Several outlets are reporting that Halyna's husband, Michael Hutchins, has confirmed he's been in contact with Baldwin & said he's appreciated the outpouring of sympathies. This comes along with news of several troubling incidents on set prior to the tragedy ranging from a heated union dispute to previous negligent discharges from a weapon. Most troubling of course includes talk that Baldwin was given a weapon with a live round instead of a blank.
IATSE Local 44, which covers prop masters, sent an email to its members early Friday morning that said the gun used in the scene contained “a live round” and the production’s propmaster was not a member of Local 44. Director Joel Souza also was hit and injured by a bullet and was treated at an area hospital before being released.
In the email that IATSE Local 44 sent to its membership, Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Pawluc described the event as an “an accidental weapons discharge” in which “A live single round was accidentally fired on set by the principal actor, hitting both the Director of Photography, Local 600 member Halnya Hutchins, and Director Joel Souza … Local 44 has confirmed that the Props, Set Decoration, Special Effects and Construction Departments were staffed by New Mexico crew members. There were no Local 44 members on the call sheet.”
Law enforcement said they 'cannot confirm' yet whether IATSE 44 was correct in stating it was a live round, but sources from the set are saying the union (who had no members present on set) believes that because of "the amount of damage the blast caused to Hutchins and to Souza, who supposedly was standing behind the DP when the shot struck her". It sounds like they were also making it pretty clear that locals were being used instead of Hollywood pros.
Regarding the round, this goes along with what Baldwin was allegedly heard asking in the immediate aftermath:
"Why was I handed a hot gun?"
I can't claim to know first-hand, but from what I've heard firearms on set are usually taken incredibly seriously. Any weapons are locked away and must be signed out, there are multiple safety supervisors, things are triple checked…
My boyfriend Pat has produced & worked as a production manager on several sets with prop guns & said that generally,
"…the protocol is that the on-set armorer unlocks the weapon and, before handing it over, demonstrates that the chamber is clear & that it's unloaded or shows exactly what type of round it is being loaded with. Then it gets checked & signed off on by the 1st Assistant Director before being placed in the hands of the actor. Usually whoever else would like to inspect it is invited to inspect it. They're supposed to make sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that something like this does not happen."
There is also news coming out that things on set were already dicey, even before the horrible event:
The LA Times:
Labor trouble had been brewing for days on the dusty set at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe.
Shooting began on Oct. 6 and members of the production said they had been promised the production would pay for their hotel rooms in Santa Fe.
But after filming began, the crews were told they instead would be required to make the 50-mile drive from Albuquerque each day, rather than stay overnight in nearby Santa Fe.
The cinematographer who was accidentally killed, Halyna Hutchins, had been advocating for safer conditions for her team, said one crew member who was on the set.
As the camera crew — members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees — spent about an hour assembling their gear at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, several nonunion crew members showed up to replace them, the knowledgeable person said.
A member of the producer staff then ordered the union members to leave the set. She said if they didn’t leave, the producers would call security to remove them.
“Corners were being cut — and they brought in nonunion people so they could continue shooting,” the knowledgeable person said.
There were two misfires on the prop gun on Saturday and one the previous week, the person said, adding “there was a serious lack of safety meetings on this set.”
In 2014 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed on a railroad bridge on the set of Midnight Rider in Georgia. The Hollywood Reporter's accounts of an unsafe feeling on set, horrible oversights & 'cavalier attitudes' by the production team made me uneasy just reading it. Sounds like there was a similar vibe going on with Rust. In that case director Randall Miller, producers Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish, and 1st A.D. Hillary Schwartz were all charged with involuntary manslaughter.