Monday’s mass shooting at Old National Bank in Louisville is the latest instance of horrific gun violence in a workplace. The shooter was an “active employee” at the bank. Reports conflicted about whether the shooter was being fired.
Other recent workplace shootings happened on a mushroom farm in Half Moon Bay, Cal., in January and at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va., in November. Both were committed by someone who was employed or formerly employed by these establishments, reports Vox.com.
Mass shootings at work are rare. Mass shootings account for under 1 percent of gun violence deaths in the U.S. 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.
Mass shootings in the workplace have seen a slight uptick. Since 2020, there have been eight such incidents, says James Densley, a sociologist at Metropolitan State University. 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 between 2000-2009 and 17 occurring between 1990-1999.
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.
There could be several factors behind the increase of workplace mass shootings in recent years. More people physically returned to work when offices reopened. Overall workplace gun violence also spiked. In 2021, there were 387 fatal shooting injuries in workplaces, compared to 304 in 2020 and 351 in 2017, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Violence Project says 70 percent of mass shootings involved an employment issue like a firing, 23 percent involved interpersonal conflict, 13 percent involved an economic issue, and 13 percent involved a legal issue.
Workplace mass shootings appear to be following the same trends as gun violence in general, says Jaclyn Schildkraut of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at the Rockefeller Institute. Workplace shooters tend to pick these locations because of “ease of access and familiarity of the location,” she says.