Q&A: Oversight of private security guards varies by state

AP News
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Posted: Jun 15, 2016 1:29 PM

The Orlando nightclub shooting has renewed discussion about the oversight of private security guards after revelations that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was a guard who had been investigated by the FBI. Some answers to common questions about private security guards:

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ARE PRIVATE SECURITY GUARDS LICENSED?

In most states, yes. However, experts say there are at least six states that do not regulate private security guards. In those that do require licenses, there is typically an application filed with a state agency along with a licensing fee. Other requirements may include a certain number of training hours and a background check.

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DO PRIVATE SECURITY GUARDS HAVE TO PASS AN FBI BACKGROUND CHECK?

It depends on the state. Ten states do not require any background checks. Ten others require only a state background check, according to research compiled in July 2014 by the National Association of Security Companies. An FBI check casts a wider net and could reveal prior arrests or convictions in other states. The association advocates for recurring background checks so security companies can know quickly if an employee has been arrested.

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HOW MUCH TRAINING DO PRIVATE SECURITY GUARDS HAVE?

It varies greatly from state to state. Research by the National Association of Security Companies showed 15 states did not have any state training requirements regardless of whether the guards are armed. In comparison, security guards in New York must have 47 hours of firearms training before they are certified to carry a weapon, plus eight hours of additional firearms training each year.

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WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS IN FLORIDA?

Experts say Florida has a comprehensive licensing program, which includes 40 hours of professional training at a security officer school or a facility licensed by the state. The system also includes state and federal background checks and 28 hours of classroom and range training if the guard will be carrying a firearm. In addition, armed security guards must undergo an additional four training hours each year as part of license renewal.

Under state law, private security guards are overseen by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Licensing.

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WHAT KIND OF LEGISLATION HAS BEEN INTRODUCED?

Michigan lawmakers are considering a bill that would add several levels of training, including 24 hours of instruction on firearms. Lawmakers in Connecticut are discussing legislation that could be introduced next year to increase the amount of state-mandated training. Lawmakers say both efforts have received support from private security firms that want state standards to more closely align with their corporate policies.

In Congress, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey introduced legislation earlier this year that would allow security firms to obtain FBI checks on their employees in states that do not currently conduct their own state or local reviews.

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Follow Christina Almeida Cassidy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Christina .