Helping Evolv become a public company has been an incredible, and humbling experience. Our customers, employees, advisors, and investors have been wonderfully unified behind our mission of making the world a safer place, and we are truly thankful for their support. Building momentum through an unpredictable pandemic has been a wild ride, but we’ve come through it stronger than ever. Now that our transformation into EVLV on the NASDAQ is complete, it’s a good time to look to the future.
While becoming a public company is a noteworthy milestone for all our stakeholders, the stakeholders I am most focused on are the millions of innocent people rushing back into their favorite venues, unaware that they’re surrounded by concealed weapons. Compelling new data and the lived experiences of our customers have convinced me that the threat profile is spiking in ways that few people fully realize and even fewer are equipped to address. As security professionals, we need to start thinking differently about the threat and work together to address it.
Take Me Out to The Ballgame, but Don’t Touch Me.
After 16 months of pandemic anxiety, travel restrictions, lockdowns, social distancing, and masking, the vaccinated population is justifiably feeling entitled to return to all their favorite gathering places. Most people are emerging from the pandemic fog with excitement, but many still harbor significant anxiety about being in crowds or having physical contact with? strangers. The professionals who run facilities and venues are understandably thrilled to welcome back their visitors, but it must be done in a way that recognizes the long-lasting—and possibly permanent—changes in visitor expectations. Going back to densely crowded, hands-on security screening is not what anyone wants in the post-pandemic world.
There are More Guns than You Think
It’s no secret that there are a lot of guns out there, but many people don’t realize that they likely encounter multiple concealed guns every day without realizing it. Based on industry data, we estimate that there are over 440 million civilian-owned guns per person in the U.S. That’s around 1.3 guns for every person in the country. About 42% of U.S. households own at least one gun and few guns are kept exclusively at home. A quarter of Americans say they carry a gun at least sometimes and nearly a fifth, 18%, claim to carry every day. And no, it’s not just a red state thing: 28% of people in the Northeast say they carry a gun at least some of the time.
Another fact that might surprise you is that the United States is not the only country where civilian-owned guns are common. According to Small Arms Survey research, there are 85 countries with 10 or more civilian-owned guns per 100 population. The list includes Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries you might not expect. There are almost half a billion civilian-owned guns outside the United States, and while mass public shootings may feel less common in other countries, the list of tragic incidents outside the U.S. is not short.
Guns are in the Building
Nearly every privately-owned facility and venue prohibits dangerous weapons, but the inconvenient truth is that many weapons slip through. How do I know this? Because most of our customers tell us that when they start using our Evolv Express® weapons detection screening, they find a shocking number of guns—far more than they expected and more than they ever found using procedures based on old technology such as metal detectors. I know of one facility in the U.S. that found 57 concealed guns in their first hour of testing Evolv Express at a single entrance. And no, it wasn’t a gun show or a law enforcement convention. It was a place where any average American family might find themselves on any given day of the week.
The stark reality is that old metal detector screening procedures fail to catch a lot of guns. That’s not to say metal detectors don’t work—it’s the combined system of people, process, and technology that fails. Metal detectors alarm on so many harmless objects that security staff divert all bags and pocket contents into slow, error-prone manual searches. Working under the angry stares of hundreds of frustrated visitors, security staff are under incredible pressure to keep things moving. The guns slip through.
A Fraying Society is a Dangerous Society
The likelihood of tragic violence increases when more guns are in the hands of people who are unusually anxious or fearful. New gun purchases were up 64% last year in the United States. The CDC says 40% of U.S. adults reported recent battles with mental health or substance abuse during 2020, with the prevalence of anxiety up 3X and depression up 4X year on year. And ongoing political polarization and extremist ideologies are creating an increasingly volatile situation.
More guns in more anxious hands means more tragic incidents. It’s just math, but that’s the reality of where we are as a society. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security summarized the situation in a 30 June law enforcement bulletin as follows:
In recent weeks, domestic violent extremists (DVEs) motivated by various violent ideologies have continued to advocate violence and plan attacks. As of 16 June, racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist-white supremacists (RMVE-WSs) were sharing downloadable links to a publication discussing targeting mass gatherings, critical infrastructure, and law enforcement officers.
It’s not just a handful of extremists who are changing the threat landscape. While only a tiny minority of gun owners are infected with the extremist ideologies that the DHS is tracking, the fact remains that many of people around us every day are feeling threatened enough to arm themselves. This increases the risk of tragic escalations where misunderstandings and opportunistic conflict can quickly erupt into violence.
The Duty of Care to Keep People Safe
The police recently arrested a man who tried to enter a major tourist destination with an unlicensed gun that was detected by Evolv Express. When questioned, the man explained that he felt threatened by recent public protests and felt he needed the gun to protect his family on vacation, and was willing to take the risk of detection. That’s where we are. The strength of the “visible deterrent” factor is fading fast. Facilities and venues need to start reliably detecting and stopping guns, and then let the public know they have this capability. It’s the only way to reclaim the lost ground, and it needs to happen soon.
If anxious gun owners are trying to slip into major tourist destinations with guns even when they know it is illegal and can clearly see security screening in place, it is safe to assume that they are also entering schools, grocery stores, malls, houses of worship, and other facilities where weapons are also prohibited, but screening is largely absent. The threat is everywhere.
As noted earlier, our customers tell us they find a surprising number of weapons with Evolv Express. They also tell us they love that they find more guns while allowing harmless visitors to enter ten times faster than their old screening process based on metal detectors and universal bag checks. They tell us they need fewer front-line security staff overall with Evolv Express, and the remaining staff loves the new process. They also tell us they love the operational awareness they get from Express Insights™ analytics. We hear this same story across hundreds of sites as we scan over 11 million individual visitors every month.
At this point, I believe it has become abundantly clear that Evolv Express has set a new and higher standard for what security screening should be. I believe every facility and venue owner has a duty of care to carefully consider the new standard that our weapons detection system represents in light of the escalating threats we’re seeing. We are committed to democratizing access to this technology over time so it can be everywhere it needs to be to keep the vulnerable masses safe.
If you want to be part of raising the standard of safety for millions of people, we’d love to have your support. Here are a few ideas on how you can help. If you are responsible for security at a facility or venue, please get in touch so we can discuss your needs. Consider speaking with the security staff at the places you gather most often and ask them if they have considered weapons detection. If you’ve experienced the speed and precision of Evolv Express in person, help us tell the world about it. And if you are looking to get more directly involved, note that we’re hiring in almost every department. Together we can all do a little to make everywhere safer.
President & CEO
Peter G. George has been Evolv’s Chief Executive Officer and President since January 2020. Prior to assuming the role of Chief Executive Officer at Evolv, Mr. George served as Chief Commercial Officer of Evolv from February 2019 to December 2019. Prior to joining Evolv, Mr. George served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Fidelis Cybersecurity, a company focused on threat and data breach detection, from March 2008 to August 2019. Mr. George also served as the Chief Executive Officer of Empow Cybersecurity, a company offering intelligent, AI and natural language processing solutions to reduce false positives during threat detection, from March 2018 to November 2018. Mr. George serves on the Board of Directors of Corero Network Security PLC (LON: CNS), including its Compensation Committee, since January 2019. Mr. George received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the College of the Holy Cross in 1981.