Who Is Responsible For Guns On A Film Set?

There are many people who work together to bring a story from paper to the big screen. Different departments in film sets have specific responsibilities to ensure that shoots go smoothly. One of the most important is the props department, which is responsible for setting the scene according to the story's needs. Those who work on props secure the items or make them from scratch, and it's also their responsibility to ensure safety on set when it comes to handling dangerous props, such as guns (via Master Class).

When it comes to firearms, prop guns are typically the ones used on film sets. Prop firearms vary and can be completely safe props made to look like a real gun, but in most cases, prop guns that can shoot a projectile are used for authenticity. Despite a prop using blanks — a cartridge that has gunpowder but no bullet — it is still considered a real gun and poses threat to everyone on set, according to ABC News. This is the reason why it's crucial for firearms and safety experts to be present on set to ensure that no grave incidents occur.

Safety protocols on movie sets

There are strict protocols that must be followed during film shootings to ensure the safety of the crew and to avoid fatal accidents. When it comes to prop firearms, licensed armorers are the ones responsible for handling weapons. The handler must have a license and must have trained in gun safety as well. Instead of bullets, blanks are used to avoid untoward incidents. However, that doesn't mean that blanks ensure 100% safety, as they, too, can be lethal. As reported by Gizmodo, there have been instances of blanks killing people. They are safe when shot at a distance, but can be lethal when pressed against someone.

On a film set, the weapons master must be present at all times when a prop gun is involved. The firearm is first tested and fired before it is handed to an actor, who must also fire some test shots before filming begins. "Watch the prop master check the cylinders and barrel to be sure no foreign object or dummy bullet has become lodged inside," according to the guidelines (via ABC News). For safety reasons, the blanks are loaded into the firearm at the very last minute before shooting when everyone is in place.

Petition to ban firearms on sets

Despite safety protocols, there have been a few firearm-related deaths on movie sets, but they are rare. Kevin Williams, a prop department supervisor who has more than 20 years of experience on movie and theater sets, said, "It's an extremely rare circumstance that anything like this happens. Especially nowadays when there are so many different procedures and policies in place" (via NPR).

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died on set with a pistol loaded with blanks. Hexum worked on the series "Cover Up" and was joking around with a prop gun on set when he pulled the trigger and shot himself. He was rushed to the hospital for surgery but was declared brain dead, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. In 1993, Brandon Lee was also killed on set when a firearm that contained a blank cartridge was fired. It turned out that the gun had a bullet fragment stuck in the barrel that was dislodged when the gun was fired. Lee succumbed to his injuries after surgery. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was also killed on set after actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop firearm.

With these incidents, many are pushing for the ban of firearms on movie and television sets. Instead, replica toys and CGI are said to be the better alternatives. However, some insist that banning firearms is not practical, especially for low-budget and independent projects, according to NBC News.