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Should Mall Security Guards be Armed?

This is the third of a series on mall security based on our radio show: Guns, Guards and Alarms (click to listen).
Read the first article: Should Malls Prohibit Firearms? or the second article: Who Should Train Mall Security Guards?


When advising my clients, I am reluctant to recommend using armed security guards. As former General Counsel to Allied Education Corporation, a vocational education institution that trained security guards, I have always had grave concerns regarding the competency of armed security guards and potential liability arising from their use. My guest, Dave Mistick, President of Circumspex and a noted author and expert on disaster preparedness, stated that while there are situations where an armed guard is necessary, he “errs in the other direction,” as do I.

Another guest, Brian Cescolini, is a Co-Chairman of Universal Protection Services which employs over 22,000 security guards. Of those guards, only about 200 are armed. According to Brian, Universal’s ratio of armed versus unarmed guards is typical of the industry.

Planning for today and tomorrow

The consensus of the panel was that, despite the perception of an increasingly violent world, there doesn’t seem to be a general need to require widespread armed service. This was discussed in the broadest possible terms, however, leaving open the possible need for armed protection on a case-by-case basis.

The panel agreed, in most instances, on the value of visible security personnel and securities awareness. Their mere presence will likely avoid the need for being armed.

Brian was clear to point out that training has not been stagnant. Active shooter training has been a major change in training of security personnel. Brain was insistent that every security company, landlord and tenant should include active shooter training as part of their training program. According to FEMA, an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and other populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.

Conclusions from the show

Armed security in malls should be limited to situations and locations that clearly require armed protection. The decision to provide armed security should not be taken lightly and should be made in consultation with mall ownership, local law enforcement, tenants, tenant’s employees, and security and loss prevention personnel.

  • A mall owner should really think out the ramifications and benefits to posting a “No Guns” sign
  • Document every aspect of the decision making process and implementation
  • Effective training and consistent and multiple drilling of all affected personnel cannot be overstated
  • For more information on active shooter training for employees, visit the FEMA training site

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