• James Willis, Jr., / Jim Willis

Another Aurora, Another Tragedy: Part Two - The false security of gun laws

The tragedy of Aurora, Illinois forces managers to ask an important security question: how much reliance should we place on the gun laws in the regions where we live and work? Can we just passively rely on these national, state, and local laws to protect us? Are these laws even able to be effective enforcement on their own?

As you recall, violence began at the termination meeting of Gary Martin, a 45-year-old, 15-year employee that had been suspended about two weeks earlier. He killed the three people he was meeting with – a member of the HR staff, a union rep, and a college intern, and then went into other areas of the facility where he killed two more employees and wounded others. He was killed about 90 minutes later by police.

For those of us dealing with employee security, real-world facts and solutions are the only ones that matter. By and large, politicians and behavioralists focus on mechanisms not malefactors, but, it’s people, not devices, that commit violence. And restrictions on devices, specifically guns, do not change that reality. To better this concept, its important to learn two terms: Malice and Maleficence.

  • Malice is the intent, without justification excuse or reason, to commit a wrongful act that will result in harm to another.

  • Maleficence is the act of committing intentional harm, mischief, or evil. It’s the actual act that is harmful or malicious nature or quality.

Gary Martin had anticipated that he was going to be fired that day and had brought a gun with him to the meeting. He started shooting as soon as he was formally terminated. Which means the attack was a premeditated act of malice that was carried out with maleficence, not an impulsive reaction. It’s a simple fact that people that commit such acts, ignore laws, disregard moral standards, and use restricting policies and regulations to their advantage.

The take-aways:

When looking at your company’s security posture, it is important to be knowledgeable of relevant firearm laws. Knowing these laws and regulations can help you understand what to expect from employees and visitors, and help you craft better policies and procedures. For example, if local regulations allow lawful concealed carry, you can expect that some people will be carrying a concealed weapon at any given time. If you’re state allows firearms “open carry”, then expect to occasionally find someone openly carrying a weapon on your property. With a solid grasp of this information you can plan accordingly.

Of course, many businesses decide on a “zero tolerance” weapons policy, and there are solid arguments that can be made for-and-against such policy. Should you choose to go that route however, you need to understand that these policies can be problematic to administer and recognize that some people will ignore the policies and carry weapons anyway.

It’s safer to presume someone has a weapon until proven otherwise than to casually assume everyone is unarmed. In the Gary Martin incident, the company banned weapons in the workplace, but that did nothing to prevent him from bringing the gun in the building.

As a law-abiding citizen, you should respect firearm laws and regulations, but do not fall into the trap of relying on these laws for protection.

Believing that the federal, state, or local gun restrictions, regulations, bans, or laws are effective deterrents to violence is a dangerous fallacy. And clinging to a Pollyanna belief that everyone dutifully follows the law can have devastating consequences. This may seem blatantly obvious and redundant point to make since, “everybody knows this”, - right? But unfortunately, reality continually proves otherwise.

Illinois has some of the most stringent gun laws in the country, and Gary Martin’s state-issued handgun license had been revoked in 2014. And though the authorities knew Martin was in illegal possession of firearms, he was still had these weapons almost 5 years later. The “steps taken” to recover the weapons from him amounted to a couple letters requesting that Martin voluntarily surrender his firearms with no follow-up actions when he failed to comply. The bottom line is that the police are often severely overloaded and things such as this are often overlooked, or simply fall through the cracks. And it’s also true that police departments are staffed by regular human beings, with the same strengths, virtues, flaws, and weaknesses as the rest of us and they often fail to proactively follow up.

So, what do we do?

As we mentioned in the last blog, InDev does not advocate a position on authorized weapons in the workplace. That is an issue that must be decided by organizational policy makers. What we do advocate is a proactive, realistic, and pragmatic security approach that mitigates as much of the dangers of workplace violence as possible.

First, realize that the potential for an active shooter event, though remote, is real. Then, tackle the unpleasant task of going through the “what-if’s” and developing contingency plans and the related policies, procedures, and response protocols.

Conduct a security assessment to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your corporate security stance.

Provide training on how to recognize and respond to workplace violence. Focus on situational awareness training to sharpens the skills needed to recognize impending danger. Also important is de-escalation training to help employees counter mounting aggression. A final critical training element is workplace violence prevention and active shooter response training to improve chances of surviving an encounter.

Develop practical policies and procedures for terminations, weapons, and workplace violence. Be sure to institute security polices equitably and enforce them impartially.

Enhancing security takes a concerted and extensive effort that can tie up in-house resources for extended periods of time. The best tactic so to engage qualified and experienced outside advisory assistance in developing a pragmatic approach. In the end, the lives of your employees can hang in the balance.


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