There has been a lot of discussion on the effectiveness of firearms in executive protection. For many protectors, as well as for protectees, guns are synonymous with protection. In addition, they appear to be an indispensable requirement for exercising this profession. That is why we gave ourselves the difficult task of determining, with facts, the effectiveness of firearms in real-life situations.
However, this purpose is almost impossible to specify through absolute scientific rigor since, only in Mexico, it would be practically unfeasible to account for how many people perform this activity, including:
- Private security agents,
- Complementary police,
- Police officers,
- Military who perform these tasks on official commission,
- Military in retirement who work on their own, etc.
We do not have a precise number of protectors in the world. We do not know how many of them have a gun, nor the number of total events in which they could have used it with or without success.
Methodology and Data on Firearms in Executive Protection
We know that only in Mexico, according to the INEGI, in the last three decades, a total of 2.877 executives have been murdered. Still, we ignore how many of them had protectors and how many carried firearms.
If we extrapolate this globally, doing an exact study becomes impossible. That is why we decided to take a representative sample that allowed us to obtain a result, although approximate, significant enough to determine the performance of firearms in executive protection.
For this purpose, we analyze 124 attacks against prominent public figures during the 20th and the 21st centuries in 60 countries.
What were the criteria for considering these 124 cases? For the sample to be significant, we took into account the following aspects:
- Universal nature – the cases are from around the world;
- Historically verifiable and widely disseminated facts;
- The number of cases is sufficiently representative;
- Covers a significant period;
- It is verifiable that the victims had an armed security protection team;
- Victims are people of very high rank in their respective countries or persons with official protection assigned by the authorities. (So, it can be presumed that the agents that provided protection were duly selected and trained. Thus, the reaction failures can not be attributed to a lack of training or aptitude, characteristic of extreme relevance for the present analysis).
Only assassinations and assassination attempts have been considered because kidnappings would be impossible to quantify. Moreover, it would be extremely difficult to have historically verifiable facts about the performance of armed personnel in each case. The same applies to the use of firearms against random assaults and other types of similar problems since they are even less documented.
Relevance of Firearms in Executive Protection
The sample of the 124 universal and verifiable cases is sufficiently broad and representative to show us what the best-armed security groups, in their respective countries, managed to do in the cases of actual attacks that occurred over more than a century and what was the relevance that firearms had to protect people in all these cases.
To consider that in a particular attack the use of firearms was successful, the criterion is that weapons should have been used effectively. That is to say that their use was decisive for the protectee to be unharmed. Otherwise, the survival could be attributed to an accident and not to the effectiveness of weapons.
Of course, the study also considered some documented cases where measures such as intelligence were decisive, so the attack was deactivated far from the protectee in space and in time as it should be in modern executive protection.
We divided the cases into two parts:
- In the first one, the attacks were not successful for various reasons, and
- In the second one, the attacks had a fatal result.
We can note that only in 4.03% of cases, firearms were decisive in saving the protectees.
So, this particular study shows very little relevance and reliability that this tool has in executive protection. Of course, as we could also see, 4.03% can save the life of the protectee, so it should not be abolished.
Myth and Action Movies
Firearms should not be considered the main tools in executive protection, nor should the security system of a VIP be focused on its employment. Of course, this is not intended to be a definitive study. Still, it can give a general idea about the degree of effectiveness of firearms in executive protection.
It is also important to note that, for decades, its preponderance in this industry was based on a myth or in action movies — not on the facts or the hard data.
Surprisingly, in 7.2% of the cases, the attacks were frustrated or later controlled by “empty hands.” These techniques were used against the lonely aggressors who attacked public figures from the crowd. This does not necessarily mean empty-hand combat techniques are more effective than weapons. This simply showed their efficacy for a specific threat that was frequent in the study, but it also means that empty-hand combat skills are essential in executive protection.
It is important to point out the attack against the presidential candidate of Colombia, Luis Carlos Galán, who was killed despite having 18 heavily armed agents. This fact makes it evident that a numerous and heavily armed detail is not necessarily an effective detail.
So the present representative sample gives an approximate value of 4.03% effectiveness of firearms in real-life situations. Of course, some might highlight its importance as a deterrent factor. However, analyzing its other advantages and disadvantages is not the subject of this study. Here we focus solely on analyzing a representative sample of its effectiveness in real crises.
In conclusion, the firearm in executive protection is a tool of minor importance and reliability. However, it should not be dismissed since, as we saw, it can save our lives in some conditions.
The important thing is to focus our operations on preventive activities that allow us to anticipate and deactivate the attacks before they happen and stop focusing our operations on methods that historically didn’t give enough results.
- Eduard, Prince of Wales – 1900
- Leopold II, King of Belgium – 1902
- Alfonso XIII, King of Spain – 1906
- Theodore Roosevelt, presidential candidate, EU – 1912
- Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Leader of Soviet Revolution – 1918
- Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France – 1919
- Benito Mussolini, Leader of Fascist Italy – April 1926
- Benito Mussolini, Leader of Fascist Italy – May 1926
- Herbert Hoover, President USA – 1928
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, President USA – 1933
- Keisuke Okada, Prime Minister of Japan – 1936
- Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Sha de Iran – 1949
- Harry Truman, President USA – 1950 (firearms were decisive)
- Prince Hussein, Prince of Jordan – 1960
- Konrad Adenauer, German Chancellor – 1952
- Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa – 1960
- Charles de Gaulle, President of France – 1961
- Charles de Gaulle, President of France – 1962
- Georgios Papadopoulos, President of Greece – 1968
- Leonid Brezhnev, Secretary General of the Soviet Union – 1969
- George Wallace, presidential candidate EU – 1972
- Ana, Princess of England – 1974
- Sukarno, President of Indonesia – 1962
- Gerald Ford, President USA – 1975
- Isabel II, Queen of England – 1981
- Pope John Paul II – 1981
- Reagan, President of the United States – 1981
- Chun Doo Hwan, President of South Korea – 1983
- Margaret Thatcher, first female British Prime Minister – 1984
- Augusto Pinochet, President of Chile – 1986 (firearms were decisive)
- Wolfgang Schäuble, German Prime Minister – 1990
- John Major, Prime Minister of UK – 1991
- Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia – 1992
- Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia – 1995
- Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt – 1995 (firearms were decisive)
- Kiro Gligorov, President of Macedonia – 1995
- José María Aznar, Spanish politician – 1995
- Prince Charles of Wales – 1995
- Eduard Shevardnadze, President of Georgia – 1998
- Jacques Chirac, President of France – 2002
- Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan – 2002 (firearms were decisive)
- Pervez Musharaf, President of Pakistan – 2003
- Murat Zyazikov, President of Ingushetia – 2004
- Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Pakistan – 2004
- Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh – 2004
- Ibrahim Rugova, President of Kosovo* – 2005
- Pervez Musharaf, President of Pakistan – 2007
- George W. Bush, President USA and Mikhail Saakashvili, President of Georgia – 2005
- Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, President of Somalia – 2006
- Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Secretary of Defense of Sri Lanka – 2006
- Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States – 2007
- Guillaume Soro, Prime Minister of Ivory Coast – 2007
- Abdul Gayoom, President of Maldives – 2008
- Jose Ramos Horta, President of East Timor – 2008
- Queen Beatrix, Queen of Netherlands – 2009
- Yunus-bek Yevkurov, Leader of Ingushetia – 2009
- Stephen Timms, British Labor MP – 2010
- Ali Abdulah Saleh, President of Yemen – 2011
- Alpha Condé, President of Guinea (firearms were decisive)
- Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Leader of the Pakistani Senate – 2017
- Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela – 2018
- Omar Garcia Harfuch, Chief of the City of Mexico – 2020
- Ivan Duque, President of Colombia – 2021
- Assimi Goita, President of Mali – 2021
- Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia – 2022
- William McKinley, President USA – 1901
- Francisco Fernando (Franz Ferdinand), Archduke of Austria – 1914
- Sidonian Country, President of Portugal – 1918
- Michael Collins, Irish Revolutionary Leader – 1922
- Ahmet Muhtar Zogolli – 1924
- Aleksandar I, King of Yugoslavia – 1939
- Walter Edward Minister of United Kingdom in the Middle East- 1944
- Ahmad Mahar Pasha, Egypt Prime Minister – 1945
- Mahmud Fahmi Nokrashi, Egyptian Prime Minister – 1948
- Abdullah I, King of Jordan – 1951
- José Antonio Remón Cantera, President of Panama – 1955
- Hendrik Verwoerd, Prime Minister of South Africa – 1960
- Hazza Al Majali, Jordan’s Prime Minister – 1960
- Louis Rwagasore, Prime Minister of Burundi – 1961
- John F. Kennedy, President USA – 1963
- Jospeh Bamina, Prime Minister of Burundi – 1965
- Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, President of South Africa – 1966
- Robert F. Kennedy, United States Attorney General – 1968
- Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Somalia President – 1969
- Wasfi Al-Tal, Prime Minister of Jordan – 1971
- Abdul Rahman, Malaysian Police General Inspector – 1974
- Francois Tombalbaye, President of Chad – 1975
- Shaik Mujibur Rajman, President of Bangladesh – 1975
- Muhammed, Head of State Nigeria – 1976
- Hans Martin Schleyer, German business leader – 1977
- Markenngouabi, President of Congo – 1977
- Ahmad Bin Hussein al-Ghashmi, President of the Republic of Yemen – 1978
- Park Chung Hee, President of South Korea – 1979
- Lord Louis Mountbatten, Diplomatic, British Royal Navy Officer – 1979
- William Richard Tolbert, President of Liberia – 1980
- Anwar Sadat, First Minister of Egypt – 1981
- Ziaur Rahman, President of Bangladesh – 1981
- Bachir Gemayel, elected President of Liban – 1982
- Mohammad Ali Rajai, President of Iran – 1981
- Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India – 1984
- Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Minister of Justice of Colombia – 1984
- Thimas Sankara, President of Burkina Faso, 1987
- Carlos Mauro Hoyos, Attorney General of Colombia – 1988
- Luis Carlos Galan, Presidential Candidate of Colombia – 1989
- James N Rowe, US Military Advisor – 1989
- Waldemar Franklin Quintero, Commander of Antioquia Police, Colombia – 1989
- Alfred Herrhausen, CEO Deutsche Bank – 1989
- Samuel Doe, President of Liberia – 1990
- Bernardo Jaramillo Ossa, Presidential Candidate, Leader of The Patriotic Union Party – 1990
- Rajiv Gandhi, Hindu Politician – 1991
- Giovanni Falcone, Judge for Anti-Mafia – 1992
- Melchoir Ndadaye, President of Burundi – 1993
- Luis Donaldo Colosio, Presidential Candidate in Mexico – 1994
- Juvento Habyarimana, President of Rwanda – 1994
- Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel – 1995
- Vazgen Sargsyan, Prime Minister of Armenia – 1999
- Luis María Argaña, Vice President of Paraguay – 1999
- Zoran Djindjic, Prime Minister of Serbia – 2003
- João Bernardo Vieira, President of Guinea 2009
- Ali Abdulah Saleh, President of Yemen – 2017
- Alexander Zajarchenko, President of the Republic of Donetsk – 2018
- Aristotle Sandoval, former Governor of the State of Jalisco – 2020
- Jovenel Moise, President of Haiti – 2021
- Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan – 2022