When hospitals let guards carry guns, patients get shot

More and more hospitals across the country are arming their security guards with weapons, and tragedy follows close behind when poorly trained personnel grapple with patients with mental disorders. That’s the message of an important new piece in the New York Times.

About half of all hospitals now have guards carrying handguns, and an almost equal number have guards with Tasers, according to the Times.  Hospitals are already dangerous places, having to treat people who are combative or delusional because of their illnesses, but the ramping up of weaponry in institutions devoted to healing is a bad trend.

It’s not just hospitals where ordinary people are at risk from guards who are supposed to protect them. The training of gun-wielding security guards in all sorts of settings is almost comically lax, as a year-long investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting found.

Men and women who have never fired a gun in their lives can set off on patrol in uniform, wearing a badge and carrying a loaded weapon, with only a few hours of training, if any. In 15 states, guards can openly carry guns on the job without any firearms training at all.

Worse, the reporters found, the screening by security firms is so haphazard that guards have been hired and handed weapons that they could not have obtained on their own because they wouldn’t pass the already weak federal screening regime.

Put the hospital armed guards story together with the Center for Investigative Reporting’s work, and you don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s going to happen when poorly trained guards confront patients who need calming professionals, not brute force.

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