Aurora workplace gun violence has us again asking ‘why?’

SHARE Aurora workplace gun violence has us again asking ‘why?’

A mourner pays respects Sunday at a memorial for the five people killed two days earlier in a mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Like you, I was both saddened and shaken by the workplace violence at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora last week.

Aurora is like a kissing cousin.

My heart goes out to the families devastated by this latest mass shooting that claimed the lives of five employees and injured another.

Five police officers were also injured before SWAT teams were able to locate the shooter and stop him, killing him in an exchange of gunfire.

Police say Gary Martin, a 15-year employee, went on the shooting rampage after being fired.

Although scores of police officers stormed the large manufacturing complex within minutes to stem the carnage, they were too late to save the lives of five of Martin’s co-workers.

And while questions are being raised about how Martin, who had a felony conviction that prevented him from legally owning a firearm had one, the truth is, this shooting could have happened at any business.

I regularly hear from disgruntled employees who are still seething over perceived injustices that occurred decades ago.

The easy availability of guns has changed the environment of the workplace in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I entered the workforce.

Back then, when an employer let you go, you were handed a pink slip at the end of the day and that was it.

Today, in many companies, a termination is executed in the presence of an armed security guard who then escorts the former employee off the premises.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves.

What happened at Pratt could have happened at the Chicago Sun-Times or any other business.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, there were 500 workplace homicides in the United States in 2016, and shootings accounted for 394 of those fatalities.

Although “active shooter” cases in company settings get the most media attention, occupations most at risk include police officers, taxi cab drivers and gas station attendants.

I can’t heap enough praise on the police officers who ran into this deadly shooting scene like firemen running into burning buildings.

In the aftermath of this latest disaster, police officials are asking all the right questions about Martin.

Why did he even have a gun?

The 45-year-old was convicted nearly 25 years ago of stabbing a woman in Mississippi, and has been arrested six times in Aurora.

But Martin was still able to get a Firearm Owners Identification Card in 2014 and was able to legally purchase a handgun from an Aurora gun dealer.

Although his felony conviction was discovered shortly thereafter, and he was turned down for a concealed carry permit and his FOID card was revoked, law enforcement did not come for his Smith & Wesson handgun.

Police say Martin used that handgun in Friday’s shooting.

After much backtracking, law enforcement may discover that a loophole, clerical mistake or human error allowed Martin’s gun to slip through the cracks.

It won’t be the first time.

Dylann Roof, the then 21-year-old who killed nine people in a historically black church in South Carolina in 2015, is another mass shooter who took advantage of our convoluted gun laws.

Roof was able to buy the .45-caliber handgun he used to kill churchgoers because of “mistakes by F.B.I. agents, a failure by local prosecutors to respond to a bureau request for more information about Roof, and a weakness in federal gun laws,” the New York Times reported.

“We are all sick this happened,” then F.B.I. director James Comey said after the tragedy.

But being legally able to purchase a gun doesn’t always equate to being fit to own one.

Nikolas Cruz legally purchased the AR-15 style rifle a year before he gunned down 17 classmates and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.

The then 19-year-old was able to buy that gun even though he had a background of disciplinary problems and mental health issues.

While law enforcement will eventually be able to pinpoint where things went wrong with the paperwork, we will never know what sent Martin over the edge.

What we know for sure is he is not the only one on that ledge.

If your company hasn’t already come up with a safety plan for staff, don’t be afraid to tell the boss it’s time.

You never think this kind of gun violence will happen to you until it happens to you.

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