Saturday, September 29, 2012

10,000 Lakes, 10,000 Rounds of Ammunition

Fatal shootings in or near workplaces by disaffected former employees seem to have become part of the accepted backdrop of American life.

Only a month ago, in New York City, a disturbed former clothing designer lay in wait outside the Empire State Building for the co-worker whom he blamed for the loss of his job. The 58-year-old former employee shot and killed his intended victim — then was killed by police himself after taking out his gun again when they confronted him.

Nine bystanders were injured, presumably by the barrage of bullets (16 rounds) fired by police. This all went down immediately outside of one of America’s signature tourist attractions.

Two days ago, another horrific workplace shooting unfolded in a different American city. This time the scene was a sign manufacturing business in Minneapolis. A 36-year-old engraver who was being let go fatally shot five people and injured three others. He then descended to the building’s basement and killed himself.

Today’s account in the Star Tribune contained numerous storylines that could be explored in greater depth.

One is the ubiquity of guns in the U.S. today. The Minneapolis gunman used a 9 mm Gluck revolver. Police also found a second gun in his house, as well as packaging for 10,000 rounds of ammunition.

Another theme in these shootings is the pressure our hard-driving work culture exerts on all concerned. When the drive for success is so palpable in the workplace, it stands to reason that the chances of someone snapping increase.

Most people don’t snap. But why is it that some do? In some cases, mental illness is surely a precipitating factor.

The parents of the shooter in the Minneapolis case had apparently tried to get their son into counseling. He had resisted their efforts, however, and distanced himself from them.

In their statement to the media, the parents noted that their son’s battle with mental illness was “not an excuse for his actions, but sadly, may be a partial explanation.”

Indeed it may.

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