Not-So-Sweet Sixteen

October 3, 2017

I founded Fast Horse on Oct. 1, 2001.

While I made plenty of time for golf, sailing and a new relationship with the woman who would eventually become my wife, I’d spent the summer of 2001 reading business books, doing a little consulting work and preparing for the grand adventure of entrepreneurship. I wrote a business plan, hired an accountant and lawyer and lined up a bank partner. I thought I had planned for everything.

I did not plan for terrorists flying planes into the Twin Towers a few weeks before launching.

I had already committed to office space and made a hire prior to that fateful day. Business cards had been printed, phone numbers ordered, incorporation papers filed. While I hadn’t yet lined up any clients, I did have some leads and things looked promising for a fast start. 9/11 changed all of that. This was new territory for all of us, and everyone, including my prospects, hit pause as we collectively tried to process what had happened to our country. There really was no turning back, and it would be months before we finally landed our first client.

As I sit here and write this 16 years later, much has changed for Fast Horse. We are a thriving agency with a deep roster of great clients, a stable full of fun, committed and highly talented professionals and a very bright future. We survived a very rocky post-9/11 start, and over the years, October 1 has come to be known as Founders Day at Fast Horse. It’s a day when we set aside the laptops and celebrate all we’ve accomplished together.

Sadly, Oct. 1 now also marks a much sadder anniversary for many in this country.

On the day we marked our sweet 16 at Fast Horse came news of yet another attack, this time a mass shooting — the worst in our nation’s history. Fifty-nine dead and more than 500 injured as I write this. Little is known about the killer at this point, though the details of his life and his motives for this horrific action will certainly trickle out over the coming days and weeks. But I can’t help but think that unlike 9/11, this attack won’t spur the kind of changes that will help keep us safe from those who aim to inflict mass casualties.

Since 9/11, our leaders have taken extraordinary steps to keep us safe from terrorists such as those who attacked the Twin Towers. We have sent our nation’s fighting forces to the caves of remote Afghanistan and villages of Iraq to hunt for the bad guys. We’ve installed sophisticated security screening at airports and other public venues. We’ve even created a Cabinet-level government entity dedicated to keeping the homeland safe. Those measures seem to be working. According to a study by the nonpartisan New America think tank, jihadists have claimed less than 100 lives in the US in 10 separate attacks in the 16 years since 9/11. Without some sensible legislation, I suspect that number could have been much worse.

Mass shootings are a different story altogether. According to a detailed analysis by Mother Jones, 510 people in the United States have lost their lives in 58 different incidents of mass shooting in the US since 9/11. Two of those mass shootings, San Bernardino and Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and 62 of those casualties, overlap with the list of jihadist terror attacks in the US since 9/11.

Those casualty numbers are horrific. So why is it that when it comes to mass gun violence in this country, we always seem to eventually move on, somehow resigned to living with it? Nothing ever changes, though the solutions are quite obvious. When you break down Mother Jones’ data, it starts to become clear how we can begin to address the problem: If we could pass legislation to keep guns, especially automatic and semi-automatic rifles, out of the hands of mentally ill people, we could drastically reduce the number of mass shootings and related casualties in the U.S. Unfortunately, our leaders are headed the other way on this.

What happened in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas. Without action, the slaughter of innocents is bound to happen again and again. Let’s honor the victims of mass shootings by finding the political courage to at least keep weapons of war out of the hands of mentally unstable people.

That would be something worth celebrating.