Nightclubs and bars around the country weigh how to keep their patrons and staff members safe after a gunman killed five people and 17 more at Club Q, an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs. The Club Q attack is being investigated as a hate crime against the LGBTQ community.
Last week, a Walmart manager pulled out a handgun between a routine employment meeting and began to fire around the break room of a Virginia store. The gunman was dead when officers arrived at the scene. Police said six people died at the scene.
Since this latest incident, there has been widespread concern about how safe one is while enjoying a city’s nightlife, public places, or even attending school or church without being shot. Many public places can become a target but it seems it is usually a church, school, nightclub or business – sometimes a disgruntled ex-employee.
In this article, we have provided information about the legal issues surrounding active shooter incidents and how you can be safe if you are in the dangerous position of being in the middle of an active shooter situation.
What is an Active Shooter Situation?
The FBI defines an active shooter as an individual “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” In a vast majority of cases, active shooters use firearms. There is typically no pattern or method to how they choose their victims. As we see a proliferation in active shooter incidents in the United States, we also see more lawsuits stemming from these incidents. The outcomes of these cases, however, depend primarily on the specific facts and circumstances of the case and the jurisdiction where the case is heard.
The FBI has an ongoing educational series called Run, Hide, Fight to teach people how to stay alive and have the best chance at survival. The videos and other material can be downloaded from their website.
“These FBI training videos demonstrate the three tactics you can use to keep yourself and others safe during an active shooter attack—run, hide, and fight. Learning these principles now will prepare and empower you to put them into practice—and survive—should the unthinkable occur.”
Mass Shootings in 2022 & 2023
2023 is already off to a deadly start with dozens of mass shootings across the country. California experienced 2 back to back mass shootings in the same week, both targeting the asian community.
According to GunViolenceArchive.org, a gun safety awareness organization, there were 616 mass shootings in the United States in 2022.
Mass shootings have become an all-too-common occurrence in the United States, and the statistics for 2022 are particularly dire. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, over 600 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022 alone.
This is a staggering increase from roughly 180 in 2021 and 140 in 2020. These appalling figures underscore the need for better gun control laws to end these senseless tragedies.
In addition to the tragic loss of life, these shootings also take an immense toll on a community’s mental and emotional health. The mass shootings survivors must cope with the trauma of such an event, and the entire community is left reeling in its aftermath.
We must take steps to prevent these tragedies from occurring, not just to save lives but to protect our citizens’ mental health.
Showtime network has put out a gun violence documentary covering all aspects of the effects of a mass shooting; medical workers, victims, first responders, and family members talk about the toll the violence takes. The documentary Active Shooter: America Under Fire will be a series.
What Can Be Done to Reduce the Risk of Active Shooter Incidents?
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in the middle of an active shooter situation, there are several steps you can take to increase your safety. The most important thing to do is to remain calm and follow the advice of law enforcement.
If you are inside a building, secure the area by locking all doors and windows. If you cannot secure the area, seek shelter outside the shooter’s view.
If possible, try to find a place to hide, such as behind furniture or in a closet. If you can, call 911 and remain on the line with the dispatcher until the police arrive. Do not attempt to confront the shooter. If you cannot hide, try to remain as quiet as possible and keep your hands visible.
If you can evacuate the building safely, do so in a manner that does not draw attention to yourself. Follow the instructions of any law enforcement personnel you encounter. Following these safety tips can increase your chances of survival in an active shooter situation.
There are steps employers and other entities can take to protect themselves, their employees, and others from such incidents. Here are some of the steps they can take to reduce the risk of an active shooter incident:
Remaining vigilant. Some of these incidents occur because employers and other entities fail to properly screen and monitor. Entities should ensure that they have adequate security measures in place, both in terms of employee screening and how they monitor activity on their premises.
Staying informed: Those who lead entities such as governmental agencies, religious organizations, schools, and bars/nightclubs, must stay abreast of the latest developments in active shooter liability. They should also provide employees with proper training and have systems to warn those on their premises when a risk manifests.
Being prepared: Entities should also take swift action when a shooting incident occurs. This might range from conducting training services to outlining an emergency plan. Some of the other steps entities can take are marking exits and working with local law enforcement to review and implement its guidelines.
How to Be Safe in the Event of a Shooting
Given the grim reality of recent mass killings, here are a couple of essential questions to ask: What should one do in the event you are in a bar, nightclub or any other location? How can you keep from being paralyzed? Here are a few suggestions:
- Be aware of the environment and know how to escape if you must.
- Get down and move away from the path of the gunfire. Putting distance between you and the shooter is critical for survival.
- Preparedness and training do help. Know what you would do in the event of a shooting. Underdoing active shooter training can save lives.
- Run, hide, fight. Leave your belongings and move away from where the gunfire is coming. Hide in a safe place silently. Choose a hiding place with thicker walls and fewer windows, if possible. Silence phones and turn off electronics. As a last resort, fight back if you cannot evacuate or hide safely, and only when your life is in imminent danger. Act with physical aggression toward the shooter. Use items in your area, such as chairs or fire extinguishers. Throw items at the shooter if possible. Call 911 when it is safe to do so.
- Consider active shooter bulletproof backpacks, especially for kids in schools.
- Familiarize yourself and your loved ones with the Active Shooter Emergency Plan Guide.
Active Shooter Training
Active shooter training is a vital part of workplace safety. It provides employees with the knowledge and skills they need to respond quickly and appropriately in the event of an active shooter incident. Training typically involves instruction in secure building access and evacuation, communication, and basic self-defense skills.
It also focuses on developing a plan for how to respond to an active shooter situation, from identifying and reporting suspicious behavior to how to handle a hostage situation.
Active shooter training can be delivered in various formats, including classroom instruction, online courses, and simulations. It’s essential to ensure that all employees understand the training and have the opportunity to practice the skills they learn.
Active shooter training is critical for keeping employees safe and should be conducted regularly to ensure everyone is prepared in the event of an emergency.
Employers, especially bars, nightclubs, schools, and retail spaces, should keep active shooter Go Bag Response Kits on site and train the employees on how to use them.
Classroom Preparation for School Shooting
Keeping schools safe is of utmost importance, especially in light of the increasing frequency of school shootings. To ensure the safety of all students and staff, it is imperative to have a plan in place to prepare classrooms for school shootings.
One of the most important steps is to teach students and staff about active shooter scenarios and how to respond in an emergency. Provide detailed instructions on when to shelter in place, when to evacuate, and what to do once they are out of the classroom.
Additionally, examine the physical layout of classrooms to identify potential hiding places or exits. Ensure all doors lock securely and that windows are equipped with safety glass and security bars.
Teachers and staff should be provided with active shooter kits to help protect students. States like Utah have these kits along with educational materials to train teachers.
Lastly, schools should run regular safety drills and establish an open line of communication between staff, students, and administration. With these measures in place, schools can work to ensure the safety of everyone in the event of a school shooting.
Active Shooter Alert Act 2022
The Active Shooter Alert Act 2022 is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will help to improve public safety across the nation. The Act requires all states to have systems in place to send out rapid public alerts in the event of an active shooter situation. The alerts will be sent to all cell phones within the affected area, allowing people to get the information they need to protect themselves and take the necessary steps to help prevent the tragedy from escalating.
The Act also provides funding to states to help create and maintain their alert systems. This will ensure that all states have the resources they need to ensure their alerts are as effective as possible. The Active Shooter Alert Act 2022 is a significant step forward in protecting our communities and keeping our citizens safe. It will give people the information they need to respond quickly and efficiently in dangerous situations.
Liability Issues in Active Shooter Incidents
As with most personal injury claims, lawsuits that involve an active shooter are governed by the law of negligence; this includes negligence claims based on the theory of premises liability and negligence claims based on failure to meet the general duty of care that individuals and entities owe to others. Employers may also face such claims under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
Premises Liability: Under premises liability laws in California, property owners have a duty to protect their patrons and guests from harm caused by the reasonably foreseeable acts of third persons. While an argument could be made that active shooter incidents were once not as frequent and, therefore, not foreseeable, that situation has changed with an increase in these types of incidents. While not all active shooter incidents are foreseeable, depending on the facts and circumstances, it is possible that property owners could face liability as a result of failing to exercise reasonable care.
Negligence: For a plaintiff to be successful with a negligence claim, he or she must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, that the duty was breached and that the plaintiff suffered harm. Plaintiffs must also prove in such cases that the defendant’s action or lack thereof was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s harm. In an active shooter incident in a bar or nightclub, negligence claims may involve failure to properly screen or train employees or to provide adequate warnings once an active shooter situation has been identified.
Workplace shootings: Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers must provide employees with a work environment free from danger. When an active shooter incident occurs in the workplace, it may be possible for employees to pursue claims under OSHA in addition to pursuing premises liability and negligence claims.
Contacting an Experienced Premises Liability Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in an active shooter incident, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, damages, and losses. An experienced California premises liability lawyer will be able to advise you regarding your legal rights and options.