Unfortunately, American flags continually flying half-staff to honor victims of mass shootings serve as a stark reminder of our culture of violence.
It is a disturbing commentary on American life, when flags at half-staff seem to be the norm, rather than the exception.
America must never give up — we must ignite compassion in our hearts.
Each person who has perished in these senseless tragedies deserves America’s remembrance, and we must resolve to end the scourge of violence.
Mass Casualty Culture: Changing the Paradigm
The Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security has addressed our mass casualty crisis in a sobering report.
The report titled, “How Violent Attacks are Changing the Demands of Mass Casualty Incidents: A Review of the Challenges Associated with Intentional Mass Casualty Incidents,” dramatically emphasizes the impact these tragedies have on communities.
America’s Violent Rampages: Time for Prevention
Before we continue, it is important to have a working definition of active shooter. The FBI Active Shooter Quick Reference Guide defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically through the use of firearms.”
The guide also highlights these points:
- Victims are selected at random
- Event is unpredictable and evolves quickly
- Knowing what to do can save lives
The guide also emphasizes that when an active shooter is in your vicinity, you must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with the situation with three options of run, hide or fight.
It is imperative that those responsible for security continually initiate assessments, training and counter-measures that cultivate these three options.
Security Countermeasures: Practical Tips
A robust security program must be comprehensive, proactive and continually updated. Security must never be piecemeal, negligent or have its importance minimized.
Securing workplaces, schools, campuses, houses of worship and communities must include the following:
Security Vulnerability Assessments: These must be conducted by board-certified, reputable, and experienced public safety professionals to identify and evaluate areas of risk.
Background Checks/Investigations: This is an essential, due-diligence countermeasure to prevent hiring an individual not deserving employment or access. These checks must be made by qualified, licensed professionals who honor background checks laws. Background checks include criminal history, drug testing, motor vehicle driving records, credit checks, liens, judgments, sexual offender registries and employment and professional credential verifications.
Investigations may include surveillance, interviewing and information sources by experienced and ethical professionals and are critical to protecting enterprises.
Training: Security demands ongoing training including personal safety, substance abuse awareness, domestic violence, diversity, conflict resolution, ethics, situational awareness, internet security, workplace violence, fire prevention, crisis management, emergency preparedness, loss prevention, economic crime, crime prevention, drills, evacuations, terrorism and warning signs.
Warning Signs: Warning signs are critical to violence prevention. We must recognize warning signs and provide the necessary intervention, training, health care and security measures to prevent tragedies.
Physical Security: This includes countermeasures preventing unauthorized access — fencing, barrier arms, bollards, card access systems, ID cards, lighting, crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), defense in depth, locks, alarms, fire extinguishers, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), mass communication systems and metal detectors.
Personnel Security: Certified, well-trained and licensed security officer programs with reputable contract or in-house professionals, either armed or unarmed personnel.
Procedural Security: Panning and evaluation with table-top exercises with partial and full scale drills based on numerous possible scenarios. Drills must involve law enforcement, first-responders and private security professionals. Essential to drills is the Active Shooter tips on the FBI website titled RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.
Informational/Cybersecurity: In this age of instantaneous global data at the fingertips of individuals — some of whom have nefarious intentions — protecting information is vital.
Informational security must be effective and continually updated with ongoing training for personnel that empowers them with preventive techniques. This protects companies from breaches of information through the internet, dumpster diving and social engineering and can prevent unnecessary turmoil to companies and employees.
The Second Amendment: Enshrined, Not Violated
One of my professional responsibilities throughout the last 30 years has included being a private security professional and coordinating armed security services.
America needs qualified armed security services, complementing law enforcement dedication, to safeguard society from individuals with nefarious criminal intentions.
Law-abiding citizens must also have their enshrined Second Amendment rights honored and never violated.
But there are individuals who should be unequivocally denied gun access as exemplified by the following tragedies:
Indianapolis FedEx — In April 2021, this tragedy was the 45th mass shooting in America in just the past month. The 19-year-old who killed eight people at a FedEx facility legally purchased the two assault rifles used in the attack months after being investigated by the FBI due to his potential for violence, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Virginia Tech — Thirty-two people are shot dead, including 27 students and five faculty members, and another 17 were wounded in the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history. The gunman should have never been able to purchase a gun because a court order had previously declared him a danger to himself.
Lafayette Movie Theater — Two people were killed and nine wounded by a shooter who was denied a state-issued concealed weapons permit because he was accused of domestic violence and soliciting arson. The killer was also ordered by a judge to a psychiatric hospital but purchased a weapon legally despite fears from his family members that he was violent and mentally ill.
Emanuel A.M.E. Church — Nine people were killed by an individual who should have been denied purchasing a .45-caliber Glock pistol because he was charged with a misdemeanor and had admitted to possessing drugs. There was a breakdown in the federal gun background check system, with former FBI Director James B. Comey stating, “We wish we could turn back time. From this vantage point, everything seems obvious.”
Marysville High School, Washington — A 15-year-old used his father’s pistol to kill four students. The father should have been denied the gun purchase since he was the subject of a permanent domestic violence order that was never entered into the federal criminal background database.
Washington Navy Yard — Although he sought treatment for psychiatric issues and told police his detailed psychotic experiences, the killer was able to buy a shotgun in Virginia used to kill 12 people. He had been denied an assault rifle purchase.
Newtown, Connecticut — 26 people, mostly children, were killed by a 20-year-old known to have psychiatric and anxiety issues as well as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. He had access to his mother’s guns, which he also used to kill her.
Aurora, Colorado Theater — Although seeing a psychiatrist, and even if for serious mental health issues, weapons were legally purchased by a man who used them to kill 12 people and wound 70 others.
Tucson, Arizona — Although arrested for drug paraphernalia and a year later failing Army enlistment drug testing, the killer legally brought a handgun to kill six people. He also shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, leaving her with a severe brain injury.
Police-Community Unity: Culture of Trauma Antidote
Violence has been unleashed in America, as video allows us to witness horrific mass shooting tragedies and senseless killings of law enforcement. The violence has no end in sight and every community, citizen and police officer is a potential victim.
The antidote to this culture of trauma is police-community unity, indispensable to the security of our society.
Citizens and police must unite to turn the tide of this culture of trauma. America’s healing will only be possible with ethical leadership, unwavering collaboration and moral courage. We must vigilantly work together for the common good.
When our communities and police are infused by an ethical compass, a unity of effort that builds bridges rather than walls, and a passion to do what is right for America, we will be on the path to reawakening the nation.
Enhancing Private Security Professionals
Private security must honestly evaluate its services, in light of unprecedented violence unleashed throughout America, to prevent future tragedies.
This review must include background and criminal records checks for all security personnel — contractual and in-house — as well as ongoing training initiatives exceeding legal requirements and certifications exceeding the status quo.
Also, the implementation of critical response private security personnel demands serious consideration to harden high-profile soft targets. This is the new reality of private security — certified and licensed armed security personnel. These professionals are in highly visible tactical gear, serving as a deterrent and have the experience to respond to a crisis. These individuals should have either law enforcement or military experience, with specialty units such as SWAT or emergency services.
There are ready, willing and able professionals ready to harden soft targets with critical response programs. America must be vigilant, and respond courageously to the war drums of violence.
We must be proactive and harden our soft targets.
Private security must be on the cutting edge, continually enhancing countermeasures, protocols and initiatives.
Final Reflections: Preventing Violence, Essential Questions
During my violence prevention presentations, I often ask attendees the following questions:
Is there a violence prevention policy in place and is it continually updated and followed?
Do you have an active threat assessment team that includes a law enforcement liaison?
Have you conducted violence response training including table-top, partial scale and full scale scenarios?
Has your facility had a recent board-certified security vulnerability assessment?
Are your security personnel trained and certified according to state requirements with additional initiatives that exceed the status quo?
What type of training have your implemented for those entrusted to your care on issues including domestic violence, warning signs, security protocols, school and workplace violence, emergency preparedness, sexual harassment, bullying, diversity and the active shooter?
Center for Homeland Defense & Security Report: https://www.hsaj.org/articles/16880
FBI Active Shooter Event Quick Reference Guide: https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-event-quick-reference-guide_2015.pdf/view