Are security guards able to shoot someone?

Are security guards able to shoot someone? It’s a question we get asked frequently. While on the surface it seems like a yes or no question, the reality is the answer is quite complex with many nuances.

The first step to answering the question of if a security guard is able to shoot someone is to determine what type of security guard we’re talking about. AEGIS employs both armed and unarmed security guards. Unarmed guards may have some weapons training, they may even own a gun and possess a concealed carry permit. However, if they are on the job and they are hired as an unarmed guard, that gun should not be on their person. If it is, they should not be drawing it nor discharging it. The fact that they were hired as an unarmed security presence trumps the fact that they are licensed and trained.

Now, if the security guard in question is armed then the equation changes entirely. Our armed security guards undergo routine weapons training, certifications, ethics courses, and situational modules. They not only possess the legal right to carry, but also to use that gun in the commission of their job. They were hired to have that firearm with them and they can use it. But, and this is a huge but, the situations in which they can and should fire their weapons are extremely limited.

When it comes to justifying use of deadly force police departments across the country default to the measures of means, imminency, and motive. For use of deadly force to be deemed justified and appropriate the person being shot must meet all three criteria. They must have the means to do harm to the officer or others. The threat that they harm the officer or others must be imminent. They must have a motive to do harm. The reason a suspect must meet all three of these criteria is not everyone who is armed is a threat, not everyone who is a threat is armed, and not everyone who has a motive to hurt someone is going to do it right now.

These criteria exist to ensure that deadly force is used only as an absolute last resort. The intent is for armed security guards to use every other means available to them before entertaining the thought of using their gun. In making this decision they must also consider collateral damage and the risk to civilians should they discharge their weapon. No one shoots with 100% accuracy and firing into a crowded room is likely not going to be considered a smart play.

All of this said, if an armed security guard sees someone armed, acting deranged, and attempting to carry out a crime in which the guard believes the suspect will harm people or property they were hired to protect, they can and will fire when all other options are exhausted. However, they should be firing to disable and stop the threat, not to kill. This doesn’t mean shoot someone in the hand or leg, but rather fire enough to neutralize the threat, not make someone unrecognizable as a human being. Again, no one shoots with 100% accuracy and this is probably the toughest consideration once the choice is made to fire. 

Even with the correct circumstances and a guard going exactly by the book, firing their weapon is a serious decision. It will be analyzed, structinized, and examined on many levels to determine if it was the right decision. This is why they don’t take that decision lightly, and you shouldn’t want them to. Security guards are there to make people safer. Being reckless or trigger-happy doesn’t make anyone safer. Guards who apply boasting about their use of their firearms are generally turned away. We want officers who use it as a tool on their belt, not their go-to solution for every incident.

In summary, yes, security guards are able to shoot someone. However, just because they can doesn’t mean they will or should. It is a tool in their toolbox. A very special, particular, expert-level tool. They’re trained to use it and to know when to use it. In reality, most if not all, security guards hope they never need to use that tool. But when the time calls for it, it’s there, and they can.