Monday, August 9, 2010

Ending Workplace Violence?

I read an article this morning on MSNBC that had me thinking about the shooting at the beer distributor in Connecticut. The article used that story as a backdrop to discuss violence in the workplace.

Now, according to the article, there are an average of 63 murders at work per year. Compared to the number of employees in this country, this is a small number. However, there are at least 63 families for which that number represents the entire world. Their world.

\The author notes that these attacks, “rarely come with a warning, making them hard to stop.” Then, in the very next paragraph, they advise to take prudent steps when there is some indication that there will be violence. Good advice, but it does little to solve the problem presented—attacks without warning.

What about a different approach? These acts of violence end when one of three things happens:

1. The shooter stops shooting, yet remains alive—whether because they have tired of the violence, or they have run out of ammunition

2. The shooter kills himself.

3. The shooter is stopped or killed by someone else.

The problem here is that the first two (which appear to be the most common scenarios) depend on the will of the one who started the violence in the first place. We hope and pray that the one who did not respect life a few seconds ago will now have a change of heart. This is not a good strategy.

Let’s talk about the third one. Imagine—if, in each of the cited scenarios, the victims had the right and the ability to stand up for themselves. I can’t guarantee that no innocent lives would be lost, but the shooter would no longer have the luxury of deciding when to end the violence. It would be ended for him.

How’s that for a defense strategy? What would Omar Thornton’s plans have been if he knew there was almost a guarantee that others in that plant would be armed? How would Amy Bishop Anderson have acted if she knew that the people in the conference room had weapons? Perhaps the case of Matthew Murray is instructive. Sure, Matthew Murray killed himself, yet he only did so after Jeanne Assam confronted him and made it impossible for him to continue.

Now, I understand that a few incidents do not make a statistical certainty, and yet, you have to wonder—what would be different if victims were always allowed the dignity to defend themselves?


Bob S. said...


How many work place violence issues do you see in gun stores, eh?

There is a reason for that -- the victims usually have the ability to defend themselves.

I wonder if there is any correlation between strict gun control law states and states with higher work place violence.

Lawyer said...


That's a good question. I've never looked into it. However, I'm not willing to be a test statistic. Interesting, what happened at work two days later. That's the next post.