Texas weighs an 'Alec Baldwin law' to prevent firearm tragedies on movie sets
Gun safety has been raised as a topic of debate at the Capitol — at least when it comes to the sets of movie and television productions.
State Rep. Sheryl Cole, D-Austin, recently filed a bill that would require anyone handling a firearm on the set of a production in Texas that receives state-funded financial incentives to have completed either the state’s gun safety course for hunters or an equivalent educational program.
The tragic fatal shooting on the set of the western film "Rust" in New Mexico in late 2021 inspired the measure, Cole said.
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on the set when a pistol that actor Alec Baldwin was using in rehearsal discharged. Baldwin and the movie's armorer will face involuntary manslaughter charges as a result of the incident, a New Mexico prosecutor said last week.
"It was just an unimaginable tragedy," Cole said.
Many "avoidable missteps" led to the shooting, and it's "crucial that we make sure this doesn't happen in Texas," she said, describing the film industry as important to her district, which encompasses eastern Travis County and stretches from East Austin to Pflugerville and Manor.
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Will lawmakers support the bill?
It remains to be seen how much traction her measures — House Bill 1471 — will gain this session, however.
The Republican-led Texas Legislature has been loosening gun restrictions in the state in recent years, including passing a bill in 2021 enabling most Texans to carry handguns in public without permits or training.
Cole, a former member of the Austin City Council, is among those who disagree with that stance, saying "people should be trained" if they carry firearms in public. She said she is optimistic that HB 1471 can win support because of its tight focus on a single industry, despite the state's prevailing political winds regarding guns overall.
“I think it is narrowly tailored enough that it could be accomplished," she said.
Under her bill, anyone handling or discharging firearms on the sets of productions that receive funding from the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program would be required to complete the hunter education course approved by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife or an equivalent course.
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The state's hunter education program is online and administered by private vendors, with varying fees that range from about $25 to $50.
Texas and many other states provide incentives to attract film, TV and video game productions. In Texas, $45 million was earmarked for such incentives over the two-year budget cycle that will end in August, although film industry advocates in the state plan to seek a larger amount for the coming two-year cycle.
Mindy Raymond, communications director for the Texas Media Production Alliance, an industry trade group, said she's supportive of Cole's measure, although she said the alliance hasn't taken a formal stance on it.
"Personally, yes, I do think there needs to be better safety regulations (on sets), particularly when dealing with firearms," Raymond said.
"I just don't know if this will have legs here in Texas," in terms of being able to win over enough state lawmakers, she said.
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This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: 'Alec Baldwin law' would help prevent firearm tragedies on movie sets