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  • Writer's pictureSpecial to The Professional

Kathleen Bonczyk: Preventing Gun Violence in the Workplace

By Alainnah White, 2L, FSU College of Law

Gun violence has become a prevalent act of crime in America. Unfortunately, we now prepare for mass shootings as we would for any regular day. We teach our families what to do if there's an active shooter and say goodbye to them each day as if it were our last.

The Workplace Violence Prevention Institute (WVPI) is a global nonprofit organization founded in 2015 by Florida attorney Kathleen Bonczyk. The self-proclaimed researcher and advocate started the organization after her husband experienced workplace violence when a 12-year-old shot and killed a teacher where Bonczyk’s husband was also on staff. That moment turned into a movement for Bonczyk. She personally understands that individuals involved in mass shootings are affected for the rest of their lives. The organization's mission is research, education, and the mitigation of risk associated with workplace violence. WVPI’s website clearly outlines the organization’s mission: Workplace Violence Can Be Predicted and Therefore Can Be Prevented.

Kathleen Bonczyk, founder of WVPI

The WVPI uses the expertise of professionals from various fields including law enforcement, risk management, safety, business, law, medical, and human resources. WVPI also utilizes survivors of workplace violence to improve workplace environments further through education initiatives.

From the legal professionalism standpoint, WVPI consists of attorneys interested in re-engineering mass shootings and workplace violence. Bonczyk emphasizes that it is too late once a mass shooting has occurred. Attorneys interested in advocating for WVPI must place prevention at the top of their goals and work closely with politicians to provide research and further the advocacy on a legislative level.

Statistically, most mass shooters are younger males. Bonczyk believes that contributing factors are their access to the internet, lack of parental supervision, absence of understanding of consequences, and mental health issues. Other concerns are potential mass shooters’ access to the dark web, the ability they have to obtain money to purchase weapons, and the "soft" treatment that they receive after the crimes occur. The WVPI places a heavy emphasis on investigating the financial funding of mass shooters. Long term, understanding where the finances are coming from could lead to a decrease in mass shootings. Again, this research is aimed at prevention.

Individuals often look at the systems in place and think they are broken and are the reasons the mass shootings occur. The public never questions how many people saw the warnings before the traumatic event and failed to report the red flags. Many times, there are digital footprints, some for nearly a year, that paint out the gun violence. For example, the Parkland school shooter published online months before the shooting that he would be the next school shooter. Only one person turned in the Parkland shooter for his publications online. Silence in these situations is a direct link to the violence that occurs.

WVPI does not just focus on school shootings, however. Another area of emphasis is workplace safety. Labor and employment law is a critical component of workplace safety. Bonczyk advises individuals considering law school and pursuing careers in labor and employment law to seek employment in human resources beforehand. Understanding an organization from the inside and its workplace violence prevention protocols allows one to understand how the labor and employment field works fully. Individuals already in law school and practicing law should seek pro-bono labor and employment law opportunities. Giving back to the community furthers one's ability to advocate.

Nearly 46% of all active shooter situations occur in businesses. Most attorneys work in the business setting, placing them at a higher risk of workplace violence. Therefore, attorneys must understand workplace violence prevention and speak with colleagues regarding active shooter practices. Bonczyk and her organization are at the forefront of active shootings nationwide. She encourages individuals wanting to learn more about workplace safety to visit her website and welcomes questions and concerns about workplace safety via email.



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