The tragic irony of the ‘Rust’ shooting


Halyna Anatoliivna Hutchins was a Ukrainian cinematographer born in the former Soviet Union. According to internet sources, she worked on more than 30 films, short films, and television miniseries. Hutchins, 42, was shot dead by Alec Baldwin during a break in the filming of “Rust,” a movie starring Baldwin.

Baldwin pointed a .45 revolver, which was supposed to have no live rounds in it, at her and fired. Baldwin told authorities that he thought the gun was “cold,” that is, unloaded with live rounds but containing “dummy” rounds. He also reported that he did not pull the trigger and the gun just “went off.”

Anyone who has had any competent experience with pistols, or any other firearms, knows that one never, ever, under any circumstances, points a gun at any person unless one intends to fire the weapon.

In fact, a competent gun owner will always check a weapon to make sure it is “safe.” “Safe,” meaning that the firearm is unloaded and that there is no round in the chamber, before inspecting the weapon or handing it to another person. And one never puts one’s finger on the trigger unless one is ready to fire.

Baldwin violated both of the first two norms. And his finger was on the trigger before the weapon discharged its deadly round.

Baldwin reported that he did not pull the trigger and that the weapon just “went off.” As reported in USA Today and multiple other sources, the FBI confirmed that the weapon couldn’t fire without the trigger being pulled. So, Baldwin lied.

He pulled the trigger and the bullet hit Ms. Hutchins in the stomach, went through her body and wounded a director in the shoulder. She died later that day in an Albuquerque hospital.

Baldwin has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. He could face from 18 months to 5 years in prison, depending on the final charges and outcomes. He has also been civilly sued by the Hutchins’ family and has agreed in a settlement to pay an undisclosed amount of money.

It has been argued that the person in charge of the props was responsible for ensuring that the gun was, at all times, safe. And, while this is true, it is Baldwin who acted irresponsibly and pointed and fired a gun in the direction of people on the set. The armorer, who was in charge of the gun, also faces criminal charges.

Many years ago in another state, I was in a downtown business talking to a friend. A mutual friend walked in and displayed a .45 semiautomatic pistol he had just purchased. He said, “This has real stopping power,” and pointed the gun at me.

Surprised, I began to step to the side and said, “Don’t point that thing at me!”

He replied, “Aw, it’s not loaded,” and pulled the trigger.

What followed was an ear-splitting “BOOM,” as the bullet smacked into the wall where I had been previously standing. It tore through the sheetrock and traveled into the kitchen in the restaurant next door, slamming into pots and skillets. He had a shocked look on his face as shouts and screams came from the kitchen. Fortunately, no one was hit. And this idiot was a brand-new cop!

The tragedy in the “Rust” incident is that a woman was killed, and a man wounded, by stupidity. The irony is that Alec Baldwin has a history of speaking out against gun rights activists, the National Rifle Association, and has long advocated for gun control legislation.

Yet, he apparently has no problem using guns in a movie that he is producing and treating it as a toy on the set. In truth, a vast number of Hollywood celebrities who argue for gun control have no apparent problem in utilizing firearms and the glorifying of violence in their films. At least, as long as it is profitable for them.

According to, 81.4 million Americans own guns. reports that there are 434 million guns in the United States and says that 393 million of these are in civilian hands. The overwhelming majority of these weapons will never be used in a crime and an even smaller number will cause the death or another, self-defense or otherwise.

Guns, in the hands of responsible, mature, law-abiding persons, are not dangerous. And guns don’t just “go off,” as some people wrongly think. An “accidental discharge” doesn’t mean the gun just “went off.” It means that someone “accidently” pulled the trigger, or in Baldwin’s case, pulled the trigger on purpose, believing the weapon had been made “safe” or “cold.”

As the actor demonstrated on the movie set, guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Sometimes they use guns to do it.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The title of the movie has been corrected.] 

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at]


  1. The near unencumbered ability to possess handguns was decided by the conservative activist Heller Supreme Court decision in 2008, so it is pretty much legal to own as many handguns as one wants without demonstrating even a modicum of knowledge or responsibility about handling one.

    The percentages suggest that irresponsible handgun ownership is rampant. For the purchaser of a handgun who does not use it for sport (e.g., gun range, etc.), the statistical probability that this purchaser will accrue beneficence from the discharge of that handgun is extremely low. The chances of it being used for suicide, stolen, accidentally or impulsively discharged, mishandled by a child, waved recklessly, etc. far outdistance the likelihood that it will defend the owner from harm.

    A pragmatist will look at this reality and factor it into the decision to purchase a handgun. An ideologue will discount this low probability, convince him/herself that the statistics are not applicable, and “buy the lottery ticket.” I’m not suggesting that it is wrong or illegal, merely that factual arguments carry little weight in this discussion.

    • STF – Nay, nay. Once again you missed.

      The unencumbered ability to possess a firearm was decided by our founding fathers. See The Constitution, Amendment #2.

      The Heller decision merely re-stated the obvious: that “shall not be infringed” covered the right to have a gun for lawful purposes, including self-defense in the home. The “activist” side of this case was the group looking to confiscate legal arms from law-abiding citizens.

      Irresponsible handgun use is too high, but by a very small minority of the population. The percentages are that the vast majority of handgun owners do not violate criminal statutes.

      You wildly discount the real value of deterrence. Criminals know there’s a high probability that anyone breaking into a house around here will encounter a homeowner armed to defend his / her family and themselves.

      If you don’t believe that, I look forward to seeing the “This house is a gun-free zone” on banners outside your home.

      And should deterrence not work, I have the responsibility to defend my family. You may choose to throw your daughter’s teddy bear. I do not.

      • Hi My – I agree, thankfully, that the overwhelming majority of handgun purchasers do not violate criminal statutes. Most Americans are law-abiding and have good will for their neighbors. My list above includes handguns used in suicide, stolen, accidentally or impulsively discharged (as in the Rust case), mishandled by a child, etc. Again, statistically, these negative outcomes are far more common than a handgun fired for deterrence or self-defense. We differ in that I see the statistical probability of the negative outcomes as far outweighing the benefice of the deterrent factors. You see it differently, and you are welcome to your opinion.

        I disagree strongly with Scalia’s reading of the 2nd Amendment. For over 200 years, when the courts were faced with interpreting this amendment, they always read the right in light of the initial qualifying condition of belonging to a state militia. The states often allowed all kinds of gun ownership, which was their right to allow, but it had no Constitutional cover until Heller. I’m not against responsible citizens possessing guns with proper training and licensing. However, it was never intended to be a Constitutional right if you are a true originalist. Historian, Joseph Ellis, provides an excellent treatment of the topic in his book, American Dialogue.”

        I find it nonsensical to require minimal proof of driving ability before obtaining a driver’s license, but allowing a deadly weapon to be owned without the slightest proof that one can manage it safely.

        There are many remedies short of disallowing handgun ownership that could protect the public – smart technology, liability of the owner and manufacturer for torts, etc., and someday Americans will look back on this current period in disbelief for its liberality. But this is the current state of our nation, so buy as many “deterrents” as you wish. I’ll not attempt to stop you. Just don’t bring them around me please.

  2. I agree with Secret Squirrel. At best it is very poor taste to write this column in praise of lawful gun ownership during a time when so many Americans have been wounded or killed in gun violence already in 2023 … At worst it is a poorly disguised ploy to convince people that the inordinate number of guns in the USA compared to other nations has nothing to do with the inordinate number of mass shootings here. Maybe it’s as simple as Fr Epps just couldn’t wait to tell the story of how his friend almost shot him in a situation very similar to the Rust shooting — and if that important story has to be passed along the same month as the Monterrey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings, well, too bad. Read the room, Fr.

    • Jax – When would be the right time to you for a lesson in responsible gun ownership and handling? The Rust story is a tragedy, and the key point is, it was a preventable one.

      The number of guns is almost meaningless. No gun has ever gotten up, walked into a nightclub, and began firing. A person did that.

      Even your singular focus on mass shootings is misguided. One quarter of mass killings between 2006 and 2017 did not involve a firearm.

      Was the Ford Escape that ran down dozens of individuals in the Christmas parade in Wisconsin in 2021 responsible for the multiple injuries and 5 deaths? No, a person did that too.

      I’m more interested in your explanation for what causes someone to do evil, and how to prevent it, than hearing how offended you are by the timing of Fr Epps’ story.

      • Thank you for asking, Two-Cents!

        “When would be the right time to you for a lesson in responsible gun ownership and handling?”

        Before you allow a person to buy a gun is the right time for a lesson in gun ownership and responsible handling. As STF points out, no one thinks it is onerous to have to take driver’s ed and be licensed to drive a car, so it would not be too onerous to have to take a gun ownership class and be licensed to own a gun. That makes sense.

        “I’m more interested in your explanation for what causes someone to do evil, and how to prevent it, than hearing how offended you are by the timing of Fr Epps’ story.”

        I think the discussion of what causes someone to do evil is bigger than we can hash out in the comments section of The Citizen. As for how to prevent someone from doing a mass shooting, I think a good first step would be not to have guns so easily and readily available everywhere in the USA.

        If it’s true, as it is, that other countries with much lower rates of mass shootings also have far fewer guns available to the general population, then I think it follows that far fewer guns available here would also result in fewer mass shootings.

        “The number of guns is almost meaningless. No gun has ever gotten up, walked into a nightclub, and began firing. A person did that.”

        The gun-rights perennial soporific that guns don’t kill people is trite and overdone. If a person doesn’t have a gun, she can’t do a mass shooting. That is pretty simple, and the low incidence of mass shootings in other countries compared to ours makes it pretty clear that people with guns do kill people.

        In my opinion. I could be wrong.

        • Thank you, VJax–a perfect response!

          I find Dr. King’s thoughts germane to the discussion of gun control/regulation–

          ‘It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me.”

          I would say much the same about shootings.

          (Oh, and “Stop Hate” sounds pretty good to me, friend Brewster!)

        • Jax – Take your plan to its end result. Guns confiscated from the law-abiding, leaving them defenseless, while doing little to nothing to reduce guns in the hands of criminals.

          It’s not the number of guns. There are parts of the US with very high numbers of guns per capita, yet much less gun violence than big cities that have the most restrictive gun laws in the country.

          Criminals get guns without regard to laws. Exhibit 1 – Chicago.

          Laws are only for those who choose to follow them, or who are deterred by the consequences. It is largely people with low regard for laws and human life that kill, whether they use a gun or any other method.

          Perhaps you would join in demanding an immediate closure of the US border, where illegal guns are easily trafficked, as a good start. That would also reduce the importing of sex slaves and flow of fentanyl, which killed several times more people than guns last year.

          Otherwise, you might as well go with the endzone signs . . .