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Is Gunman's Spree at Chicken Plant Really "Puzzling"?

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A day after the execution-style killing spree of Lawrence Jones at a Fresno chicken processing plant that killed two co-workers and wounded two others, headlines say the massacre is "puzzling" and "no one knows why it happened."

 

Jones, 42, "walked up to 32-year-old Salvador Diaz in the grinding room, put the handgun to the side of his head and pulled the trigger," reported the Associated Press. Diaz died at the scene. Jones then "put the gun up against the head of the second victim, 34-year-old Manuel Verdin" who also died.

 

Arnulfo Conrriguez and Fatima Lopez were also shot by the gunman but survived. Jones, of Fresno, also shot himself.

 

Why did a convicted felon and parolee have in his possession 24 rounds of .357-caliber ammunition, 21 rounds of .38-caliber ammunition and an expensive and rare .357 Derringer?  Lawrence Jones had a long rap sheet of criminal convictions--sentenced to 13 years in prison for robbery in 1994 and three years for burglary and robbery in 1991. And why was Jones armed at work?

 

Jones sounds like the poster child for the NRA's twin campaigns of allowing firearms in the workplace and allowing felons to bear arms. For years the NRA has tried to convince employers that shootings like yesterday's would not happen if they let employees bring their firearms to work. Heck, they'd be prevented. The gun lobby also doesn't think being a criminal should attenuate someone's gun rights. When the Sun Sentinel reported in 2007 that 1,400 probable felons managed to get concealed weapon licenses NRA lobbyist Marion P. Hammer said, "when you begin taking away the rights of people that you don't like, that's the slippery slope."

 

Jones brings to mind the gunman Radcliffe Haughton who killed his wife and two others at a Wisconsin spa last month despite a judge's order for him to turn in his firearms to a county sheriff. Haughton had a history of violence against his wife and was under a restraining order but a day before the murders bought a gun from a private individual. There is no waiting period or background check in Wisconsin for handgun purchases from private individuals, a loophole the gun lobby fiercely defends.

 

Of course, there's another issue besides the easy availability of firearms. Jones' killing spree also focuses attention on conditions in the nation's slaughterhouses.

 

When New York Times reporter Charlie LeDuff went undercover at the Smithfield hog killing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina he reported that Smithfield combed prisons for potential work release employees--and some prisoners preferred their cells to working in the plant. Don't people want to work anymore?

 

The Postville, Iowa-based Agriprocessors (now Agri Star) canvassed homeless shelters and bus stations to staff its kosher slaughterhouse after a massive immigration raid incarcerated most of its workforce. It also sought more undocumented workers through ads in Spanish-language newspapers and on Mexican radio stations in the Rio Grande Valley. Who can say scofflaw?

 

And at the giant poultry slaughterer House of Raeford, a Louisiana plant manager was shot and killed by an employee in 2004. Two years later, a North Carolina House of Raeford slaughterhouse employee was found shot to death in the mobile home he shared with three other workers--the apparent motive was theft of $60 of pain pills. (Pain meds are considered integral to slaughterhouse work.)

 

People don't like to think about the workforce and conditions--for both workers and animals-- in US slaughterhouses that keep their meat so cheap. It ruins the taste of Chicken McNuggets. And so, when a killing spree breaks out as it did yesterday in Fresno, it is called "puzzling." END

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