The timing seems so distant. But we still have not reached the six-month anniversary of one of the deadliest workplace shootings in U.S. history.
Late in the afternoon of May 31, a disgruntled city employee in Virginia Beach, Virginia, murdered two people on the grounds of his office building, and then proceeded inside and killed another 10.
The Virginia Beach massacre was unusual in that government buildings remain relatively rare sites for workplace shootings.
But as Polk County Commissioner John Hall explained on Nov. 19, that shooting motivated him to advocate for stronger security measures at county offices, which has won the support of the entire board.
On Nov. 19, commissioners unanimously approved a “marshal” plan that allows volunteers among the county staff to bring weapons to work after undergoing specialized firearms and security training from the Sheriff’s Office. This is similar to the guardian plan that state lawmakers approved for public schools, and which is in place at Southeastern University.
Sheriff Grady Judd has been one of the leading voices in Florida for such security measures throughout the state. ... Prior to the commissioners’ decision, Judd explained why he believed this move was necessary.
“I wished we still lived in an environment where we didn’t need guns in the workplace to keep employees and visitors safe,” Judd added. “But this is a new world.”
Today, the sheriff said, we face a “normal that goes on among people who are not normal” — wherein angry people harboring a “deranged, demented” mental state who decide they are “ready to die” opt to murder innocents they hold responsible for their situation.
Explaining why he advocates for the guardian strategy, Judd noted, “When the active shooter shows up, and you’re dialing 911, it’s too late. We’ve got to have somebody at the front end of this event. ... The way we used to do things will not protect people.”
That is a lesson we can draw from Virginia Beach.
According to local police, the gunman, DeWayne Antonio Craddock, stalked the building for seven minutes before cops arrived. In that time he murdered nine people, in addition to the two outside. He killed one more during the six minutes that elapsed before officers were able to locate, engage and fatally wound him in a shootout.
A few days after the shooting a lawyer representing the family of a victim, Kate Nixon, told the local media that the night before Craddock’s rampage Nixon and her husband had discussed her taking a gun to work. She knew another employee was due to be fired and feared he might have a volatile reaction. But Nixon opted to not bring the weapon, even though she had been trained to use it, because she didn’t want to violate the city’s ban on employees carrying guns in the workplace.
Nixon’s story is terribly sad. And if the choice before us is to face reality and allow select staffers who are sufficiently trained to carry guns in gun-free zones, or confiscate more than 300 million guns and yank a constitutional right for millions of law-abiding Americans out by the roots, we’ll take the former — and applaud the County Commission for also thinking this.
Judd explained it well. “It’ a game-changer when the ducks shoot back,” he told the board. “When we find a better way to do it, we’ll do it that way.”
An editorial from The Ledger in Lakeland.