What is the Appropriate PR Reaction to the LA Fitness Shooting?


Last night’s tragic LA Fitness shooting resulted in up to five deaths in a Pittsburgh gym. The Philadelphia Inquirer describes the incident:

A man carrying a duffel bag walked into a rear door of the L.A. Fitness center in the suburb of Collier last night and opened fire, killing four or five people and wounding as many as 11 more.

Allegheny County police said they believed the gunman was among the dead.

The wounded were transported to UPMC Mercy, Allegheny General, and St. Clair hospitals.

UPMC Mercy spokeswoman Linda Ross said her facility received five victims – all women with multiple gunshot wounds who initially were listed in critical condition.

This shooting implies that gyms, like schools and post offices before them, risk losing their sanctuary status. The shooting took place in a fitness class comprised mostly of women. It’s important for female customers to feel safe in the gym, and especially in classes, which many attend for a supportive atmosphere.

The shooting was probably an isolated incident. However, it did take place in the sanctuary that is a women’s fitness class. For that reason, LA Fitness needs to take measures to assure its customers that it has beefed up security, if only by locking doors after classes begin. This could be a temporary measure, but it is symbolically important. If women feel unsafe their classes, they won’t come back. By reassuring them with increased security measures, LA Fitness will retain customers’ trust. The Pittsburgh tragedy presents the gym with an opportunity to assert itself as a caring organization.

What do you think the appropriate PR reaction would be? Would locking doors be overkill, given the rarity of the situation?

How to Pick the Right Job For You
  • Sue

    As I’ve been to the gym precisely twice in my entire life, I’m not sure my opinion counts for much – but I really don’t like the idea of being locked into a building over which I have no control. What if there were a fire? What if there were an instructor I really hated and I wanted to leave the class early?!

    I might limit access to the building – no “rear doors”, everyone comes through the front, has their membership double-checked, maybe their bag checked too. I might hire a couple of extra security staff. But I don’t think locking people in is the solution. It makes me feel claustrophobic just thinking about it.

  • How about just introducing card-based access, and maybe also security personnel at the front entrance?

  • Drea,

    It would seem that there are no sanctuaries. Locking the door after the class starts may well be a fire code violation. The larger issue is that we are producing men in this society who treat women like property and who would rather see their property dead than lost to them. (This is, admitedly, a leap, based on early reports that the shooter might have been after a former girlfriend.) Of course, there are women who feel the same way (and who, armed with crazy glue and a few other paramours of their cheating beloved, will do unspeakable things), but there is a testosterone loaded quality to male possessiveness that too often erupts into violence. The gym isn’t safe. Neither is the grocery store, church, school, or any other public place.


  • Drea

    Sue–Good point about the fire code and being trapped if you wanted to leave. Security up front does sound like a very reasonable solution, or, as Mihnea wrote, card access. There are certainly ways of feeling safer without breaking codes.

    Melanie–The idea of there not being any sanctuaries makes me want to hide–not an option, of course. I still think it would be in the gym’s best interest to at least create a feeling of safety after this tragic event. You make a valid and scary point about the bigger picture. What can we, as a society, do to stop producing men like the ones you describe?

  • Drea,

    How we stop producing the kind of men who could perpetrate such a crime is a much bigger topic than can be covered here. Does it begin at home? Probably. Mothers cannot treat their sons like little princes and not have them grow up to be problem men. Fathers cannot raise their sons to be stoic macho men, either. But I am inclined to believe that a great deal of good can be done when men hold one another accountable. That is, when they speak up against shoddy behavior, disrespectful talk, and macho extremism. I know some men who have that kind of courage. We need as many of them as we can get.


  • LAF Member

    I am a member at La Fitness. Not the one that the shooting occured at. It was a shock to me to hear of this tragity, most of the members are on a first name basis with the employees. It just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I don’t understand how having a card check in system would help anything. (LA fitness does have a card check in system at the front desk)