Arming Employees and Security Guards Against Active Shooters

June 21, 2017

man holding a gun Clients repeatedly ask me whether arming the security guards or selected employees is a responsible defense against active shooters? Although there may be some isolated circumstances where this could provide an advantage, I still do not believe it is beneficial in most cases. Yes, certain states have laws that allow employees to have their firearms with them if they have completed the necessary background checks and training, and have obtained the required permits. However, there are companies and other organizations that have workplace violence policies that prohibit their employees from bringing guns on the property. So where should prudent workplace violence policy draw the line? If it is going to take police some time to respond to the location, might an armed security guard be able to get to the shooter more quickly?

Practically speaking, an employee would very rarely be in a position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation. There are some harsh realities about firing a handgun accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation. The average citizen cannot effectively engage a hostile shooter under these conditions without hurting an innocent bystander or co-worker or getting themselves killed. They do not have the necessary training or the mindset. There are also further dangers created by the armed employee attempting to take protective action. The police responding do not know that they are not the active shooter suspect.

A similar case can be argued against an armed security guard. They do not have the sufficient level of training to prepare them for these same challenges of combat shooting. It is not their fault, or their contract company’s fault, but rather a lack of appropriate regulatory training requirement in most states. Also, their clients would probably not pay the rates that would support the necessary level of training.

Let’s think about some of these realities and further dangers. You can shape your opinion.

Do all private citizens/employees engage in sufficient combat shooting training to prepare themselves for the adrenalin rush, fear, tunnel vision, panic and confusion which will characterize an active shooter rampage? This type of defensive shooting is even a challenge for law enforcement patrol officers who do such training.

  • Armed security guards do not have the training or practice required to maintain the necessary skill sets that the police
  • What liabilities exist for the company, and the armed guard or employee, if the employee or guard engages a weapon defensively but misses their target and hits an innocent person nearby?
  • For employees, if the weapon were going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it would have to be positioned for quick access, not in a locked car in the parking lot. Thus, the weapon would have to be in the building to be employed practically.
  • This, however, represents a more significant risk on a daily basis for the business under normal conditions. What if another type of workplace violence incident, or crime, is perpetrated because others know about that weapon?
  • You certainly would not want an employee who was safely evacuated during an active shooter incident to get their gun from their locked vehicle and re-enter the facility to hunt the shooter down. They will probably be mistaken for the suspect shooter when the police get

Personally, if I were the employee who could not get out and had to hide out, I would like to have my 9mm with me, if I did have to fight for my life, rather than makeshift weapons. However, I also feel confident in my training and level of shooting experience with my law enforcement and protective operations background. Still, the weapon would not do me much good if it was not in my desk or close-by.

Companies and organizations need to develop proactive weapon restrictions as part of their workplace violence prevention policy. Granted, that policy has to take into account the local and state laws relative to each of their facilities. I also think that the employer has the duty, for the safety of their workplace, to keep the weapons out of the building and, if possible, off of the property. Having them locked in a car in the parking lot is still debatable.

An active shooter response plan should be part of your workplace violence policy. An active shooter response plan should dictate that the first reaction priority is to get out of the building during an incident. The second response option, if you are trapped, is to hide quietly in a safe, locked and barricaded place. Only as a last resort should you engage the shooter in a fight for your life. Granted, at that point having a weapon would be useful. However, would everyone have that discipline to stick to the policy and get out first and not try to play hero, perhaps making matters worse for responding police?

It is essential that you consider these practical concerns when formulating your active shooter response as part of your overall workplace violence prevention plan.
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