Guest Column – Violence: How do we deal with it?

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Special to the Herald Times

Anthony Mazzola

RBC | In the wake of the Florida school shooting, I have been approached by numerous citizens in the county. I have thought long and hard on the topic, too. The question I get the most is, “What are we going to do to prevent this in our county?” I wish there was an easy solution, but there isn’t. Eliminating rifles and guns—currently assault rifles are not available to the general public and require a special license—passing new laws all sound so simple, but will not work.

The problem is multi-faceted and so are any solutions. We have to be honest with ourselves and open our eyes to the many contributors to the problem. This is a complex issue. We however, cannot sit back and tell ourselves it will never happen here. We cannot ignore the issue and run from the work it will take to solve this problem.

I am writing this to challenge the leaders and citizens of this county to take control of our situation. It is our community and we need to own it and take care of our citizens. I don’t want the State or the Feds telling us what we need to do to fix our community. Rio Blanco County is a leader in many areas and we are recognized by our peers for our accomplishments. So why don’t we take the lead in this and make our community the way we want it?

One idea I am presenting to the community is the placement of a School Resource Officer (SRO) in each school district. This is one step in keeping our children safe in the schools. A team approach to implementing the SRO by sharing the costs among us would lessen the burden of one agency having to take to full financial load. I have spoken to our schools and the police departments and they are willing to start the dialog in putting this together. This is not a complete fix for the problem, but a step in the right direction.

Let’s begin discussions about the contributing factors. Guns, mental health, family dynamics, economic problems, morals, video games, lack of respect for life and background checks all need a closer look. In all of the high profile shootings these issues were present in some form.

How do we as a community start to address these? We start by bringing together the many stakeholders of this community; law enforcement, hospitals, schools, clergy, town and county government and citizens to have an open and honest discussion. We can begin by brainstorming ideas to keep our communities safe, overcome the legal barriers of sharing information, how to provide assistance and take action. The “what and how” discussions might be long and difficult, but we are a strong, smart community that doesn’t run from hard work.

We know our own community best, so let’s create our own solutions to continue to keep it safe and prosperous for all. County Health Director Julie Drake and myself will lead in organizing this effort, we have already received much support and willingness from stakeholders listed above, and we will start the workshops to help with this effort.

Anthony Mazzola is the Rio Blanco County Sheriff.