There has been a lot of coverage of actor Alec Baldwin firing a gun on a film set that resulted in killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. It appears that a single bullet went through Hutchins and then hit Souza who was standing behind her. It appears that Baldwin thought he was firing a gun that did not have live rounds.
There are so many questions that come to mind.
One is that this is a film set, not a hunting trip. Why are there any live rounds at all on the set? What purpose do they serve? And why did he point the gun at someone and fire it anyway? Was it a prank in order to startle them? This demonstrates how dangerous it is to point and fire any type of gun at anyone even in fun. There have been so many stories of people getting killed and injured because a gun that was thought to be fake or unloaded actually had live rounds.
This article describes the how prop guns and blanks work. Even when blanks are used, they use a lot of explosive to get a loud bang and a fiery discharge. It should be noted that even blanks can kill since even if there is no projectile emitted, the blast of air from the explosion can cause death at close range.
Brandon Lee died aged just 28 in 1993 while filming The Crow, when a prop gun which mistakenly had a dummy round loaded in it was fired at him.
Dummy rounds contain no explosive charge and in this case were used to film a close-up. When blanks were loaded part of the dummy round remained in the gun.
After Lee was shot, the cameras kept rolling. It was only when he did not get up at the end of the scene that those on set realised something was wrong.
In another incident, in 1984, US actor Jon-Erik Hexum started joking around on the set of a television show after being frustrated by delays in filming.
He loaded a revolver with a blank, spun the chamber, put the gun to his temple and fired.
Unlike Lee, he was not killed by a projectile, but rather the force of the blast was strong enough to fracture his skull. He died days later in hospital.
Guns, even toy ones or those that are assumed to be unloaded or containing blanks, can result in very dangerous situations. Given the availability of computer graphics, people are asking why we need to use guns with blanks anymore since one can get the same or better effects in post-production. There have been calls for prop guns to be replaced by special effects and already a couple of productions have announced such a move.
I enjoy mystery stories and can recall more than one time when the plot involved the prop gun having a blank surreptitiously replaced by live ammunition. I am not suggesting that this happened here, of course. In the stories, the gun was fired as part of the scene and so the victim could be specifically targeted. Here Baldwin seemed to have fired the gun for no apparent reason.
UPDATE: It appears that Baldwin was rehearsing a scene in which he was to point the gun at the camera, which would explain why the cinematographer and director were hit, since they are usually behind the camera. Apparently this shooting at the camera is done very often as a technique to jolt the audience and thus special precautions are usually taken to protect the operators of the camera.