The Red Cross is a gun free zone
EXCLUSIVE: Retired police officer in DC told to leave instead of donating blood
Rob Aronson, a retired police officer, has been donating platelets at the Red Cross in D.C. a few times a month for the past year. But he was turned away last week by a guard for carrying a concealed gun.
The Red Cross says its corporate “gun policy” prohibits firearms at its facilities. Aronson says the policy puts law-abiding people in danger and is a deterrent to donating blood.
“I'm not looking to be a hero, but I'm just looking to have the capability to defend myself and those around me if something bad happens,” Aronson told me. “I've been carrying a Glock for 23 years and like to consider myself competent and very safety conscious.”
Aronson retired in 2020 from the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Department. He now lives in Washington has a concealed carry permit from Metropolitan Police Department through the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA).
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A Red Cross spokesperson told me that his permit doesn’t matter. This is their corporate “gun policy”:
The Red Cross prohibits all people entering Red Cross facilities from possessing, transferring, storing, selling or using weapons, whether openly or concealed and whether or not a person has a federal or state license or permit to possess the weapon.
Aronson believes a gun-free zone at the Red Cross donor site makes it vulnerable to violent criminals. “Unless they use magnetometers and x-ray equipment at the entrances, there's nothing to prevent a bad actor from entering and causing a real problem,” he said.
I asked a American Red Cross spokesperson to respond to Aronson’s comment about the safety of its buildings. This was the response:
This policy does not prohibit a person from securing a weapon in a locked, personal vehicle, parked in a public access lot on Red Cross premises, if the person is duly licensed and legally permitted to possess the weapon under the laws of the jurisdiction in which he or she is located.
Aronson said the Red Cross guard asked him to leave his gun in his car in DC.
“Leaving a loaded firearm in a parked and unattended motor vehicle is the height of irresponsibility,” Aronson said. “I don't see a need for installing a gun safe in all of my cars just to be able to donate blood.”
Aronson had his gun holstered on his belt when he entered the Dr. Charles Drew Red Cross Blood and Platelet Donation Center, which is a few blocks from the White House.
As he walked past the front door, a guard yelled out to ask if he was carrying a firearm. How did the guard know? “I'm very careful, but it's possible my shirt was pulled up a bit,” the retired police officer explained.
Aronson was honest with told the Red Cross guard and explained that he was retired law enforcement and offered to show his carry permit. The guard said he can’t donate with his gun — even though he had done so dozens of times before.
The Red Cross spokesman elaborated on the gun policy:
This is a corporate-wide Policy and applies to all employees and volunteers, as well as all individuals who enter a Red Cross facility, including but not limited to donors, vendors, clients and employees of co-located businesses.
It applies in any facility where the Red Cross conducts business, including disaster relief operations sites and blood drive locations.
Before contacting me, Aronson tried to find the policy on the Red Cross website but could not. He emailed customer service. He got back “a canned email” that said “there is a critical need for blood in this area” and asking him to make an appointment.
The Red Cross posts on its website that it is “experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade.” It says the “dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery.”
I asked the Red Cross spokesperson about the no-gun policy deterring people from giving blood. This was the response:
We recognize that the Red Cross corporate weapons policy may not conform to everyone’s personal choice, including our valuable blood donors. However, we must ask that anyone entering our Red Cross premises comply with our corporate no weapons policy.
Please remember that blood donations help save lives. The greatest danger to patients would be having no blood on the shelves when they need it most.
A decision to not give blood as a protest action will deprive patients of blood that may help save their lives.
But Aronson, a graduate of the NYPD Police Academy, said he’s never going back to the Red Cross building.
“When I left I told the guard and his supervisor that only good people follow the rules-- criminals don't,” he recalled. “I never go out unarmed. I live in DC and with all the carjackings etcetera, I'd rather be safe than sorry.”
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The bigger question is what protocol do they use to ensure no one has a weapon? It sounds as if security may have noticed this retiree carrying, but how many others have carried in the building without ever being noticed? The Red Cross like so many others, fail to realize that I'm armed while I'm in line behind you at the grocery store, sitting at the table next to you in a restaurant, driving next to you down the highway, and many other places, and you're none the wiser. Sadly, so are the criminals. These places don't want the good guys there, until the bad guys are there. Instead they prohibit the good guys, so when the bad guys show up, they have to call the good guys, and then wait for them to show up, and then it's too late. And places like The Red Cross, Starbucks, and others will pay the price one day, because you won't find others that think like me there. In fairness, I doubt the criminal element are consuming a lot of lattes either, so Starbucks is probably a tad safer for it.
I updated the story after I emailed it to reflect new responses from Red Cross on being unsafe to prohibit guns and the deterrent to donors. The responses are interesting.