Reader Judie writes:
I look out the only pane of glass near me that isn’t bulletproof. I’m aware of the K9 officer and his German Shepard sticking close to the triage desk as I take in what small parts of the sky I can see through forty story skyscrapers. The dog is the only one disinterested as I and the rest of the hospital’s “unarmed” security force digest the latest radio call. Local PD/Highway Patrol had just called in to notify us that some thirty or so members of a known biker gang were trailing an incoming ambulance . . .
Among those aboard the expensive white taxi were an EMT or two, the ambulance driver and, more important to this story, a horizontal, but still alive member of the riding crew. The patient was prominent among them, and a vehicle had just smashed into their convoy injuring him. They were not happy.
There was a duality to the situation as the first black leather-clad riders pulled into the the ER lot. Behind the scenes, the injured individual had just arrived and was being transported to our trauma unit. We would be courteous as we escorted them to the dedicated room wherein they could await status updates on the patient, but we had had incidents with biker gangs (including this one) in the past. We were prepared for the worst.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to tell a group of scowling men, some of whom have more mass in their right bicep than I do in my upper torso, that they can’t park where they chose to plant their bikes on the way in to see if someone close to them is still sucking air. Luckily, I haven’t either. That’s the job of my direct supervisor. His heart is in the right place but he can lack tact in tricky situations. They’re visibly, and audibly, furious.
As I step outside I’m in weapons-scan mode. Their leather jackets are offering a lot of concealment. The round Mexican fellow is clear. Caucasian male, spiky hair…clear. Skinny one with the full beard…the well-worn muzzle face of a 1911. He turns to an angle and his jacket flap follows a second behind him. That’s just long enough to get a full picture of the gun; it’s definitely a 1911. That’s the only one visible, but I’m not so new to the concealment game as to assume everyone present is unarmed. The group disappears to find a better spot for their bikes. Between the departure and re-arrival of the recently and reluctantly relocated band of brothers, Slimbeard ditched the 1911.
I make certain they know we’re here to help if they need anything, and they’re escorted back to the proper waiting room. It’s then that a coworker is informed that one of the gang leaders is soon to arrive. Slimbeard would like us to inform him before the leader — let’s call him Buzzsaw — enters the hospital. Slimbeard wants to meet and brief Buzzsaw before he comes in.
It seems that Buzzsaw doesn’t play well with others, and today Slimbeard and company want what I want. The bikers don’t want to today to go south any more than it already has for them, and I want to keep the medical staff, our visitors, and patients safe. Buzzsaw being spun down before he makes the first set of doors seems like the best way to ensure our goals are met.
Minutes pass. The swelling sounds of a veritable motorcade approaching clue me in to what’s coming next. Buzzsaw has arrived. If I thought the first bikers to get here were furious, Buzzsaw was Michael Bay Presents: FURIOUS – F The World and Everyone In It. In IMAX.
Buzzsaw is throwing punches in the air as he took his helmet off in order to speak with his compadres. Having never left weapons-scan mode, I observe him and his entourage. There. I know the texture of that plastic. The bottom of a GLOCK clearly visible in a back left pocket that belongs to none other than the man himself. As he finished up a bout of yelling and fist throwing, clearly satisfied the dry air had been taught a lesson, he makes a beeline for the ER doors.
I undo the shirt button closest to my 4.0 model XDs, a precaution in the event I need to quickly facilitate its emergence from my DeSantis SOF-TUCK.
To be clear, I’m not sold on the hospital being a gun-free zone. There are ways to go about keeping everyone safe and still respecting the Second Amendment rights of everyone who walks through the door, but that debate can receive the attention it deserves at another time. For now, just let me tell you about our official modus operandi when it comes to firearms.
We don’t frisk visitors for weapons. We don’t have stationary metal detectors. We’re an inner city Level I trauma center that’s unfortunately on the long list of hospitals that doesn’t even have a solid active shooter plan. That’s after playing host to a shooting in a patient room that resulted in one fatality. Our policy as it stands is that if we see your gun when you enter, we ask that you to either return it to your vehicle, sign a form and check it into our locked weapons storage area, or leave the property.
Buzzsaw’s not a bad guy, not by me anyway. He’s just angry that a careless driver had put his friend, his brother, in the hospital. Keeping that in mind as I elicit his attention in the airlock-like security checkpoint, I inform him that he can’t enter the building with his piece. The no guns sign on the door doesn’t carry the force of law here, but in this case my words do.
Annoyed, he nods and takes a step back toward his buddies. Here’s where I admit to being surprised by a couple of things. With his back toward me he reaches into the back left pocket using only his index finger and thumb and produces a GLOCK 19 (sans holster) . Good Lord, I hope he does birthday parties. But the size of the gun he carried there isn’t the most shocking revelation because his right hand is simultaneously plucking an identical G19 from his right rear pocket.
My mind snaps at my failure. I had just closely scrutinized that exact portion of his body. I hadn’t so much as made out the outline of an object, let alone the presence of a second firearm there. What if the worst came to be and that overlooked firearm had been pivotal in the death of someone present?
He muzzle sweeps a companion as the guns are passed to a woman and walked off property to be secured. I open the second set of ER doors for Buzzsaw, and the rest of the bikers are polite or wear silent scowls.
Though no gunfight or wrestling bouts happen today, I walk away with a valuable lesson. You simply cannot assume anyone’s unarmed. Ever. Even if you spot someone’s gun and watch them set it aside, they could have another that you didn’t catch. I speak with over a hundred people daily who would never guess I’m carrying. Watch for these things. Think about every defensive situation in the context that there’s a small chance anyone/everyone near you is armed. Stay alert. Stay vigilant and be safe.
Names and locations have been edited for HIPAA compliance reasons and a general lack of desire to piss off armed motorcycle gangs. Buzzsaw is actually less intense than his chosen moniker.