Sons Of Anarchy’s Kurt Sutter On Rust Shooting And Gun Safety On Set

Kurt Sutter on Larry King Live
(Image credit: Larry King Live)

After the fatal and tragic shooting on the set of Alec Baldwin’s Rust, plenty of people have shared both their condolences and their critiques about the incident. Now Sons of Anarchy writer and producer Kurt Sutter has spoken out about his experiences on set with guns, safety measures and what happened that led to the death of Rust’s director of photography Halyna Hutchins. 

As someone who was at home on the set of FX’s Sons of Anarchy and now its spinoff series Mayans M.C., Kurt Sutter has seen a lot of gunplay on sets. He said just as much in an interview with Deadline, stating that despite having guns in almost every scene, there has never been a gun-related accident on one of his projects. Here it is in his own words:

I have tried to avoid talking, because anything I might say would feel like judgment. On all my sets, from The Shield to Sons, we had guns in almost every scene, but we never had an incident. We had a machine in place for props and safety. We had some motorcycle spills but never an incident with a weapon. That’s because we followed protocol. Especially after what happened to Brandon Lee, that kicked a certain amount of safety protocols into gear. We hired competent prop people, and we had actors who were smart, and there were always gun tests in front of cast and crew.

The accident he is mentioning, of course, is the shooting on the set of The Crow back in the early ‘90s that resulted in Branson Lee’s death. It was a tragedy that helped propel safety measures on set forward, and an accident along those lines had not happened again until the one on the set of Rust, almost 30 years later. 

In the same interview, Kurt Sutter indicated that he doesn’t know where the blame should be placed, but that there is definitely blame to be put somewhere. Here's how the Southpaw writer and producer put it:

There was always an announcement of ‘hot gun’ on set, meaning that there was a sound load in it, and then everything else was always rubber. I don’t know what went down on that set. My sense, from listening to the information that’s coming in, the letting go of union crew, and bringing on non-union crew, that those safety protocols were not met. You didn’t have people that either knew about them or thought they were important, right? Because, experientially, they didn’t know. Now, whose fault is that? Is it the producer’s fault? Is it the director’s fault? I don’t know where the blame lands, but to me, that’s the hole, right?

Whenever guns are involved, whether loaded or not, and no matter what type of ammo is used, safety has to be the number one concern so that everyone remains out of harm's way on set. The fact of the matter is that a gun is a gun, and Kurt Sutter believes that the people working around them need to be trained to be around them. 

What Happened On The Set Of Rust

On October 21st, Alec Baldwin shot his prop gun on the set of Rust that, unbeknownst to him, loaded with at least one live round. This is not the norm for a movie set, and it is unclear exactly why there were live rounds near prop guns, let alone in them. 

Although deemed to be safe before handed to the actor, the rounds from Alec Baldwin’s gun ended up killing Halyna Hutchins and injuring Rust director Joel Souza. Police are still investigating the terrible situation, but Baldwin is now facing lawsuits from other members of the crew. Apparently prior to the shooting, there were union walkouts on set due to poor work conditions and budget cuts, which could have led to under-qualified people being hired for positions where safety is important. 

Rust has halted production and it looks like it won’t start back up any time soon, if at all. While there is a whole lot about the situation that is not clear, one thing that everyone can agree on, Kurt Sutter included, is that it is a tragedy that should have never happened, and our hearts go out to everyone affected.

Carlie Hoke
Content Writer

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.