guidelines but not legal remedies.
“I grew up in a rural environment and around safe firearm handling all my life,” Cortese said. “For someone to be pointing a gun that is capable of firing live ammunition, with no intention of hurting someone, is a cardinal violation of firearm safety.”
The bill does not have other workplace safety issues in it, like those that address crew concerns over long hours, but he is setting up informational hearings and “it is our intention to invoke overall film and theatrical labor conditions.” Those had been in the works since before the Santa Fe tragedy.
The legislation also may include exceptions for on-set security personnel and law enforcement.
“Those are details but really important details,” Cortese said. Also being studied is how the legislation will handle the use of pneumatic weapons, which use air pressure to fire projectiles.
He said that “the idea is to have this bill sort of signed sealed and delivered as early as possible.”
“We just want to make sure law is clear so everyone is doing what is required,” he said.
Cortese said that the idea is to “take the industry’s best practices and put them into law.”
Other measures may be pending in another state. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has called for the industry to adopt “comprehensive new safety protocols,” or the state will take action.
Watch the Santa Fe Sheriff & First Judicial DA’s news conference, held last week, below.