The Alec Baldwin Case and California’s Senate Bill 2 on Handgun Restrictions

February 15, 2024 Trinity E. Taylor

In October 2021, director of photography, Halyna Hutchins, was tragically killed on the set of the film Rust when a prop gun that turned out to have live rounds was allegedly fired by actor Alec Baldwin. Prosecutors subsequently filed criminal charges against several of the individuals on set. David Halls, the first assistant director of the film, was charged with negligent use of a deadly weapon, a misdemeanor. Halls was the individual on set who handed the Colt .45 revolver to Baldwin before the shooting. Halls was only three feet from Halyna when she was shot. In 2023, Hall struck a plea deal which resulted in six months unsupervised probation along with community service, fines, and a safety course.

Both Alec Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed were charged with involuntary manslaughter by New Mexico prosecutors. Last year, the charges against Baldwin were dropped, but that turned out not to be the end of it.

In November 2023, prosecutors announced they were preparing to submit the evidence to a grand jury which would decide whether there was probable cause to bring charges against Baldwin. On January 19, 2024, a grand jury indicted Baldwin on an involuntary manslaughter charge. Gutierrez-Reed is expected to face a jury trial in February 2024.

As gun tragedies become increasingly publicized in the media, many lawmakers have reconsidered gun laws and restrictions, especially in California after the Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park shootings in 2023. California legislators passed Senate Bill (“SB”) 2, a bill that expands the restrictions on carrying a concealed or loaded firearm to include a prohibition on individuals with a valid concealed carry license (a “CCW”), if the licensee is within a “sensitive place,” such as a school zone, state or local public building, library, park, casino, amusement park, zoo, museum, youth center, athletic area, place where liquor is sold for on-site consumption, public gathering or special event on property open to the public, the residence of the Governor or any member of the legislature, a financial institution, a place of worship, etc. This bill is targeted at guns that are capable of concealment, such as handguns.

There is no doubt that California lawmakers had the tragic Rust shooting on their minds when they drafted SB 2, which was signed into law this year along with SB 132 (also known as SB 735). SB 132 prohibits the use of firearms, simulated firearms, live ammunition, or blanks on the set of any motion picture production, except in specified circumstances.

On December 20, 2023, California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a press release stating that his office will appeal the decision of District Court Judge Cormac Careny in two companion cases, May v. Bonta and Carralero v. Bonta, in which Judge Careny issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of SB’s “sensitive place” provisions (discussed above), finding that it likely violates the Second Amendment and defies the Supreme Court decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller, McDonald v. City of Chicago and New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Incorporated v. Bruen.

There are other provisions of SB 2 that are not expressly subject to the Court’s injunction and therefore may remain applicable. These provisions include the prohibition of licensees from carrying a firearm while under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, medication, or controlled substance. Licensees are required to carry their licenses on them while carrying a firearm and are required to present the license to a peace officer upon demand. SB 2 also increases the training requirements for new license applicants from 8 hours to 16 hours, and from 4 hours to 8 hours for license renewal applicants.

In these changing times, it is important for licensees to have legal representation to understand their rights and obligations better, including making sure that their firearms are properly registered and minimum training requirements are met.