A weapons safety expert and industry armorer pushed back on the notion from Hannah Gutierrez-Reed’s lawyers that “sabotage” may have been to blame for how live ammunition found its way into the gun that killed Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” last month.
The sabotage claim, as floated by the lawyers for “Rust” armorer Gutierrez-Reed on “Today” Wednesday, is speculation and has not been substantiated with any evidence by the lawyers or authorities. And Steve Wolf, who has 30 years of experience as a movie armorer, told “TheWrap-Up Podcast,” that “speculation” is a “kind word” for how to describe that claim.
“I think it’s a far more sinister explanation than the more likely explanation that people were using that gun for target practice, they didn’t properly unload it, they left it back on the cart and then someone picked it up, several people handled it with none of them checking it. That’s just a more likely explanation,” Wolf told “TheWrap-Up Podcast.”
Wolf said that it isn’t hard to physically figure out how a live round wound up on set, but the more important question is why — why did someone feel it was appropriate to do so, and why wasn’t the gun properly checked by someone first?
“The armorer did not check it, the first AD did not check it and Alec Baldwin did not check it. So there were at least three opportunities where someone could’ve checked the gun.”
TheWrap reported in the wake of the “Rust” tragedy that the gun that killed Halyna Hutchins had earlier that day been used for target practice, or “plinking.” And Wolf said that there have been instances in which he has been asked by actors for practice with shooting and live firearms in a safe spot away from set. But those guns would have to be thoroughly checked before being brought back onto set, and the live ammunition would never come near the film set.
“If you were shooting a Western and the actors were unfamiliar with the firearms, if they came to me and said, ‘Hey, during lunch can you spare 30 minutes and take me out and give me a shooting lesson?’ and there was a safe place to go off set, I wouldn’t think that was unreasonable,” Wolf said. “But then I would take the guns back and I would check them before I returned them as set guns.”
Gutierrez-Reed, through her lawyers on Wednesday night, issued a second statement again denying any knowledge of how live rounds appeared on set or in the “dummy” box of ammunition and added that she inspected the rounds that she loaded into the firearm that day.
“She did firearms training for the actors as well as Mr. Baldwin, she fought for more training days and she regularly emphasized to never point a firearm at a person. Never in a million years did Hannah think that live rounds could have been in the ‘dummy’ Round box. Who put those in there and why is the central question,” the statement read in part.
But Wolf said that “the more statements that come out from her attorneys, the worse it looks for her, in my opinion,” and he questioned some of the details about Gutierrez-Reed’s process for checking the guns that has been reported and described by authorities.
Gutierrez-Reed’s statement says that she spun the cylinder and showed the film’s assistant director Dave Halls the rounds, then handed him the firearm. Wolf, however, said that when he checks rounds, he takes every round out of the gun and shakes it to make sure it’s a dummy round, which has a rattling sound of BBs to indicate there is no gun powder inside, and only then does he load it into the gun and hand the weapon directly to the actor. Even if the actor asks to make sure that he’s checked the gun, he can repeat the process in front of them.
“No harm in that, right? It takes 30 seconds, then the actor has the confidence that they’ve seen that the gun is checked,” Wolf said. “Once I hand this gun to you, you’re responsible for what happens with it. So you probably would like to know what the condition is. If you lack the training, I’m going to show you right now what we do with it. … If you’re satisfied like I am, I’m going to reload this gun right in front of you and hand it back to you.”
“People either don’t know the rules or they don’t follow the rules,” he continued. “It’s the time you don’t do it that you’ll kill someone. So you do it every time. My motto on safety is ‘the right way every time.’ It’s when you depart from those rules even just once, even for a moment, that you risk taking a life.”
Listen to the full episode of “TheWrap-Up Podcast” and the full interview with Steve Wolf below: