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Banks and Guns Don’t Mix – or Do They?

To go armed or not to go armed? That is the question. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.

The first answer that comes to most Insurance Risk Managers is, “No Guns. Guns can potentially hurt people and/or destroy property.” However, what is usually said off the record is, “Guns should be banned from bank lobbies and the workplace – period.” Other beliefs held are, “Too many bad things happen when guns are around; “Guns go off accidentally damaging or destroying property, or worse, injuring or killing people.” The presence of guns means many added dangers, even when wielded by those whom we expect to have them. I am referring to hired professional bank guards and guards on armored car carriers. In addition, while most insurance company bond underwriters say they like their insured banks to have armed guards, the jury is still out as to how much they actually deter a robbery. Conversely, the liability insurance company underwriter has a completely different feel about guns in the workplace.

The resultant lawsuit arising out of the injury or the death of an innocent bystander from a “gunfight” in a bank lobby can be catastrophic. Consequently, this could cause the bank to have a far greater loss than would have occurred if the robber just escaped with all the cash in the bank. Heck, given our litigious society, even if only the felon is shot, the lawsuit from him/her can be almost as financially devastating. Another consideration is, “What about bad press?” Envision the headline: “Mother and child shot in (put your bank’s name here) bank lobby.” This is not going to encourage your customers to visit your bank! Therefore, given these circumstances, the decision is easy, right? Ban all guns from the premises. But hold on; that could be a problem as well.

Just about all states now have “concealed weapon permits” allowing ordinary citizens to go armed. However, these laws are as varied as each individual state. After a little internet search, I was surprised to see that Arizona, Colorado, Washington, and Wyoming were as permissive (or more so) than my “gun toting” State of Tennessee. Even California allows permits as long as it is for a “good cause” (whatever that is).

So, let’s say one of your bank employees has a “carry” permit. (By the way, he/she doesn’t have to tell you that they have a permit– another legal “can of worms.”) Now, the Bank’s decision becomes whether or not to even have a policy on guns in the workplace at all.

A policy against guns in the workplace may be putting a bank at risk for a lawsuit by an injured employee or their spouse. For example, there is a robbery at a branch and a teller is shot. The teller’s spouse sues the bank for prohibiting the teller from defending him/her self. Or, the teller carries the weapon in defiance of the bank’s policy and is fired for doing so. The employee sues the bank for prohibiting his/her constitutional right to “bear arms.” More than one state allows an employer to ban firearms in the workplace. But, the employers have also traditionally been held responsible for the actions of their employees. The attorney’s fees and court costs alone for trying to sort this out would be extremely significant.

All right, let’s assume the Bank decides not to have a “gun” policy. In the above scenario, the teller uses his/her gun in self-defense and injures someone else. The injured party sues the bank for not having a policy against guns. Is there insurance coverage? Probably, but how the insurance policy is actually worded will determine coverage, and don’t expect the insurance company to come running with a check should a loss occur.

The first few weeks of 2015, Knoxville, TN was hit with several bank robberies. Anyone who attempts to rob a bank has to be looking at one of 8 successful bank robbery movies. First these are “Movies” not YouTube videos on how to successfully rob a bank.

The end of January 2015, a large Knoxville Bank Branch was robbed and although they didn’t get much money (they later interviewed them and they thought since banks have large vaults, they would have large amount a cash lying around) Bank customers and employees were put at risk of injury. It was also interesting to learn the authorities did catch these “robbers” within a few hours. When these “geniuses” came into the branch, they handed a teller a stack of papers. The top page was a blank loan application, and the second page was the “demand” note. The teller was to give the robber all of the money in her cash drawer which she did. The Felons then fled without the bank personnel getting a good description of the robbers (they were wearing hoods). The most interesting thing was after 20 FBI agents swarmed the bank and started going over everything for fingerprints (which they got), they found one of the pages was a “junk mail” that was sent to the robber’s home address. The FBI quickly got a court order to search the house at the address. Sure enough they arrested all of these “John Dillingers”, and retrieved all of the money. The take-away is, “Let these fools have the money, do what they tell you, and get them out of your bank as soon as possible!”

Our policy at Bahr Consultants is to recommend our clients stay silent on paper regarding the subject, but favor the “no gun” in the workplace approach. It is our opinion armed guards and armed employees create more problems than solutions for a bank.

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