As we stand, the nation is currently reeling from the second of two recent mass shootings. Much of the coverage we see still revolves around events in Nashville and Louisville, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
So I wasn’t surprised to see Vox have a report on them. Considering the nature of Louisville, I wasn’t surprised to see that the piece focused on workplace mass shootings, either.
What was surprising was an admission they made in the reporting.
Monday’s mass shooting at Old National Bank in Louisville, Kentucky, is the latest instance of horrific gun violence in a workplace. According to CNN, the shooter, a bank employee, had been informed that he was being fired after working at his current job for about a year.
The Louisville attack follows other recent workplace shootings including on a mushroom farm in Half Moon Bay, California, in January and at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, in November 2022. Both were perpetrated by someone who was employed or formerly employed by these establishments.
Mass shootings at work, like mass shootings generally, are rare occurrences. Though more common in the US than elsewhere in the world, mass shootings make up less than 1 percent of gun violence deaths in the US, and workplace shootings comprise a smaller subset of those fatalities. The workplace is the most common location for a mass shooting, however, according to the Violence Project.
Honestly, I was surprised, to say the least.
More often, we see media–including blatantly leftward media like Vox–try to use Gun Violence Archive numbers which artificially inflate the numbers of mass shootings by broadening the definition so much it no longer resembles what most folks think of when they hear the term.
Vox, on the other hand, is using a much more realistic set of numbers, which means we can actually engage in some meaningful discussion.
And yes, mass shootings are actually pretty rare. Sure, we hear about them seemingly often, but that’s actually evidence of their rarity.
When was the last time you saw a news report of an ordinary car accident?
If you’re in a small, sleepy community, your local weekly newspaper might cover it if there was nothing else to report, but more likely, you didn’t. Those accidents happen daily and in such numbers that they’re not news.
Mass shootings, though? Those aren’t that common. What happened in Louisville is rare, making it newsworthy.
But what else does Vox say? Does it go completely off the rails from here?
And mass shootings in the workplace have seen a slight uptick in recent years. Since 2020, there have been eight such mass shootings, per data that James Densley, a sociologist at Metropolitan State University, shared with Vox. That’s a higher rate than in preceding years, when there were nine workplace mass shootings documented between 2010-2019. In the decades before, such shootings were more prevalent, however, with 14 taking place between 2000-2009 and 17 occurring between 1990-1999.
According to gun violence experts, workplace mass shootings typically involve current or former employees who have a problem with the workplace, who have easy access to guns, and who may be experiencing their own mental health challenges. “They are underlined by some grievance with the workplace and the people in it. But mass shootings generally, including workplace shootings, are more deeply driven by despair,” says Densley.
While I disagree with the idea that easy access to guns is any part of the problem, I will give them credit for not chalking everything up to guns. Instead, they seem to acknowledge mental health as an aspect of this phenomenon. With workplace shootings, there do tend to be grievances on some level as well.
Remember that, for a while, most mass shootings seemed to be workplace related. The term “going postal” came from what was then a seemingly high number of postal workers shooting up their workplaces. Most of these killers had some kind of beef with someone at work.
Yet here’s something interesting that Vox notes. It seems someone kind of predicted this reported increase in workplace mass shootings.
There’s a lot more to the Vox report, and there are a lot of things I’d love to discuss about it, including addressing what looks like an attempt to blame increased gun sales during the pandemic on an increase in gun violence–a link that is correlated, but not causal–but the truth is that this particular piece has run on long enough.
Good on Vox for not letting the narrative overrun too much of their reporting.
Mass shootings are real and they’re a problem, but artificially inflating the situation doesn’t do anyone any good. In fact, it may ultimately hurt our attempts at finding real, meaningful solutions.