Don't Get Caught Off Guard

Alarmingly, the news these days is focused more and more on the threat posed by various terrorist groups intent on attacking us while we are going about our daily lives – at restaurants, sporting events, theatres, concerts and even while shopping. For venues open to the general public, deciding whether to manage this risk by using armed guards deserves careful consideration in light or the recent attacks in Paris and elsewhere.

[1] Uniformed, unarmed guards are chiefly used for deterrence. They typically "observe and report" and are not trained to act in high-risk situations. Unarmed guards have limited tools to defend person and property and are frequently referred to as being "sitting ducks" during attacks by armed assailants.

[2] A guard with a gun amplifies the deterrent effect. The presence of a gun may be all that is needed to convince an attacker to leave and find an easier target. In the proper hands, a gun may be an instrument of protection. But at the same time, the presence of a gun may escalate a situation. [3] Keep in mind, too, that a business may be held liable if someone is injured or killed by an armed security guard that they have hired.

Carefully Assess Your Needs and Risks

Assess the need for armed guards carefully by considering a variety of factors. Does your line of business or location make it particularly susceptible to a violent attack or robbery from armed assailants, i.e., a soft target? Are the surrounding businesses or other venues similar to yours using armed guards? If so, you may be in a target area or targeted line of business and could become more attractive to violent offenders if you don't use armed guards. The FBI offers a searchable website that can assist you in making this assessment.

[4] If you decide to use armed guards, there are some important items to consider. What type of training should the guards have? Should they have military or police experience, in addition to formal training? What type of background check will be conducted and who will conduct it? [5] When hiring through a security guard agency, determine if the agency is licensed and bonded. This will often affect how its employees are trained, the background check process which is used, and whether the employees are insured. Don't assume that an agency is licensed, as some states may not require it. Hiring armed guards who work independent of an agency may not have their own liability insurance, so it's important to check your insurance policies to ensure coverage.

Cost may also factor into the decision. Typically, armed guards are more expensive. When hiring an armed guard, not only are you paying your security contractor for a higher level of training and responsibility, but your insurance costs may increase, as well.

Find The Right Balance For Your Business

The decision to use armed guards is one which requires serious thought and research. It requires balancing the threat to your business and to your employees and customers with the risks involved. With the holiday season quickly approaching, now may be the time to decide exactly what that balance is for your business.

[1] Klein, Aaron "U.S. Warned By Ex-Mossad Chief: Time For Armed Guards At Cafes, Malls and Clubs," Breitbart, posted Nov. 17, 2015. Available at
[2] "Philippine mall security guards required to carry guns," AFP News, posted Feb. 1, 2013. Available at; Vudali, Srinath "City unprepared to tackle Paris-like terror attack," The Times of India, posted Nov. 18, 2015. Available at
[3] Gabrielson, Ryan and Walter, Shoshana "FBI bank robbery data shows armed guards increase risk of violence,", posted December 9, 2014. Available at
[4] Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (
[5] Duncan, Byard "5 ways the armed-guard industry is out of control,", posted May 4, 2015. Available at;

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