Vail Daily column: Time to lock up guns
Tom’s firing was partly my fault. I walked in on something going down between Tom and Bruce. Interrupted, Tom muttered, “I guess some people might consider that sexual harassment” before walking out the door. I asked what happened and Bruce replied, “Tom touched me.” Turns out, Tom had been giving Bruce unwelcome shoulder massages for a while. Bruce was too nice to tell him to knock it off.
Just then Chris walked in. She was one of the senior consultants and Tom’s boss. Perhaps she sensed the tension in the room. She looked from me to Bruce and asked, “What’s up?” That’s when I blurted out, “Tom touched Bruce.” This required Bruce to explain about the shoulder massages, again.
How was I supposed to know what Chris was going to do next? She disappeared into the conference room. When she saw Tom return she called him into the conference room. Then we all heard her say, “Get a box.”
Following Tom’s departure, Chris called an office meeting to discuss what had happened. We were a small satellite office of a large consulting firm — eight junior consultants (now reduced by one) and two senior consultants. Several coworkers were in shock. Summary dismissals were not part of our corporate culture. Chris explained that Tom’s job performance was sub-par and his inappropriate behavior provided her the justification she needed to terminate him.
As my colleagues processed what transpired I wrestled with what I felt I had to divulge. You see, I knew Tom a little better than most. We started work within a week of one another and worked a few projects together. We even socialized on occasion. No, I did not date him, thank God. To this day I cannot accurately articulate why, but the guy creeped me out. From what I gleaned from the office meeting, he creeped everyone out. But the most salient fact I knew about Tom was that he was a competitive pistol shooter with a small arsenal in his apartment. I shared my concern that Tom was a prime candidate for “going postal,” that unfortunate term spawned by several notorious workplace shootings perpetrated by U.S. postal workers. One colleague looked shocked and disgusted that I would say such a thing, but another jumped in with a theory of his own — that Tom was a three-time loser. He was passed over for promotion in the Air Force, fired from our consultancy and recently divorced. Now everyone looked nervous. We locked the office door. No one thought the lock would protect us, only slow him down.
Tom never returned. I do not regret sharing my concerns, however paranoid they may seem in retrospect. Vester Flanagan, the shooter who killed Alison Parker and Adam Ward before turning the gun on himself, snapped after a lifetime of perceived injustices. Before he was fired, WDBJ Channel 7 documented numerous behavioral problems in his employment file and even directed him to seek counseling.
If Tom wanted to gun down everyone in our office, offing Chris before taking aim at me, nothing could have prevented it. Nor could WDBJ have expected a former employee to turn violent and shoot former coworkers. People are not arrested for what they might do.
But is there nothing to be done? The prevalence of gun violence in America is unmatched by any other advanced, civilized nation. Sure, Tom and Flanagan passed background checks before buying their weapons, as did Charleston shooter Dylann Roof. Even still, not all gun purchases go through licensed dealers. Background checks are not required at gun shows, but they should be. The gun-show loophole should be closed.
But criminals will find a way to get guns, the argument goes. Perhaps, which is why we should make it harder by requiring all guns be stored under lock and key. The recent road-rage incident in Vail featured a stolen weapon with the serial number scratched off. On Aug. 25, a third-grader in Georgia brought a gun to school he found in his home and accidentally shot a classmate. Some gun owners think they are safer with an unsecured gun on the bedside table, that they will be fast enough on the draw in the event of an intruder; most of the time they are wrong. John C. Donohue writing for CNN.com points out, “A loaded, unsecured gun in the home is like an insurance policy that fails to deliver at least 95 percent of the time you need it, but has the constant potential … to harm someone in the home or (via theft) the public at large.”
The government is not coming for your guns, but criminals definitely are — lock them up.
Some names have been changed to protect me from a lawsuit.
Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be found online at clairenoble.org or follow her on Twitter @thewriteclaire.