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Revisiting the Public-Private Divide: Workplace Violence and the U.S. Forest Service Open Access

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The Oklahoma City bombing put a sensational face on antigovernment violence. Yet, for all of the attention devoted during its aftermath to the growth and possible consequences of antigovernment sentiments, little systematic investigation has been done regarding the extent to which this type of violence may have permeated the government workplace. Further, scholars presently lack contextual knowledge about potential differences between public sector and private sector workplace violence in which to place hypotheses concerning the connections between antigovernment sentiments and the violent victimization of government employees. This article probes those connections through a study of the workplace violence endured by rangers of the United States Forest Service, in hopes of contributing to the understanding of the complicated relationships between workplace violence, antigovernment activity, and employment in the public sector. Analysis of the violent incidents uncovered through this study lends support to the conclusion that violence waged against government employees is significantly different than the violence being perpetrated in private sector work settings. These findings further suggest that antigovernment activity contributes meaningfully to the differences in workplace violence experienced by government employees.

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