A Georgia businessman is requiring his workers, who are predominantly female, to bear arms at the office.
Lance Toland said he’s determined to equip the dozen staffers at his aviation insurance office in Griffin after they obtain the proper training and a concealed carry license. And so far, Toland says, there have been “no dissenters” to the decree, which he claims is for self-defense. Only one worker griped because the guns he’s buying don’t come in pink, he quipped.
“This is a group of very, very professional women, well-educated, pilots, but they’re armed and they’re deadly,” Toland told The Daily Beast, adding, “so do not screw with us.”
The 61-year-old boss told Atlanta’s WSB-TV that he instituted the policy at Lance Toland Associates—which insures corporate aircraft across the world—after hearing of recent home invasions and violent crime in the metro area.
“They all had their conceal carry permit within 3 to 4 weeks of me announcing that this was something you had to do,” Toland told WSB-TV, which first revealed the mandate. “With the presentation of their license, they all got a .410 Judge pistol.”
Meanwhile, Toland told The Daily Beast he is prepping for office safety, since one of his longtime employees—Mary Brannon, who also happens to be a certified NRA instructor—is retiring in April.
That would have left Toland as the only one armed during business hours, he said.
“I got to thinking, ‘Who’s going to protect the office?’ If I’m not there and Mary’s gone, what are the other ladies going to do?” Toland said.
“I said, ‘What do you guys think about carrying a concealed weapons permit?’ They all said, ‘God, I’ve been wanting to do that,’” the insurance executive added. “Here’s your employer, you know he’s got a gun from day one. It’s on his desk.”
“The only complaint I had was from one of the ladies in the office. She asked if they had it in pink. I’m no slave to fashion; I had to go with black.”
Toland is supplying all three of his Georgia offices with a .410 gauge, 5-shot Taurus Judge, named for judges who carry it into the courtroom for protection, according to the manufacturer’s website.
“We want to be responsible with gun ownership, and heaven forbid that we ever have to use it,” Toland told The Daily Beast. “Instead of using it, you could diffuse a situation. As more people arm themselves, women in particular, the world’s going to be a safer place.”
He called the Judge a short-range weapon that wouldn’t penetrate walls, as his intent isn’t to kill. Rather, he says, an office intruder is a “fire” and the handgun is a “fire extinguisher.”
“Our intent is to put out the fire,” Toland declared. “Hopefully, the assailant would flee without mortal wounds.”
Toland also spoke philosophically on his policy and gave a nod to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, saying, “it’s about responsible stewardship of our constitutional rights.”
“The constitution is a finite document we all live by and many people have died for,” Toland told The Daily Beast. “God bless Justice Scalia for being such a constitutional protector. When you exercise the right to bear firearms, you’re exercising your god-given right.”
During a segment on WSB-TV, Lance Toland Associates insurance agent Andrea Van Buren is shown working at her desk, her gun in a holster.
Other companies should follow their lead only if they’re willing to commit to training, Van Buren said. They also must “commit to being ready to use it, if you have to,” she told the TV station.
Toland told WSB-TV that his workers either have the weapons “in their drawer or on their person.”
He told the Daily Beast that some of the ladies carry it in their purses. “When they get to the car, they have it next to them in case of a carjacking,” he said.
Both Toland and Brannon pointed to the 1998 murder of a female insurance agent in Zebulon, just 11 miles from Griffin. The victim, Kelli Hammond, was alone at her office when a man soliciting money for charity stabbed her to death, court records show.
Brannon told The Daily Beast she drives past the former Zebulon agency every day on her way to work. “It’s just a constant reminder to me,” Brannon said. “This was a very sweet lady, well loved by her family and is no longer with them.”
Brannon, a certified NRA instructor and training counselor, said she’s brought a gun to the office for about a dozen years.
“It’s controversial with some people,” Brannon said. “They like to bring up story after story of gun violence. But a responsible, level-headed, law-abiding citizen with proper training can safely carry a firearm to protect themselves and others.”
She stressed that businesses can’t “just go in one day and start handing out guns to everybody in your place.” Employers must know their workers and conduct background checks to ensure they’re stable and not on drugs.
“As the world goes weirder, 911 is great and I certainly admire and appreciate all of our law enforcement officers, but the fact of the matter is: you call 911 and then you wait,” Brannon said. “You don’t know if somebody’s gonna get there or not, and when they get there, you don’t know if you’ll still be there.”
Meanwhile, as workplace homicides appear to be falling overall, shootings account for most of the fatalities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2010, shootings accounted for 78 percent of workplace homicides, with 405 fatal injuries. Four out of five victims were men, according to BLS data.
There were 404 workplace homicides in 2013—322 of which were shootings. The preliminary numbers for 2014 indicate shootings accounted for 307 of the 403 workplace homicides that year.
Despite this drop, some job-related killings dominated headlines last year—including the August 2015 attack in Virginia, where a former colleague fatally shot a reporter and cameraman live on television. The gunman, Vester Lee Flanagan, purchased his weapon legally and passed a background check despite his emotional problems.
Three months later, a married couple shot and killed 14 people at the San Bernardino, California, health department building where the husband worked and where colleagues held a training event and office holiday party. One of the suspects, Syed Rizwan Farook, killed in a shootout with police, had obtained his assault rifles through a friend, authorities said.
But the massacre sparked a surge in concealed weapons permits in San Bernardino County. In the month following the incident, the sheriff’s department received 750 applications for concealed weapons permits, compared to a monthly average of 80, the Desert Sun reported.