Half Moon Bay City Councilmember Adam Eisen is asking members of his email list a simple question: “For Pumpkin Festival, would you prefer to have officers armed with rifles?” His query comes amid festival security concerns raised by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

The matter is causing unrest. It shouldn’t. The simple answer to Eisen’s question is “yes.” Well-equipped officers at a high-risk event makes sense.

Not everyone agrees. Both Eisen and Review Editor Clay Lambert mention that officers openly carrying rifles at Pumpkin Festival could “take away from our small-town spirit.” 

That is understandable if the weapons were new. They’re not. They’ve been in our officers’ patrol cars for decades. Those cars, with those rifles, will be parked throughout downtown during Pumpkin Festival. Deputies have them because their handguns can’t compete with a shooter’s AR-15. Only reciprocal power can. 

Officers want to immediately neutralize threats without retreating to their vehicles. With bad guys in possession of weapons that dispense hundreds of rounds per minute, every second counts. The price we pay for delaying law enforcement’s response time won’t be a number. It will be a name.   

There’s also a concern that the proposal will embolden officers to act more aggressively. It could also infringe on our liberties. Baseless on both counts. Deputies already carry a firearm at all times. If they wanted to play Dirty Harry, what would’ve stopped them from doing so already?

Maximizing both liberty and security is ideal — precisely the beauty of this proposal. Officers with better firepower don’t infringe on anybody’s liberties. Deputies will simply be better prepared to defend us. 

So, this is about the small-town spirit. Perhaps. But it’s more likely that two different concerns masquerade in its place.

One is the desire for gun reform legislation. “The answer to gun violence is not bigger guns,” Lambert writes (Review, Aug. 21). He gives voice to many in the community. I agree with him that something should be done. 

Here’s the rub: Opposing increased security at Pumpkin Festival because new gun laws are better is a non-sequitur. Why can’t we try to pass new laws while supporting measures to keep us safe in the meantime? 

Lambert rightly answers this question: “How do we stop gun violence in America?” I’m asking a different question: “How do we keep the 2019 Pumpkin Festival safe?” It yields a different answer.

The second thing causing unease is the implicit message that visibly increased security sends: an attack could happen on our streets. The message is jarring. So is the world we live in. Ignoring hard truths to enjoy the facade of pre-mass-gun-violence serenity accomplishes nothing. Imagining things doesn’t make them so. 

Desire by itself is fantasy. John Lennon dreamed. He was shot dead. What matters is agency. Keeping the Pumpkin Festival safe requires that someone on our side act. The question is who?

Some look to legislators, but they should look elsewhere. Sacramento has already passed the toughest gun laws in the country. If you are looking to Washington during an election cycle, fat chance. Wait a couple of years. That will do little good when Pumpkin Festival is a few weeks away. Only law enforcement can help. 

One aspect of the Pumpkin Festival is often overlooked: It’s the Art & Pumpkin Festival. Art provides an escape from reality, so drop into a booth and gaze at an impression of the Riviera if the Sheriff’s deputies make you queasy. Take your time. Dream. Absorb a world where there are no problems, the only one where batons suffice. Just don’t confuse it with ours.

Quinn Eibert is a Coastsider and a student at Santa Clara University.

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