New California gun safety laws for movie sets after ‘Rust’ shooting hobbled by Legislature

The set of "Rust" at Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, N.M.
The Bonanza Creek Ranch one day after a shooting incident left one crew member dead and another injured, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 in Santa Fe, N.M.
(Roberto E. Rosales / Albuquerque Journal)
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Two bills on gun safety on film sets in California in the wake of the deadly shooting on the set of “Rust” last year failed to meet a key deadline in the state Senate Thursday and were blocked from moving forward.

Both Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose)’s Senate Bill 831 and another, more narrowly focused SB 829 backed by state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), failed to clear the California Senate Appropriations Committee, according to official results posted on its website. Cortese’s bill had backing from Hollywood’s major unions including the Directors Guild of America and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The Motion Picture Assn., which represents studios like Walt Disney and Warner Bros., as well as streaming platforms like Netflix, had thrown its support behind the rival bill SB 829.

Neither of the bills had built a consensus of support across Hollywood. Nonetheless, the failures are a blow to workers in the entertainment industry that have been pushing for increased regulations to improve safety on film and TV sets in the wake of the “Rust” shooting. Legislators will have to wait until next year to revive any efforts to rework the legislation. Portantino blamed the lack of consensus in Hollywood on a way forward as the reason the bills didn’t move forward.


“I strongly encouraged broad entertainment interests to work collaboratively to bring forward a consensus approach to address any issues that might have been highlighted in the wake of the ‘Rust’ tragedy,” the senator said in a emailed statement. “I was extremely disappointed when they collectively failed to meet the challenge I laid out. Rather than draft a unilateral solution, I decided it’s best to reiterate the challenge by holding both nonconsensus bills in committee. Should there be an agreement forthcoming, I’d be willing and eager to entertain it before the end of the legislative session.”

Cortese said he would continue to work on the reforms.

“First the industry killed Halyna. Then they killed the bill that would’ve made people like her safe,” Cortese said in a statement. “Despite setbacks, I’m committed to real reforms that will protect our workers.”

Sen. Cortese’s bill would have codified mandatory guidelines around the use of firearms and ammunition on sets, including establishment of penalties for violations to ensure the compliance of producers.

A key difference between the two bills was that SB 829 was focused specifically on the use of firearms on sets and required the presence of a fire code official, while SB 831 required a broader set safety supervisor to be appointed.