By Michael Dorn ·
The man stood unnoticed outside the grocery store for nearly three hours before his ex-wife arrived. As she stepped from a taxicab, the man quickly stepped toward her and, to the shock of everyone present, quickly raised a 12-gauge pump shotgun from under his coat and killed her. Before the deputy sheriff, who was less than 50 feet away, could react, the suspect turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
This homicide occurred even though the grocery store hired an officer to protect patrons and employees. Although the deputy was an eight-year veteran, he did not notice the obvious physical behaviors that indicated he was standing near a heavily armed individual. These indicators could have helped avert the murder had they been noticed in time.
In this case, the victim was killed at a grocery store, but similar attacks have taken place at and near schools, hospitals and institutions of higher learning. In some instances, students have entered K-12 schools and universities undetected while concealing rifles and shotguns before committing multiple-victim homicides.
One valuable tool for campus personnel is the technique of visual weapons screening. Visual screening techniques have been used to recover thousands of firearms and other weapons and have averted a number of planned weapons assaults. Visual screening is an inexpensive and effective means to help counter such dangers as campus violence, gang violence and even terrorism. Visual screening is not a theoretical concept but a proven technique tested under difficult field conditions.
Weapons Violators Come From All Backgrounds
Studies indicate there is no reliable profile of the weapons violator. People who carry and use weapons unlawfully are white, Latino, Asian or any other race or ethnicity. They are male or female. They wear expensive clothing, including tailored suits, and they are from all socioeconomic classes.
A weapons violator may be a high school dropout or, as we have seen in several university shootings, may have a Ph.D or be working on one. The violator may at first glance look like anyone else because there is no reliable or viable profile. In fact, relying on this method can be dangerous. What is consistent about those who carry a weapon unlawfully, particularly a firearm, is the presence of certain physical behaviors. In short, individuals who carry a gun do specific things we can observe because of the presence of the gun on their person.
Rather than relying on ineffective and, in our country at least, illegal methods like profiling, police and security personnel should focus their attentions on the specific behaviors that may indicate the presence of a weapon.
Screeners Must Consider Many Behaviors
Visual weapons screening is a valuable tool that helps officers and others with security concerns spot individuals who deserve closer observation and, when appropriate, a lawful physical search. In some cases, the indicator may be rather weak and will be observed when people are not armed — for example, the sag of a jacket on one side of the body. In other instances, such as when the muzzle of a shotgun can be seen protruding from under a trench coat, we know instantly the individual is in fact carrying a weapon (and in that case, is most likely about to use it).
One of the most important concepts of visual weapons screening is behavior clusters. For example, an individual who fails to swing his right arm may be armed and trying to avoid hitting their elbow on the weapon. But an individual who adjusts something under his clothing above the waistline, looks around very nervously and then walks away while not swinging his right arm when he spots an officer watching him is far more likely to be armed. The totality of circumstances will dictate the degree of likelihood of an individual being armed.
Apply Weapons Detection Practices Wisely
Visual weapons screening has proven to be extremely effective, especially if the screener is properly trained. But these techniques must be applied with common sense, in accordance with the laws of search and seizure for your situation and with a careful view of the overall context. It should be noted that the following signs do not always indicate the presence of a weapon. Visual screening techniques are easy to learn, retain and apply as long as those who need to use them are alert and observant. The slideshow features the most common indicators that a person is armed.
Now check out the slideshow!
World renowned for their weapons concealment and detection training programs, Michael Dorn and Chris Dorn have been teaching these lifesaving techniques for many years. For more information about the authors, visit www.safehavensinternational.org.