Retailers are turning to good guys with guns

Mass shootings happen in grocery stores and malls. We’ve seen way too many of those cases over the years to think otherwise.

Further, a lot of these places don’t play well with the idea of good guys with guns. They are often gun-free zones, after all.

Yet after mass shootings in Buffalo, Colorado Springs, and El Paso, among others, it seems that retailers are thinking just a bit differently. They’re hiring armed security.

While a national debate rages over whether armed guards should be stationed at public places like schools, retailers around the country are beefing up armed security presence in stores, mostly using ex-police and military. Since July 2021, there’s been a 108% increase in demand for armed guards at grocery stores, according to Allied Universal, one of the world’s largest security staffing firms, which works with many of the nation’s biggest retailers and shopping malls.

“There’s been an absolute distinct change in security and the challenges” facing retailers since the pandemic, said Steve Jones, Allied Universal’s CEO. “All of them have had to relook at their security posture and all of them have had to add additional layers of security.”

In December, Iowa-based grocery chain Hy-Vee said it would be adding armed guards to its stores. The move was intended to “provide another layer of safety and security for our customers,” chief operating officer Jeremy Gosch said in a statement. The 285-store grocer released a video that shows security staff in black uniforms roaming the aisles, appearing to have badges, guns, handcuffs and pepper spray. The decision was not prompted by any one incident, the company said, but rather a rise in retail theft nationwide.

Another grocery chain, ShopRite, added armed guards at some stores in the early innings of the pandemic when it faced a crush of customers rushing to stock up on items for quarantine. Guards patrolled the aisles and stood at the front door.

Now, understand that these guards are there for far more pedestrian violent crimes than mass shootings. That’s also a good thing since those crimes are also far, far more common than mass shootings as well.

For any violent crime, though, what you need to prevent such things is good guys with guns, even if that means hiring one of your very own.

And that’s really what armed security is supposed to be. While they’re meant to be deterrents, it’s not because of a shiny badge that looks like a police badge if you don’t look too closely. It’s because there’s a good guy with a gun on the premises.

However, these stores should also remember that this isn’t a universal solution.

Private, armed security is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not going to necessarily be able to stop all such violent crimes. After all, look at Buffalo. That store had armed security. The guard was killed early in the attack.

A uniformed, armed guard is a deterrent, but also a target for those who truly want to unleash horrors upon the world. What we need is more than just armed guards.

We need good guys with guns across the board.

We need average Americans to be not just allowed to carry but encouraged to do so. We need a legion of armed citizens–good guys with guns–who can go about their lives and, in the process, provide herd immunity from violence.

Armed guards are good. They’re not perfect, so why pretend this is enough? It’s not, so let’s do what we can to make sure they’re not someone’s only line of defense.