Yesterday, a former Navy reservist Aaron Alexis, 34, allegedly shot and killed 12 people and wounded several more at the Washington Navy Yard before losing his own life in a series of firefights with D.C. and U.S. Park Police.
Yesterday’s mass shooting was yet another reminder of the violent epidemic that our country faces all too often it seems. I won’t try to argue the case that guns are bad, as a responsible gun owner myself, I believe that qualified Americans have a right to own a gun. Yet the reality of this situation is that guns are prevalent in our society, but so are the amount of persons suffering from emotional and behavioral health issues that seem to be at the root of these mass shootings.
Yesterday’s shooter, Aaron Alexis was described as a former Navy reservist suffering from PTSD. Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting was thought to have had a personality disorder, according to police handling that investigation. Nidal Hassan, the Army psychiatrist who turned on his fellow soldiers in the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, was said to be suffering from depression and stress.
After the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009 and Sandy Hook last December, we all came to the realization that a mass shooting can happen anywhere and at any time. Yesterday’s shooting on a military installation, at a secure facility, reinforces the reality that these shootings can happen anywhere and are indiscriminate of geographic locations, or industry sectors. Our reality is that we live in a world where disturbed persons have access to deadly weapons and the results of the combination of the two are fatal.
It would be naïve to say that we can stop bad things from occurring, bad things have always happened throughout our history and will probably continue to happen. However, what is most disturbing is that these tragic events are happening in our workplaces. As a leader in your organization, you can ensure that your team is prepared for a deadly event should, God forbid, it ever occur. Make sure your leaders have developed an emergency plan and have reviewed it with every employee. If you have a large employee population, rehearsals may be a good option to use. Most importantly, if you can identify an employee who may be going through some tough times, get them help. The actions you take to save one life, may in fact save many more.