Who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, looked at a coworker or a subordinate and wondered: Is he or she capable of violence?
In 2011, 458 people came to that answer, most of them by gunfire, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Their deaths represented an amalgam of workplace catastrophe. Often, it was the boss killed by an employee, upset over some perceived slight. Sometimes, it was the renegade colleague who showed up unannounced and opened fire on everything – and everyone – in sight.
Sometimes, the killer had domestic issues. Others, the assailant was a person no one expected.
The one notable link to most of these cases: In the aftermath, it was too-frequently determined that the individual had deep-rooted mental problems. That exact conclusion is suspected in Aaron Alexis’ deadly assault on the Washington Navy Yard on Sept. 16.
Try as we might to find a legislative solution to this cultural ill, we have failed to do so, and there is growing evidence that the tragic numbers have stayed unsettlingly static.
The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an annual count of fatal work injuries in the U.S., including homicides. From 2006 to 2010, an average of 551 workers per year were killed as a result of work-related homicides. In 2010 (the last year available from that agency), the bureau reported 518 workplace homicides. Some 77 of those were multiple-fatality killings.
In 2010, shootings accounted for 78 percent of all workplace homicides (405). And the venues were across the board. Most of those (27 percent) were in business’ largest sector, retailing. The rest were everywhere people work: for example, government (17 percent); education and health (4 percent); leisure and hospitality (15 percent); and transportation and warehousing (8 percent).
And if you’re wondering, a far greater number of shootings during that time frame was nonfatal.
In other words, no workplace is totally safe.
Even before the Washington shooting, Democrats were forging ahead with a poorly conceived plan to increase taxes on guns and ammunition. House Resolution 3018, a bill introduced by U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Bill Pascrell, proposes amending the Internal Revenue Code to essentially double the tax on handgun purchases and nearly quintuple the tax on the purchase of shells and cartridges.
They must be thinking that making weaponry more expensive is going to keep it out of the hands of people. (That includes good and decent people, who the Constitution grants the right to bear arms.) Suggesting that taxes serve such a purpose is a little like saying that increasing the taxes on coffee is going to stop all the caffeinated binging that goes on each morning around America.
What such proponents should be getting behind is the lingering national discussion on mental illness and the many other causes of violence among young people. Such talk was renewed in the wake of the Sandy Hook School tragedy last year, but it lost steam amid this year’s gun control debate in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, recently told us that mental illness needs to be part of the national discussion when seeking a nonpartisan solution. We’ve got to attack the problem at the root and de-stigmatize it, he said. Further, he believes our president needs to be leading a discussion that includes the topic of mental illness – and he needs to be bringing in the brightest minds, including National Alliance on Mental Illness, as resources to lead these talks.
We agree. “Taxing away the violence” isn’t the answer.