In the wake of what he called “a shooting a week” in the United States, Mono County Supervisor Larry Johnston has begun pushing for a “summit” meeting among Eastside agencies and schools.
Johnston, speaking during a budget hearing dealing with behavioral health services for county residents, won support for the idea from Robin Roberts, the county’s mental health director and alcohol/drug administrator, who presented her otherwise non-controversial budget projections for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year.
Johnston, however, interjected her presentation with an idea to bring together behavioral health specialists, school officials, law enforcement agencies and government entities such as the Board of Supervisors and the Mammoth Town Council.
The purpose, he said, would be to share information that could lead to a better understanding of what citizens can do, if anything, to prevent a mass shooting here.
“It’s not as if we’re immune,” he said after the meeting. “Every place is vulnerable, I think, or at least susceptible.
“For me, we should be prepared, or at least have some effort on a community-wide basis, to take a look at this to see what processes are available to help prevent this.
“I’m not sure there are any, but it seems like it would be worthwhile for the schools, maybe, to take the lead on this, and then bring in resources from the county, town, police and sheriff’s department—different people who might be concerned about it.”
Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson said the department would be supportive of such a summit.
“Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen a significant decrease in spending in the area of mental health,” he said. “The police department would be happy to participate in a meeting like that.”
Johnston conceded he was on unsure ground with his idea, but was bothered by news reports out of Las Vegas, and elsewhere, and reports of a mass shooting a week in the U.S., both in schools and other public places such as the Aurora, Colorado theater shootings and the shootings in a Las Vegas mall earlier this month.
“If something were to happen, I don’t want to look back and say we should have tried to do something or prevent it in some way.
“We want to make sure we’ve done everything that’s rational to do within the bounds of what we know about these kinds of events.”
Johnston said every community is different, and Mammoth is no different.
“We have a transient constituency, in Mammoth particularly, and maybe that changes it some way. I don’t know enough about behavioral health of people and processes to be a spokesman for that, but hopefully we can put something together.”
Johnston said he was aware of the Mammoth Unified School District’s responses after the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut, and that Chief Watson and school officials had taken action to better secure the school.
“I just want to look at it once again and make sure we’re doing everything we can do and what makes sense.
“Is it a mental healthy issue? Is it something parents are doing by not locking up their weapons?
“I just don’t know the answer, but if we don’t get out there and ask the questions and make sure everybody’s had good thoughts on this, it would be tragic if we had something happen here.
“Hopefully we’ll have a report back from Robin and see where this might lead and I’ll continue to ask questions as to what’s happening with that.
“It wasn’t on the agenda, and so on, but what I wanted to achieve with it is to go have a discussion with your peers and people who are concerned about this, because it sounds as if she was, and then come back and suggest some things.
“It may involve us, or just the school districts. It’s about awareness. Who do you call? What do we do if you suspect something?
“In Las Vegas, a neighbor who lived next door [to the shooters] is lamenting how she could have done something because she saw the signs and didn’t have the fortitude, or the knowledge, to go do something.
“People should be aware of the channels that they can take to maybe help prevent something.”