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Thursday, June 30, 2022

OPINION:

The recent additions of Uvalde and Buffalo to the depressingly long list of America’s mass shootings have reignited the debate surrounding the Second Amendment. Whatever side of the fence you stand on, we must accept that the constitutional right to bear arms will never be overturned. Therefore we should instead direct our energy toward enforcing realistic and effective changes. These include bolstering security measures across institutions such as hospitals, which are facing an increasing amount of workplace violence. The best solution is not to continue philosophizing about the Second Amendment — it is to make gun detectors compulsory in all our places of work.

This should not be the world we live in. We should be able to trust that civilians will not walk through our office doors brandishing AR-15 rifles. However, recent events, and the rising number of cases of workplace violence in the U.S., have emphasized how these security measures are now essential.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration stipulates that employers must create a safe working environment that is free of threats. While we continue to neglect the necessity of bolstering security, such as having gun detectors in every school and hospital entrance, workplaces will remain unsafe. Unless we take these steps, workers will continue to be at risk and employers will not be fulfilling their responsibility to protect them.

If we take the example of health care workers, the extent of the issue is made painfully clear. A recent nationwide survey highlights that almost half of hospital nurses report an increase in workplace violence, a 119% rise in nurses compared to March 2021. The U.S. nonfatal violent crime rate for all jobs is 12.6 per 1000; for nurses, this figure reaches 21.2. For mental health workers, the number is even higher, at 40.

Furthermore, half of all cases of workplace violence involve medics. Unsurprisingly, these are often firearms-related — we only have to cast our minds back to early June to recall when a gunman shot four people, including two doctors, at Saint Francis Hospital, Tulsa. A couple of days later, the medical community was reeling from the news that another deadly attack had been carried out on health care workers, this time in Los Angeles at Encino Hospital Medical Center. The assailant went in asking for anxiety treatment, before unveiling a knife and stabbing a doctor and two nurses.

The fact that hospitals have to be open 24/7 means that access-control is of the utmost importance. A number of solutions have been proposed, such as the idea of introducing a 24/7 receptionist in every hospital and speeding up the police response. Unfortunately, these will not effectively tackle the issue. In the Tulsa shooting, there was a receptionist, but she was shot dead in the attack. Additionally, the police response time to this incident was around four minutes, with the force being widely heralded for the speed of their actions.

The sensible solution is clear: introduce metal detectors into every business, school and hospital. Although mass shootings and firearm incidents are worryingly common, they are also highly preventable and often involve the assailant walking straight through the front door on their way to committing their crime. Hindsight is a luxury, but nonetheless, in both the Tulsa and Los Angeles cases, having metal detectors installed would have alerted staff to the fact that there were weapons being brought onto the premises. Would this have prevented the deaths? We simply cannot say. But what we do know is that, as a rule of thumb, being aware that a dangerous weapon is being carried through the door before the person is allowed to progress into the building significantly boosts security’s chances of neutralizing that threat.

Part of the broader issue is the prevalence of the “It can’t happen here” mentality. The recent high-profile shootings in hospitals and schools have underlined that, sadly, this could happen anywhere. As the OSHA highlights, employers have a duty toward their employees to keep them safe, whether they are Amazon warehouse workers, schoolteachers or health care workers.

Especially in today’s economy, many institutions are rightly concerned with the cost of introducing new measures. Concealed weapon screening overcomes this challenge; metal detectors are affordable, as well as enabling institutions to cut down on security officer requirements.

Between 2012 and 2016, there were 88 shootings across 86 hospitals in the US, resulting in 121 firearms-related casualties. We have witnessed 95 school shootings since Connecticut’s Sandy Hook tragedy in 2021, and there have already been 27 school shootings in 2022 alone. 

Some commentators are debating the Second Amendment, but to be frank they are wasting their breath. 

This issue could not be more urgent; workplace violence is unacceptably widespread in today’s America, and this requires swift, effective action — not hollow theorizing about an immovable constitution. The Second Amendment will not be overturned, and whether we agree with it or not, we should instead focus on what we can change and what is within our control: the security of our premises and the safety of our workers.

• Caroline Ramsey-Hamilton is the president of Risk and Security LLC.


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