Friday, November 26, 2021
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In Market: Safe, clean and secure

🕐 3 min read

Fourteen innocent people dead at last count, resulting from the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2. That shooting followed close on the heels of the shootings at a Colorado Planned Parenthood site. And, even as I’m writing this, Arlington Heights High School is on lockdown after someone fired a gun at a McDonald’s down the street from the school.

One report, compiled via the reddit community, says there have been at least 351 mass shootings so far this year. That count defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people, including the gunman, are killed or injured by gunfire.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 14,770 workplace homicide victims between 1992 and 2012.

While many might think workplace homicides would be concentrated among law enforcement and similar fields, that’s not the case. From 2003 to 2012 over half of the workplace homicides occurred within three occupation classifications: sales and related occupations, 28 percent; protective service occupations, 17 percent; and transportation and material moving occupations, 13 percent.

The modern era of mass shootings is often traced to the attacks at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. Until then, most law enforcement agencies established a perimeter around the incident and began negotiating. The perpetrators at Columbine however, continued killing victims. Now, agencies look to confront shooters are soon as possible to minimize casualties. If you haven’t read Dave Cullen’s book about the Columbine massacre, you should, with one caveat: It makes the scariest Stephen King story seem like a Mother Goose rhyme. It lays bare the modern world in cold, unflinching terms.

Don’t look to me for any easy answers to this. While many want to restrict access to some weapons, what happens when incidents like this occur? Sales of guns increase. Few politicians want to venture into the shark-infested waters of gun control. As for the politicians who won’t even discuss gun control, many rush to increase the budget for mental health programs, claiming that will put some salve on our national wounds. I don’t know about you; it doesn’t provide me with much comfort.

Of course, this being Texas, we’ve been offering concealed weapons courses and have been discussing open carry ideas for years. That hasn’t made this state any more immune from mass shootings, as far as I can tell.

I found it interesting re-reading a report on one of the earliest mass shootings that I remember, the case of the University of Texas sniper Charles Whitman in 1966. Whitman climbed the UT Tower on Aug. 1 of that year, then shot and killed 15 people. What I did not recall, until I re-read the report, was that when Austin policemen Houston McCoy and Ramiro “Ray” Martinez reached the tower platform to stop Whitman, officials had to get people on the ground to stop firing at Whitman so the cops could safely go out on the platform.

So while armed citizens seems like a great idea in principle, taking care of the tactical side can be a little more problematic.

Sometime in the 1980s, I attended a Frank Zappa concert at the Dallas Convention Center. The musical wunderkind was playing his complex, multi-metered version of rock when some idiot who had wandered in from a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert threw a half-full bottle of Jack Daniels at Zappa. The drunken fool missed, but Zappa immediately stopped the show and identified the fool to security, who escorted him out.

Regaining his composure, Zappa stepped up to the microphone and in a clear voice said: “Everyone deserves a safe and clean working environment.” Zappa may have received his biggest applause of the night to that statement.

That’s about as much wisdom as I can come up with at the moment as we watch another tragedy unfold. We all deserve to go to work or school in the mornings and come home at night. I just don’t know how we do it.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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