Armorer in Baldwin shooting: Say, where *did* that bullet come from, anyway?

As Jazz Shaw marveled, isn’t this something that Hannah Gutierrez-Reed got paid to know? The Rust armorer claims to have no idea how a live bullet got into the firearm used by Alec Baldwin in a rehearsal that left Halyna Hutchins dead and director Joel Souza wounded. But Gutierrez-Reed has a good idea whom to blame — and it’s not Gutierrez-Reed:

Lawyers for Hannah Gutierrez-Reed told NBC late Thursday that the 24-year-old former model “is devastated and completely beside herself over the events that have transpired” on the set of Baldwin’s “Rust.”

“Safety is Hannah’s number one priority on set. Ultimately this set would never have been compromised if live ammo were not introduced,” her attorneys, Jason Bowles and Robert Gorence, said in a statement.

“Hannah has no idea where the live rounds came from,” the attorneys insisted, saying all the guns had been locked up each night.

Securing firearms and ammunition should be Job One for an armorer in a film or movie production. Based on other witness testimony and statements to police, it’s been made clear that the Rust set failed miserably on these points. The firearm in question allegedly got used for outdoor target practice nearby the set within hours of the fatal shooting, and police reportedly found live ammunition mixed in with dummy rounds “loose” on the set after the shooting.

That paints a picture of utter incompetence at Job One by Gutierrez-Reed. However, her attorneys declared that “armorer” wasn’t her only job on the set:

Gutierrez-Reed — who was working only her second job as armorer — also insisted she was understaffed, under-trained and overruled when she tried to improve safety on the New Mexico set before Baldwin accidentally shot dead Halyna Hutchins, 42, last Thursday.

“Hannah was hired on two positions on this film, which made it extremely difficult to focus on her job as an armorer,” the statement said.

Er … what? What other job would take priority over Gutierrez-Reed’s time and gun safety? It seems surpassingly strange that the producers would have required her to fill two roles on the set at the same time. For that matter, why would Gutierrez-Reed have agreed to that arrangement in the first place? It was only her second time as the chief armorer on a set, but it’s not as if she didn’t know better or was afraid of being blackballed for speaking up. Her father has spent decades working as one of the top armorers in the industry.

Nevertheless, her attorneys want investigators to hold the producers solely responsible:

They continued by saying that Gutierrez-Reed “fought for training days to maintain weapons and proper time to prepare for gunfire but ultimately was overruled by production and her department.”

The statement did not name those it said were responsible for overruling her.

“The whole production set became unsafe due to various factors, including lack of safety meetings,” it said.

That buckpassing might work for public relations, but it’s not likely to succeed in court. First, even if the live rounds got snuck into the set without her knowledge, Gutierrez-Reed had a duty to ensure that the firearm used in the rehearsal didn’t have live rounds in it, period, whether or not she was aware of live rounds on the set. That’s literally her job regardless of how many “safety meetings” did or did not take place. That was also the job of assistant director Dave Halls and Alec Baldwin as an actor in the scene. They all also had a duty to ensure that no one remained in the line of fire of the muzzle during rehearsal or filming while using an actual firearm as opposed to a rubber mock-up. But just because others had those same duties doesn’t remove the liability from Gutierrez-Reed.

Second, if Gutierrez-Reed knew the “whole production set became unsafe” prior to the fatal shooting, she had a duty to make that known. As an armorer, safety is her top priority — as her lawyers attest in this statement. If she knew it was unsafe but didn’t alert any higher authorities to it, or decided her job was worth more than safety, then clearly safety wasn’t her highest priority.

That doesn’t absolve anyone else of responsibility, though. Gutierrez-Reed’s statement can be read as a signal from her attorneys for a plea deal in exchange for testimony against everyone else involved in the shooting. Prosecutors might take her up on it too, because it might otherwise be tough to get enough testimony for this to cross over into criminal homicide. But let’s not kid ourselves into buying that Gutierrez-Reed is a victim in this case. She got paid to ensure that no one got victimized, and the failure and negligence here extends to her as well as others.

Finally, I agree with many of my friends that banning real firearms from Hollywood productions after the Rust shooting amounts to blaming the gun rather than the perps. However, insurance companies watching this unfold and other near-misses on tragedies in other productions are likely to adopt a no-real-firearms policy for future productions, even if a prosecution here succeeds in sending a pour encourager les autres message to filmmakers. Money talks and principles walk in Hollywood, after all. Just ask Gutierrez-Reed.