The incident on the set of “Rust” with Alec Baldwin is a vivid reminder that mistakes made with firearms can have lethal consequences. The tragedy put a spotlight on the use of firearms in movies. Then many began to clutch their pearls as they discussed just how dangerous it was. While firearms have the potential to be dangerous, in trained professional hands they become safe. This is the case with Larry Zanoff, long-time professional Hollywood Armorer.
Larry Zanoff has been involved with firearms his entire life. A combat veteran of the Israeli army, Larry is P.O.S.T. Certified, holds a college degree in law enforcement and the administration of justice, and has worked in U.S. Law enforcement, as well as the private security industry. An additional college degree in gunsmithing and firearms technology led to Larry holding several positions in the firearms manufacturing industry. This life experience has led Larry to a position at ISS (Independent Studio Services). ISS comprises the largest rental armory in the film and television industry. It provides custom weapons manufacturing, actor training, on set armorer services, safety training, and more. In short, Larry Zanoff is a professional.
“There was a chain of events that led up to the tragedy that day,” Larry shared. He also explained that the entertainment industry as a whole has a very good safety record when it comes to firearms. “When guidelines are followed and professionals are hired, problems are rare.” This industry’s wide commitment to safety is evident. The Industry Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee for the motion picture and television industry’s first safety bulletin is titled, “Recommendations for safety with firearms and use of ‘blank ammunition’,” and carefully details these safety measures, including training for those handling prop weapons and explicit reminders to never point a weapon at another person on set.
Hollywood Usually Safe
A deep dive into Hollywood history shows that there have only been six serious injuries or deaths from firearms on set since the movie industry started in 1903. In that time there have been over 1,093,093 productions of one sort or another. More specifically, if we look at movies with heavy gun use like Westerns, we find a spotless record. John Wayne himself was in over 250 films and had no firearms incidents.
I asked Larry for his thoughts on more detailed aspects of the tragedy, and he maintained a very professional line. “The incident in ‘Rust’ is still an ongoing criminal investigation and we simply don’t know all the facts yet.” As Larry mentioned, there were a chain of events that led to the tragic death on the set of “Rust.” What I found interesting in my research was that there were at least two other additional negligent discharges on the set the week prior to the fatal shooting. The crew members wrote letters of concern over safety; yet filming continued.
It may be some time before the truth is known about what happened that day. As Larry discussed, “Until we have the detailed report on the events of that day, we don’t really have a lot to go on”. Regardless of the investigation, the event should be a reminder to everyone about the absolute necessity for complete firearms safety.