California gun safety bills fail

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — New rules on how and when actors can use firearms while filming failed to pass the California Legislature on Thursday just months after armed actor Alec Baldwin was holding detonated and killed a cinematographer on a film set in New Mexico.

Democrats in the state Legislature had introduced two bills in response to the tragedy, which killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza.

With competing proposals, Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and author of one of the proposals, said he “strongly urges” entertainment industry groups to “work collaboratively to propose a consensual approach”.

But no one did. On Thursday, Portantino decided to hold both bills in committee, meaning they are unlikely to pass the Legislative Assembly this year.

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“It’s a powerful and ruthless industry. First the industry killed Halyna. Then they killed the bill that would have protected people like her,” said Sen. Dave Cortese, a Democrat who drafted the other proposal. “Despite the setbacks, I am committed to real reforms that will protect our workers.”

Cortese’s bill would have prohibited the use of firearms and blank ammunition containing gunpowder or other explosive charges on film sets, with few exceptions. It would also have required the producers to hire a set safety coordinator to perform a risk assessment before the first day of filming and to enforce safety rules throughout production.

Portantino’s bill would have allowed firearms with blank ammunition on set, but only under the supervision of a gunsmith who has completed a firearms safety course created by the Office of the Fire Marshal of the state. He would have allowed live ammunition only in certain circumstances.

Portantino said he was “extremely disappointed” that entertainment industry groups could not reach consensus on the legislation.

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Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, 42, was killed in a shooting on the set of the film "Rust."

“If there were to be an agreement coming, I would be willing and willing to consider it before the end of the legislative session,” he said.

Portantino’s bill was supported by the Motion Picture Association while Cortese’s bill received support from the California International Alliance of Theatrical and State Employees Council. Neither returned messages from The Associated Press on Thursday.

The Alliance of Pyrotechnic and Special Effects Operators opposed Cortese’s bill, writing in a letter to lawmakers that it “would not have prevented this tragedy that happened in another state,” but said it would “negatively impact film productions here in California”.

The fatal shooting happened while filming the western “Rust” on a movie set in New Mexico last October. Baldwin, who was the film’s actor and producer, was pointing a gun at Hutchins, the cinematographer, as he prepared for a scene inside a small church when it went off. Baldwin said he didn’t pull the trigger and Hutchins told him to point the gun at her, according to an interview with ABC News in December.

New Mexico security regulators fined the film’s production company $137,000 for gun safety failures. Hutchins’ family sued Baldwin and the other producers of the film, one of several lawsuits filed in connection with the filming.

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Bernard P. Love