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Employees With Guns in Active Shooter Incidents

March 22nd, 2013

There has been quite a debate going since the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Employees want to take their protection into their own hands. Certain states have laws which allow employees to have their firearms with them if they have completed the necessary background checks and training, and have the required permits. On the other hand, companies and other organizations would prefer to have workplace violence policies which prohibit their employees from bringing guns on property, even locked in their car in the parking lot. So where should prudent workplace violence policy draw the line?

When is the employee in a realistic position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation? What are the realities about firing a personal weapon accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation and can the average citizen engage an adversary under those conditions without hurting any innocent bystanders or co-workers? Not easy questions to answer.

Let’s think about some realities and you can shape your own answers.

  • Companies and organizations need to develop proactive weapon restrictions as part of their workplace violence prevention policy. That policy has to take into account the local and state laws relative to each of their facilities when developing it. An active shooter response plan should be part of this workplace violence policy and the first thing it should dictate as an effective reaction is to get out of the building during such an incident. The second response option 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. Yes – at that point having your weapon would be useful, but would everyone have that discipline to stick to the policy and try to get out first and not play hero.
  • Do all private citizens/employees engage in combat shooting training to prepare themselves for the adrenalin, fear, tunnel vision, panic and confusion which will probably be present in an active shooter rampage? This type of shooting is even a challenge for law enforcement professionals who do such training.
  • What liabilities exist for the company, and the defending employee, if they engage a personal weapon defensively but miss and hit an innocent person nearby?
  • What if another type of workplace violence incident is perpetrated because of the known presence of that weapon in the workplace? Others will know about its presence?  If the weapon is going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it will have to be in a position to be reached quickly and not in a locked car in the parking lot. Thus the weapon actually being in the building is the only way it can be employed practically. This however, represents a more significant risk than if the weapon remains locked in a car in the parking lot.
  • Personally, if I was the employee who could not get out and had to hide out, I would like to have my 9mm with me, rather than makeshift weapons, if I did have to fight for my life. However, I also feel confident in my training and level of shooting experience with my law enforcement and protective operations background. The weapon also wouldn’t do me much good if it wasn’t in my desk or close-by.

I know I have not presented many answers here but I think it is helpful to consider these practical concerns when formulating your active shooter response plan as part of your larger workplace violence prevention policy.

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