Columns

Parkinson’s Trigger-Happy Silence

Image Source: SanLuisObispo.com (David Middlecamp)

I’m done with thoughts and prayers. We all should be.

A student killed 10 people and injured 13 others at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. In the United States, school shootings have increased dramatically over the past two decades. School shootings have become so frequent that students around the country are increasingly fearful of a shooting happening at their school.

Paige Curry, a student at the Sante Fe school, told a reporter, “[School students have] been happening everywhere. I’ve always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here too.”

This year, the casualty count from school shootings has eclipsed casualties of military servicemen. In our country, we shouldn’t be predisposed to the idea that our schools are less safe than war zones in the Middle East. But the precautions students must take — to avoid the unthinkable or reduce the bloodshed — are now a chilling byproduct of modern times. Duck for cover. Find a safe place. Run for your life. Participate in “active shooter” drills. Look out for students acting suspiciously.

SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson has a few ideas for handling school shootings, but only when the shootings happen first.

I read a recent column he wrote, which was published in SLO Journal Plus. He talked about providing state-of-the-art training tools for law enforcement, mapping schools “utilizing a consistent format and terminology,” and a panic button app for your smartphone to alert 911 dispatch and send an alert to all employees on campus. But nowhere does he address firearms in his column or advocate for any gun control measures.

Reeling from the shooting at Santa Fe High School, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo wrote on Facebook that he hit “rock bottom” when it comes to inaction on gun control. Acevado wrote that he had nothing to say to officials “who will once again do nothing” about it.

https://www.facebook.com/ChiefArtAcevedo/posts/1676298439150998

Parkinson has been silent since the shooting happened on May 18.

If or when he addresses it, will he talk about all the technology his department has invested in like a video game he just bought? Or will he pen a letter to the White House like he did in 2013 — after the shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut — affirming his support for a Second Amendment as if gun control means confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens? Or will Parkinson talk about how we need to look at the “bigger picture” like he told The Tribune earlier this year? To his credit, Parkinson identified other viable factors including mental health, drug issues and other social conflicts. Heck, he even threw in violent video games, though there’s no evidence showing that playing violent games causes people to act violently. Yet he framed the conversation as if this “bigger picture” excluded the topic on gun control. Since he was interviewed by The Tribune, Parkinson hasn’t held any comprehensive discussion about the big, armed elephant in the classroom.

How is Parkinson any different than GOP officials, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who seem to talk about every other issue but guns?

At an Oceano Town Hall event in March, as students across the country protested gun violence as part of “March For Our Lives,” Parkinson discussed how guns don’t tell people to kill; that knives and cars kill people too; that even discussing gun control causes people to argue. He pedals the same talking points we’ve heard from politicians backed by the National Rifle Association.

When it comes to law enforcement, we don’t expect a sheriff to be a politician. But when they get involved in the politics of gun violence, we need to hold them accountable like politicians. Then again, what value does that accountability have when we merely urge politicians to act and hope for the best? Fortunately, we’ve seen a resurgence in grass-roots advocacy. From the new generation of activists, survivors from the Feb. 14 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have ignited the conversation nationwide — with cooperation from long-standing organizations like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown for Gun Safety.

To date, I’ve seen no evidence that Sheriff Parkinson has recognized the grass-roots phenomenon surrounding the gun control debate. His reluctance reminds me of the fearful reluctance officials from his party continue to exhibit.

Does Parkinson fear the NRA as much as he fears telling the truth about Andrew Holland?

Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and activist David Hogg is thinking about studying at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He should. His voice would cut through our sheriff’s deafening silence on gun violence.

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