There is always debate after a tragic school or workplace active shooter incident over employees wanting to take their protection into their own hands. Yes, 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 acquired the required permits. On the other hand, companies and other organizations should 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 policies draw the line?
Practically speaking, an employee would very rarely be in a realistic position to safely and effectively employ a weapon in an actual active shooter situation. There are some harsh realities about firing a personal weapon accurately in a tense ‘combat’ situation. The average citizen cannot effectively engage a hostile shooter under the typical active shooter ‘combat’ conditions without hurting any innocent bystanders or co-workers, or getting themselves killed. They don’t have the necessary training or the mindset. There are also further dangers created by the armed employee attempting to take protective action.
Let’s think about some of these realities and further dangers. You can shape your own 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.
- 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?
- If the weapon is going to be defensively used in an active shooter incident, it would have to be in a position to be reached quickly, 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 simply because others know about that personal weapon in the workplace? (And others will know about its presence)
- 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.
- How are the responding police officers, who already have limited information about the suspect(s), know that your armed employee is not the active shooter?
- 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, 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 wouldn’t do me much good if it wasn’t 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 the 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 property. Having them locked in the car in the parking lot is still debatable.
An active shooter response plan should be part of this workplace violence policy. The active shooter response plan should dictate that the first reaction priority is to get out of the building during such 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, not everyone would have that discipline to stick to the policy and get out first and not try to play hero, potentially making matters worse for the responding police.
It is essential that you consider these practical concerns when formulating your active shooter response plan as part of your larger workplace violence prevention plan.
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