In Defense of the Workplace

In the grand scheme of things, it is a true observation that the majority of Americans live such cozy and insulated lives that they will never have to discover whether or not they are cowards. There are some, however, for whom that does not hold, who find themselves thrust into situations where they have to act. Here is how the Miami Herald described one such event at a Florida Burger King:

The bloody event unfolded about 4 p.m. Tuesday at the restaurant at Northeast 54th Street and Biscayne Boulevard. It was a time, employees said, when it is usually crowded with schoolchildren and people getting out of work early.

The robber entered wearing a ski mask. He approached a clerk, showed his gun and demanded money, said Miami police spokesman Jeff Giordano.

A customer eyed him and the two started arguing. The customer had a concealed-weapons permit and his gun -- and the two exchanged gunfire.

The robber crumpled to the floor and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The customer, with several gunshot wounds, was in serious but stable condition at JacksonMemorialHospital's RyderTraumaCenter.

Clearly, the unnamed Burger King customer found his bravery, prevented the robbery and saved the other patrons (and whoever else the robber might have run into later) from violence and he did so at great personal cost.  These are facts.

The question is this: Do you believe he did the right thing—hero or vigilante—and, more to the point, if this was your restaurant, or if you were a patron in a place being robbed, would you have done the same?

This is just one example of the 2.5 million times a year that an armed citizen either defends themselves or protects others and considering the recession as well as the massive increase in gun purchases since November and the prevalence of conceal-carry laws permitting citizens to be armed in 48 of the 50 states, we can expect far more cases like these. This, however, not the kind of thing the authorities recommend, believing—and rightly so—that the best approach is to prevent the crime from happening in the first place.

Dealing with the Robbery Threat

The California Attorney General’s Office offers these suggestions on how to prevent and, if necessary, face an armed robber:

·        Lock unused doors.

·        Avoid working alone. If you must, turn on a hidden radio or TV so robbers will think there is someone with you.

·        Vary the schedule and route for your bank deposits each day. Keep only necessary cash in the drawer. Then, if you are robbed, you’ll reduce your losses.

·        Make sure your cash register is clearly visible to passers-by. Arrange the counter so that the customer or robber is visible from the street.

·        Avoid placing signs or displays near windows which block visibility from the street.

·        If your business runs an exceptionally high risk of robbery, you may want to invest in a bullet-proof cashier screen. A screen “defuses” the robbers threat, but other prevention measures may be equally effective at lower cost.

·        Display signs at entrances and exits indicating that safes require secondary keys not in the possession of employees.

·        Advertise your security alarm system with signs in visible locations.

·        Develop a mutual aid system among stores on your block. Agree to keep an eye on each other’s buildings and watch for any suspicious activities. Install “buddy buzzer” alarms so you can signal your neighbor to call the police if you are being robbed.

·        Record the serial number of the bottom bill in each bin of the cash drawer, and instruct employees not to use these bills in making change.

·        Place colored tape markers at exits, at heights of 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet. If you are robbed, you can then get an accurate estimate of the suspect’s height as he or she leaves.

·        Keep “bait” money in a spare compartment of cash registers. The bait packet should be separated by face value as other bills. Keep a list of the serial numbers to give to law enforcement officials if you are robbed.

·        Never refuse a robber!

·        If you have a silent alarm and can reach it unnoticed, use it. Otherwise, wait until the robber leaves. (Use your alarm with care. Excessive false alarms can cause problems for law enforcement and for you).

These are all excellent suggestions and you should follow them. Doing so will go a long way toward hardening your business, making it a less tempting target, but they will not give you complete safety. Neither will a gun. All either of these can do for you is level the playing field a little between you and the bad guys and, frankly, that is only if you know what you are doing. The final word for your own safety is yours alone.

The Bottom Line

Let me make one thing clear: Gun control continues to be a failure when it comes to stopping violence and you and every other law-abiding American has the right to own a firearm and to defend yourself. Knowing that, however, I have say that there are plenty of people walking around who have no business whatsoever owning a gun. Just because you have the right to do something, that does not mean you necessarily should do it. The folks I am talking about have no training—or very little—and less experience handling a weapon, much less dealing with high-stress situations. Moreover, they have unrealistic ideas about what a gunfight really is and about what they are capable of doing. These are the “I’ll just shoot him in the leg” folks, the sort that can easily get in trouble, even to the point of having their weapon taken and used on them. Now, do yourself a favor and be brutally honest: Does that describe you?

If it does, and you bought a gun to defend yourself or your business, do yourself and those around you a favor and put it away until you can get the training you need, training that will give you skills as well as a vital sense of responsibility regarding this weapon. Instead, work with your local police to make sure that your business, your home and the streets are all as safe as they can be. Do what you can to make your whole environment hostile and difficult for criminals to thrive in.

If that’s not you, and you do know what you are doing, you train hard and you are mentally and physically capable of defending yourself, work with your local police anyway. Do it, not because you are otherwise defenseless, but because you never want to have to use the power at your fingertips.