Firearms, the Workplace and Domestic Violence
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. The rapid police response and brave actions of Emcore Corp. employees are being credited with limiting the tragedy as a gunman swept into the Albuquerque business Monday. Police blamed the shootings that left three dead and four wounded on an ongoing domestic and custody dispute involving Robert Reza, 37, a former Emcore employee, and his ex-girlfriend, who still worked at the manufacturer of fiber optics and photovoltaic products in southeast Albuquerque.
At a news conference Monday evening Albuquerque Police Department Chief Ray Schultz said Reza knew his ex-girlfriend's routine and met her on the Emcore campus shortly before 9:30 a.m. He shot her and another person outside the building killing the other person, Schultz said. The woman, whose name has not been released, is in critical condition at University of New Mexico Hospital, he added.1
Problem of Firearms in the Workplace
Although firearms related incidents of violence may account for a small percentage of all crimes of violence that occur in the workplace, such crimes have the highest potential for lethality. As in the shootings in Albuquerque, NM, gun violence in the workplace has devastating and widespread impact on victims, employees, the workplace, and the community. With the addition of a firearm, in an instant an assault can turn deadly and end in multiple homicides.
- Homicide is a leading cause of death on the job for women in the United States.2
- Guns are used to intimidate and threaten 4-6 times more often than they are used to thwart crime.3
- In 2008, 67% of all homicides were committed with firearms.4
- Seventy-seven percent of workplace homicides are committed with firearms.5
- Each firearm injury results in medical costs of $17,000. Total cost of injuries is $2.3 billion per year.6
Relationship between Domestic Violence and firearms
A perpetrator of domestic violence with access to firearms can pose a deadly threat to the intended victim, as well as third party bystanders, family, friends, or coworkers. Consider that the workplace may serve as the only location where a perpetrator can readily access, or in some circumstances, locate an intended victim. The shootings in Albuquerque are an example of how the workplace can become an easy target for an estranged perpetrator of domestic violence.
- Eleven percent of all homicides on the job are related to domestic or family violence.7
- In 2000, approximately 40% of female homicide victims ages 15-50 were killed either by a current or former intimate partner. In 57% of these cases, the perpetrator used a gun.8
- According to Dr. Jacqueline Campbell, et al., author of the Dangerousness Assessment Tool, women who were threatened or assaulted with a gun or other weapon were 20 times more likely than other women to be murdered.9
- The presence of guns in the home results in an 8 fold increased homicide risk when the offender is an intimate partner.10
Why employers should take steps to prevent gun violence in the workplace
Employers-whether for profit corporations or non-profit organizations-have bottom lines and are concerned with boosting productivity and minimizing losses. Initiatives to prevent and address violence serve the employer's organizational goals because safe employees are productive employees and because the majority of employers do not wish to see harm come to their workers. In addition, employers have a duty to safeguard their workers from foreseeable dangers. Depending upon the particular facts of an incident and the size of the workplace, an employer could be seen as having a responsibility to mitigate the threat of firearms related violence under the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Employers could also face liability for damages arising out of the employer's failure to address and assuage foreseeable danger in the workplace.
What employers can do to prevent gun violence in the workplace
Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have impacted the ability of jurisdictions to regulate firearms and proposed laws have been introduced in several jurisdictions that could impact an employer's ability to exclude firearms from the workplace, even if the workplace is the employer's private property.
The Connecting Research to Security in Practice ("CRISP") report recommends the following steps to lessen risk of firearm related violence in the workplace:
- Develop, publicize, and enforce a workplace violence prevention policy. See the Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence "Create Your Policy" tool.
- Conduct a risk assessment in the workplace to determine the types of violence that might most impact your workplace and to identify where in the workplace and/or at what time of day employees might be most vulnerable to violence.
- Enforce a no-weapons policy for employees, as allowed by law.
- Take administrative and environmental precautions; initiate prevention activities, conduct trainings on workplace violence, take security measures to mitigate the threat of violence, create a workplace culture that supports victims and holds perpetrators of violence accountable. See Workplaces Respond to Domestic Violence: Model Policy.
- CBS News Online (July 12, 2010). Available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-20010291-504083.html
- Loomis, Dana, "Preventing Gun Violence in The Workplace," CRISP Report: Connecting Research in Security to Practice, Alexandria, VA: ASIS International Foundation, Inc. (September 8, 2008):1-34; US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Charts 2010, at 11 (2012).
- Hemenway, David and Azrael, Deborah, "The Relative Frequency of Offensive and Defensive Gun Uses: Results from a National Survey," Violence and Victims 15(3) (2000): 257-272.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Crime in the United States, 2008: Murder," (Washington, DC: GPO, 2009), Available at: https://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/offenses/expanded_information/homicide.html.
- 2012 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, TABLE A-2. Fatal Occupational Injuries Resulting from Transportation Incidents and Homicides, All United States, 2012, Available at: http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cftb0269.pdf (reporting that 381 of the 475 homicides were homicides by shooting).
- Cook PJ, Lawrence BA, Ludwig J, Miller TR. The medical costs of gunshot injuries in the United States. JAMA 282(5):447-54, 1999.
- Supra n.2 at 6.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reports 2000--Supplemental Homicide Report. Washington, DC.
- Available at: www.dangerassessment.org
- Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, et al., "Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home," New England Journal of Medicine 329, no. 15 (1993): 1084-1091.
- See U.S. v. Heller 554 U.S. 290 (2008) (holding that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense and struck down a District of Columbia law that banned the possession of handguns in the home); see also McDonald v. Chicago, 130 S. Ct. 3020 (2010). For state specific information on gun legislation, see Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Available at: http://www.bradycampaign.org/stategunlaws/
- Loomis, Dana, "Preventing Gun Violence in The Workplace," CRISP Report: Connecting Research in Security to Practice, Alexandria, VA: ASIS International Foundation, Inc. (September 8, 2008):1-34.