Keeping Folklife open and secure
Seattle's Northwest Folklife Festival, famous for being free and welcoming to all comers, ought to do something out of character: Folklife...
Seattle's Northwest Folklife Festival, famous for being free and welcoming to all comers, ought to do something out of character: Folklife should switch from a completely open Seattle Center campus to one with gated security entrances.
Such security may not have stopped a 22-year-old man with a concealed-weapons permit who is suspected of injuring three people at the festival last weekend. But a higher level of protection would work in the way that random, thorough checks at airports discourage certain behavior. Festivalgoers mindful that they face spot checks would think twice before bringing guns.
Folklife need not start charging to attend. The free admission and open attitude are part of the event's charm. Folklife has enjoyed 37 years of relative peace. The goal is not to knock the event or the nonprofit that runs it.
Still, we have to face certain facts. Seattle is changing, and in some ways, not necessarily for the better. Streets are a bit meaner these days.
This is not the first Seattle Center event with security problems. The Bite of Seattle and Bumbershoot have their share of rowdies.
A broader public-safety concern centers on the suspect and his mental-health history. The prosecutor described him as someone with a "history of anxiety and schizophrenia" for which he takes medication.
It is unclear if he has ever been involuntarily committed — or whether his mental-health status reached those awarding the weapons permit.
Either way, legislation should be adopted to ensure that people with serious mental-health problems are prevented from buying or possessing guns. State Attorney General Rob McKenna and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels worked last year for this type of legislation and were turned down.
Public safety is more important than the predictable political intimidation that takes place every time a discussion begins about sensible gun control.
Gated security at Folklife will not solve all problems. Security checks of handbags and backpacks — similar to those conducted at baseball and football games — would add a layer of protection that sadly has become necessary at Seattle Center's larger festivals and events.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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