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August 16, 2010

Cold as Ice

In 2009, there were six confirmed mass shootings by concealed handgun permit holders in the United States (mass shootings are shootings that involve three or more deaths). 2010 has seen this disturbing trend continue, with deranged and dangerous individuals gaining easy access to firearms and carry permits. In a recent tragedy, a Connecticut gun owner who was supposed to be an upstanding, law-abiding citizen revealed himself to be a soulless, cold-blooded killer.

According to his girlfriend, Omar Thornton went to work at Hartford Distributors on August 3 as if it was any other day. When he was called into his supervisors’ office he seemed calm and collected. After his bosses showed him and a union official a video of Thornton stealing more than $400 worth of beer and empty kegs from a truck he was driving for the company, he was given the choice of being fired or resigning. Thornton quietly signed his letter of resignation.

While being escorted out of the room, Thornton asked for a drink of water. Seconds later, he retrieved a handgun from a lunch bag and shot his two escorts, initiating a deadly rampage. Company Vice President Steve Hollander recalled that, “[Thornton] didn't yell. He was cold as ice. He didn't protest when we were meeting with him to show him the video of him stealing. He didn't contest it. He didn't complain. He didn't argue. He didn't admit or deny anything. He just agreed to resign. And then he just unexplainably pulled out his gun and started blasting.”

It was 7:00 AM—shift change time—when 50-70 employees were entering and exiting the building. Thornton walked through the building methodically, firing on his co-workers. He killed eight and wounded two before taking his own life.

911 dispatchers received a phone call from Thornton just before he committed suicide. “This is a racist place,” he said. “They treat me bad over here. They treat all other black employees bad over here, too ... I wish I could’ve gotten more of the people.” Secretary/Treasurer of Teamsters Local 1035 Chris Roos reported that, “There is nothing on record of any complaints from Omar [regarding racism at Hartford Distributors] and there had been no disciplinary actions with him prior to this.” No formal complaints have ever been made against Hartford employees or management for being racist.

Police reported that Thornton brought two 9mm handguns to work that day in his lunch bag, including a SR9 Ruger semiautomatic handgun, which he told dispatchers was one of his “favorites.” Police also found a shotgun in Thornton’s car in the company parking lot. The handguns were registered (along with three other handguns that Thornton had at home) and all the firearms were legally purchased. According to Thornton’s girlfriend’s mother, Joanne Hannah, Thornton possessed a concealed handgun permit in Connecticut and was planning to teach her daughter how to use a handgun. Thornton listed Hoffman’s Gun Center & Indoor Range in Newington, Connecticut, as one of his Likes on his Facebook page.

Almost immediately after the shooting, commenters at the Connecticut Gun Talk Forum were blaming the tragedy on a “gun-free zone.” “You know someone had to say this, but if someone there [at Hartford Distributors] had been carrying there would probably have been fewer people shot,” said “Gun Techie.” He failed to note that Omar Thornton himself held a valid concealed handgun permit under Connecticut’s “May-Issue” law, and would have been one of the individuals authorized to bring a gun to work to “defend” his co-workers under such a plan.

“Rich_B” went even further than “Gun Techie,” placing the blaming directly on Hartford Distributors: “It should be illegal to make a workplace a 'gun free zone' (otherwise known as a 'victim rich zone') for employees unless the company is willing to take on the burden and liability of providing an adequate defense against bad things happening to its employees while they are on the premises.” He then suggested that the concealed handgun permitting process be eliminated altogether in Connecticut because, “All it does is make a hurdle for people to exercise their right to defend themselves.”

Then “Rich_B” added something truly interesting. “You cannot prevent bad people from getting a permit or a gun because bad people haven't always been caught or shown signs of being bad yet,” he pointed out.

No clear distinctions between “good guys” and “bad guys”? It makes one wonder how arming more people under our current laws could possibly make our society safer...

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