SAG-AFTRA defends Alec Baldwin after ‘Rust’ criminal charge: ‘An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert’

A bearded actor in a cowboy hat on a movie set
A photo released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office shows Alec Baldwin on set immediately following the shooting of Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza on “Rust.”
(Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office)

Hollywood performers union SAG-AFTRA on Thursday said it is not an actor’s job to be a firearms expert, in a statement defending actor Alec Baldwin, who is facing a criminal charge in New Mexico for his role in the accidental deadly shooting on the set of western movie “Rust.

Baldwin last week was again charged with involuntary manslaughter, a fourth-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison in the event of conviction.

While rehearsing a scene for the movie in October 2021, Baldwin was demonstrating how he would perform a cross-body draw of his prop revolver when the weapon fired a live bullet that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. Baldwin maintains that he did not pull the trigger.


Interviews with multiple members of the “Rust” crew paint an hour- by-hour picture of a cascade of bad decisions that created a chaotic set on which a lead bullet was put into a prop gun.

Oct. 31, 2021

SAG-AFTRA said guidelines “do not make it the performer’s responsibility to check any firearm” and that “anyone issued a firearm on set must be given training and guidance in its safe handling and use, but all activity with firearms on a set must be under the careful supervision and control of the professional armorer and the employer.”

“An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement on Thursday. “Firearms are provided for use on set under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm.”

How an armorer and a prop master with scant experience wound up in the middle of the Alec Baldwin “Rust” tragedy.

Nov. 20, 2021

New Mexico’s prosecution of Baldwin, 65, has been fraught. Last year, the district attorney who oversees Santa Fe County, Mary Carmack-Altwies, filed two involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin as well as the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who loaded the gun.

After Carmack-Altwies stepped down from the case, Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis took over as special prosecutors. In late April, they dropped the charges against the Hollywood star.

But the threat of criminal charges loomed again when the special prosecutors in October said they would convene a grand jury to consider indicting Baldwin.

Gutierrez Reed still faces charges of involuntary manslaughter. She has pleaded not guilty and her case is set to go to trial on Feb. 21.


Staff writer Meg James and Christi Carras contributed to this report.