SAG-AFTRA defends Alec Baldwin after 'Rust' criminal charge: 'An actor's job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert'

Hollywood performers union SAG-AFTRA on Thursday said it is not an actor's job to be a firearms expert, in a statement defending actor Alec Baldwin, who is facing a criminal charge in New Mexico for his role in the accidental deadly shooting on the set of western movie "Rust."

Baldwin last week was again charged with involuntary manslaughter, a fourth-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison in the event of conviction.

While rehearsing a scene for the movie in October 2021, Baldwin was demonstrating how he would perform a cross-body draw of his prop revolver when the weapon fired a live bullet that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded director Joel Souza. Baldwin maintains that he did not pull the trigger.

Read more: The day Alec Baldwin shot Halyna Hutchins and Joel Souza

SAG-AFTRA said guidelines "do not make it the performer’s responsibility to check any firearm" and that "anyone issued a firearm on set must be given training and guidance in its safe handling and use, but all activity with firearms on a set must be under the careful supervision and control of the professional armorer and the employer."

"An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert," SAG-AFTRA said in a statement on Thursday. "Firearms are provided for use on set under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm."

Read more: It was supposed to be their big break. Now two 24-year-olds are at the center of the 'Rust' shooting investigation

New Mexico’s prosecution of Baldwin, 65, has been fraught. Last year, the district attorney who oversees Santa Fe County, Mary Carmack-Altwies, filed two involuntary manslaughter charges against Baldwin as well as the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who loaded the gun.

After Carmack-Altwies stepped down from the case, Kari T. Morrissey and Jason J. Lewis took over as special prosecutors. In late April, they dropped the charges against the Hollywood star.

But the threat of criminal charges loomed again when the special prosecutors in October said they would convene a grand jury to consider indicting Baldwin.

Gutierrez Reed still faces charges of involuntary manslaughter. She has pleaded not guilty and her case is set to go to trial on Feb. 21.

Staff writer Meg James and Christi Carras contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.