A Deeper Dive Into the Alec Baldwin “Rust” Killing & Charges

Gun Safety
File Photo

Tombstone, Arizona – As expected, my opinion on the Alec Baldwin manslaughter charges didn’t go over well with many of AmmoLand News’ regular readers, so let’s dig a little deeper and explore how I came to the opinions I hold.

Let’s start with what we actually know and what people think they know about the case.

The undisputed fact is that Alec Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he was to draw a single-action pistol from a shoulder holster and cock it as he pointed it in the direction of the camera. The director and the cinematographer were working with him to get him to do it exactly the way they wanted the camera to see it when the gun fired, and a bullet struck the cinematographer in the chest, passing through and striking the director in the shoulder. The cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, died from her injuries. The director recovered.

Baldwin subsequently claimed that he did not pull the trigger, stating that he allowed his thumb to slip off of the cocked or partially cocked hammer, at which point the gun “went off.” He also talked about his extensive experience with firearms on movie sets, declaring that he would never intentionally point a gun at a person and pull the trigger… (As Bugs Bunny would say; “What a maroon.”)

Despite Baldwin’s claims to the contrary, we know that single-action pistols of the Colt SAA style do not “just go off” without the trigger being pressed unless the gun is either seriously broken or modified. The FBI subsequently confirmed that the gun Baldwin was holding was not modified or broken and could not have fired without him activating the trigger. We also know that Baldwin was knowingly pointing the gun in the direction of Hutchins and the Director – at their instruction.

We know that along with “starring” in the production, Baldwin also held a title as an “executive producer.”

Now let’s look at what we don’t know or only think we know.

In the movie industry, the title “executive producer” can mean anything from an honorary title given to major investors whose only contribution to the project is financial to the actual head honcho in charge of every aspect of the production. As is common among low-budget movies, the “Rust” production had several people listed as Executive Producers and also had several different production companies involved.

As a “big star” in some circle and apparently a driving force behind the production, Baldwin probably had a lot of sway within the production. Still, it has not been made clear exactly what his legal authority and liabilities might be regarding staffing and operation of the production. He has said that he had no role in hiring staff or dealing with day-to-day operations or logistics, and I’ve seen no clear evidence to the contrary.

In my original piece, I mentioned rumors of unsafe working conditions, after-hours live fire on the set, and negligent discharges of live ammunition during filming.

It is possible that prosecutors have substantiated some of those rumors, but I’ve seen no strong evidence that any of the more egregious claims are true. Most of it seems like the typical grousing of employees working in a relatively remote and uncomfortable situation. The fact that there were conflicts between the production company and film crew unions, with the production hiring non-union crew for some jobs, increases the likelihood of exaggerated complaints – and even possible sabotage. Baldwin’s personal reputation as an elitist anti-gun jerk who didn’t treat crew and fellow cast members with much respect could also play into the rumors. Once people are testifying under oath and we see more of the verifiable evidence, we’ll have a better idea of what was really going on during the filming and how much weight to give to the rumors.

Until then, I’m basing my analysis and opinion on the actual facts that I’ve been able to find, not rumors and unproven accusations.

A number of people took exception to my assertion that there are exceptions to “the Rules.”

I suggest those of you who claim to be absolutists on these matters must not have ever properly cleaned your firearms, never inspected a bore for fouling, or installed or removed a muzzle device or suppressor. You might want to avoid coming to Tombstone, where the Earps and Clantons shoot it out in the streets several times a day, 7 days a week.

Can you imagine seeing a western movie in which the actors hold their Peacemakers with their trigger fingers pointed straight along the frame rather than inside the trigger guard. If you saw that, you’d say it was ridiculous since that safety rule didn’t exist in the 1860s or even in the 1960s. The first movie I remember seeing with an actor following that rule was “Uncommon Valor” in 1983, thanks to the involvement of my friend Chuck Taylor as a technical consultant on that film.

The key to acceptable exceptions to “the Rules,” is the implementation of other strict safety protocols to ensure that there’s no possible way for an unintentional discharge to occur. Such rules are the only way that movies depicting firearm use can ever be made, short of rubber guns and computer-generated muzzle flashes. Those movie Firearms Photography & Video Creation Best Practice rules have been developed over long years of sometimes deadly experience, and they have been extremely effective. Even with all of the safety protocols in place, a lapse by anyone in the chain can result in tragedy, as happened on the set of “Rust.”

As I suggested in the original article, I believe that, had it been almost anyone other than Alec Baldwin who fired the fatal shot, they would not have been charged or blamed at all. In 1993, Brandon Lee, was killed on the set of the movie “The Crow.” An actor named Michael Massee fired the shot. Massee was not prosecuted, nor was he blamed in any way, because he was just an actor doing what he was supposed to do. His gun was loaded with blanks, and he was supposed to point it at Lee and pull the trigger. It turned out that the same gun had been used in a previous scene which included the use of “dummy rounds.” One of those rounds had a live primer that produced enough energy to lodge the bullet into the barrel, commonly referred to as a squib, but that wasn’t noticed or detected. When a full-power blank was fired from the same gun, the bullet that was lodged in the bore exited with deadly force, killing Lee.

As an actor and backstage crew in numerous local stage productions, I have been the person standing on stage being shot by a fellow actor at close range, and I’ve been the actor shooting at one of my friends. I’ve served as an armorer on several productions as well, sometimes supplying the guns and even loading my own blanks and dummy rounds. The fact that I was raised with and around guns was beneficial in all of that. I was extremely scrupulous about establishing and following safety protocols and making sure that everyone else did too. If I had ever handed a gun to an actor and found that he removed or replaced the blanks or dummies without my direct observation and participation, there would have been hell to pay because it would have been a violation of the safety protocols.

On the occasion that I was to be shot at close range, I insisted on being involved in the loading of the gun and the training of the actress who was to shoot me. It was not a comfortable situation, but as they say, the show must go on.

I’ll add that I began shooting when I was about five and was given my first .22 when I was 8. I’ve been shooting, reloading, and working on guns my whole life. In college, I made extra money by tuning single-action revolvers for Cowboy Action shooters, and I worked for years as a Small Arms Repairman for the Army, certified to work on everything from the M9 pistol to the MK19 grenade launcher machinegun. I’ve competed in almost every shooting sport, from Benchrest to Action Pistol to Skeet and Sporting Clays, and I’ve frequently served as a Range Safety Officer and similar positions.

With all of that, I stand by my opinion, as expressed in my previous article. Unless evidence comes out that proves that Alec Baldwin served as an on-site manager on the “Rust” set and that the rumors about firearm safety violations on the set are true and were known to him, I think his prosecution is nothing more than grandstanding by prosecutors and a social media lynch-mob. I dislike Baldwin and his politics, but I have seen no evidence that he did anything worthy of prosecution.

If you disagree, please include valid arguments and avoid casting aspersions on my character, expertise, or sanity.

And no, I haven’t been paid by the Baldwin camp to write this article.

About Jeff Knox:

Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.

The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona, and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, Ammoland will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
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Alec violated all the rules of firearm safety and that’s the bottom line . He needs to be held accountable as his negligence resulted in a death . A slap on the hands is not justice for his actions that lead to a death . He is not exempt from the law . Prosecute the lying clown to the fullest extent of the law .

Rob J

Jeff, thank you for the rebuttal. I personally agree with many of the points you made, but Baldwin is being treated as any other person would in today’s political and judicial climate towards firearms. Having Baldwin face the same charges, legal defense, expense, emotional turmoil, and personal attack as any normal citizen is nothing more than what we fear might happen to us. This is one of the few times we can see the “elite” being held to the same standards as the rest of us. To finally recognize, through personal experience, the fear that makes so many Ammoland readers… Read more »

vintovka 7.62

I appreciate your viewpoint, Mr. Knox. However, I go by what my fate would be if I, as a “little man”, had been in Baldwin’s place: years in prison, no firearm enhancement charge dropped, no special treatment. Baldwin deserves the same.


The firearms enhancement charge would have been dropped against anyone. The law was enacted after the incident. In the law the principle of ex post facto would have been raised to have that charge dropped. Under ex post facto, no law can be retroactively enforced.


I agree with you on the ex post facto this same rule should apply to every anti-gun law the left comes up with. Ex post facto has been used many times to get people out of serious charges.


Unless you are Bill Clinton and signed into law a tax hike which was applied retroactively!


Thank you Mr. Knox for this and your previous article. I am an armorer for film and theatre and have also experienced shooting “at” and being shot “at” by a fellow actor, and like you, closely observed the loading of the blank rounds, or did the loading. I take no exception to your opinions on the matter of Baldwin/Rust. One minor point; I didn’t think that there were accidental discharges on the set of Rust. There may have been, and enough time has passed that I don’t directly recall and am unable to research at the time of writing this… Read more »


Just wanted to correct myself – the senior Reed here is Thell, not Hal.

Deplorable Bill

This is not going to be popular either BUT, I can, and I can show you how to, fire a revolver without pulling the trigger. With your finger out of the trigger guard slowly cock the hammer until it’s ALMOST at full cock then release the hammer. Although slightly out of battery the gun will fire. It might shave some lead but it will send a bullet down range. So, I disagree with your comment that it is not possible to fire a revolver without pulling the trigger Sir. Even with this truth he, they, are still criminally negligent and… Read more »

Deplorable Bill

Jeff, I have actually had an AD in the manor that I described. We don’t know yet if he had his finger on the trigger at this point all is a guess except I can fire a revolver without pulling the trigger by pulling the hammer back until just before it goes into battery and then releasing the hammer. Yes Sir, you can still do this even if the firearm is equipped with a half cock. I have done this many, many times with Smiths, Rugers, Colts and several black powder colt copies. True I used the word empty. You… Read more »


Every. Every one. No one (generally) gets accidentally shot with a “loaded” gun. It’s always the ones that are supposedly unloaded. If you’re going to handle a firearm in a way that you would only handle an unloaded firearm, you’d better be right. Not told otherwise, not certain, not even the victim of sabotage. Right.


Talk to Baldwin’s mouthpiece, he may want you to testify. Make some $$.


I wasn’t sure about Deplorable Bill’s comment, because I had also been of the opinion, now found to be not quite correct, that a single action revolver couldn’t fire without pulling the trigger. I immediately tried out what Deplorable Bill described, in dry fire mode, and have to agree that things can line up quite well before a not quite fully cocked hammer could slip loose and fire the gun. Meanwhile, it remains forever true that anyone who points a gun at another person without deadly intent (usually a very bad idea) must absolutely make sure that it can’t harm… Read more »


With all due respect, you “dry fired” that way and you conclude that the hammer had enough energy to activate a primer? How about trying that with a live round and getting back to us? Not saying your wrong, it’s just Mr Knox assertion that this is the case.


You stated that the one time you were to be “shot” at close range that “I insisted on being involved in the loading of the gun and the training of the actress who was to shoot me.” But you do not believe the man that is rabidly anti-RKBA should have done the same. He is all for punishing others, so the shoe needs to be put on his foot, too.




There are no ways to excuse or rationalize negligence, when it comes to firearms. Enough already! Keep it up, and I’ll ignore you forever.


Maybe this is a valid argument? When you are pointing guns at people and pulling the trigger, you make absolutely, quadruply sure that there is no chance of firing live rounds at them. I find no chance of exceptions to the rule for this. And, I must agree, wow, why is a cap and ball revolver being shown with some kind of implication that it has anything to do with this conversation? It is a pretty piece, but nothing to do with this subject. Maybe Alec should have been practicing with a gun like that, since chances are that no… Read more »


Note that the picture of the “cap and ball” Colt and my comment questioning its connection to this discussion have been removed. I’m guessing the site’s editor(s) just decided to quietly correct the situation.


The cap and ball now seems to have been replaced by two modern double-action revolvers. Big improvement?


There is no excuse for negligence. My nephew was visiting a friend when he was a young boy. The father had a rule that no loaded guns were allowed in the house except for his. His friend grabbed his brothers rifle off the wall pointed it at him and pulled the trigger. He was doing it in play. The gun fired, shot my nephew in the chest and LifeFlight was called and he was rushed to ER and the doctor saved his life. He still has part of the lead in his chest close to his heart. 1/4 inch more… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by musicman44mag

IMO, this here rebuttal is of no consequence either way…The jury will find the answer that they do, within the law or not, and our opinions will not change anything……There are a whole lot of people that had their lives changed forever and none of it for the good.


I don’t know you other than from these articles you write, nor do I know Mr Baldwin except for a few films I’ve seen him in. I don’t like him or his ideals concerning firearms. That said, regardless of how or why it happened, when a gun goes boom, the person holding that gun in their hand is responsible for where that bullets stops, and all damage it causes getting there. Mr Baldwin is no better than anyone else, he had a firearm discharge while in his hand. He should be treated like anyone else. He is not exempt from… Read more »


Gomer’s having a “SURPRISE, SURPRISE” Field Day. “Can’t fire a SAA without finger pulling the trigger…” Yeah, that’s why the LIVE cowpokes carried hammer down on an empty chamber. Despite all of Knox’s pontificating, bottom line: 1 dead, one injured; ALL four rules of gun handling violated. Let someone shoot Jeffy and listen to him explain away their responsibility. Call a doctor. Jeffy may be going Loony Lefty on us….move along, .no responsibility here. Don’t ever touch a firearm in my presence. I’ll take it as a threat, deal accordingly. Not going to wait around for your rationalization to my… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by StLPro2A
Doug G.

I see nothing wrong with Jeff’s first article or this one, when looked at with a clear head and focus on the law, as to the assignment of blame/liability for the shooting death. As he points out, we do sometimes enjoy seeing anti-gunners bitten by their nemesis. I am one. Its the same pleasure as slapping Shannon Watts with proof of her lying or deceitful statements or statistics. It is precisely because ignorant actors can’t be trusted to follow “The Rules” that the steps and protocols have been set up, defined and enforced on sets over time. As another famous… Read more »


Shortly after the incident occurred, I seem to remember that I read or heard that Baldwin and Hutchins were “blocking the scene”. This is determining where the camera will be positioned and where the actor will stand in relation to the camera. If they were not actually filming something that could end up in the final cut, there was no reason for Baldwin to have a real gun in the first place.


I agree with that…..so let’s say, like someone else visiting here said, “how long did Baldwin have that ‘cold gun’ before the incident? Maybe, just to fuel the fire, Alec and Hutchins were having a “little on the side” and she decided to call it quits and threatened sir Baldwin to expose him? There you have it…..motive…….hmmh………maybe?


Is this close for additional comments?


Doesn’t seem to be, Tom.


Question here. Who did Baldwin call first? His Lawyer, or 911?


As to differentiating dummy from live cartridges, do “Movie Dummies” have primers? The only dummies that I have seen were army ones that lacked primers, and had holes in the case. Easily identifiable.


I don’t care about Baldwin’s titles etc.

It is very clear that he was in possession of the firearm and willfully pointed it in an unsafe direction at two people. If anyone else had done that, we would have been handcuffed, arrested and dragged to prison immediately. We would be arraigned and unlikely to have been awarded bail. Baldwin has received special treatment because of his fame.

The movie industry should not get special relief from common safety practices. The movie industry often performs dangerous stunts so they should be under more scrutiny than the average person.


“It was not a comfortable situation, but as they say, the show must go on.”

To me, you pretty much disproved your own point.


It is my understanding that live rounds are not allowed on or around the set by rules for the movie industry. There were stories that there had been people playing with the guns target shooting.

Without live rounds this tragedy could never have taken place. There was a failure to follow the rules on the set. There was a failure to ensure no live round was in the firearm.

It was this failure that led to the death. There is plenty of blame to go around and certainly a significant about of that falls on Baldwin.


I agree with the original article and this one as well. The Cretin was doing as expected with a firearm on set. He was told it was a “Cold Gun” and he enacted the scene as expected except for the live round in the firearm. The Armorer was responsible for each firearm on set that she was providing and whatever ammunition that was called for as well as ensuring a firearm was unloaded and safe for the scene. As I stated before, the cretin should have checked the firearm for rounds and should have had sufficient training to know how… Read more »

Knute Knute

And what if the gun WAS cold when handed to Baldwin, but then loaded by him on purpose on a coffee or bathroom break? Is it STILL the armorer’s fault THEN? Quite obviously NOT.
This is why the most important question is, was, and remains, “How much time passed, and what was going on, between the gun being handed to Baldwin and the discharge of the fatal shot”?
I find it very telling that this most important of questions was, and still is, being completely ignored.


As a former investigator, the thing that I would want to know is this. How long of time passed from the time the Firearms manager called the gun cold and Alec pulled the trigger? Was it 35 seconds in front of eight people or was it 90 minutes later when people had lost sight of Alec? I seriously believe that he loaded the round himself thinking he could get away with it using his incredible acting ability. While I’m at it, I think Brandon Lee was calculated to be worth more dead than alive and was murdered. because this scenario… Read more »