Multiple law enforcement agencies regularly patrol the Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Garlic and guns – certainly not a natural complement. It was a deadly ending for three guests at the 41st annual Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28.

While Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee at a press conference Sunday said attendees of the three-day event had to pass through metal detectors and were subjected to wands, I beg to differ. I was there July 27. Officials were not using wands on everyone; including me and my friend, Sue. There was no other metal detection being used at the entrance we went through.

According to cops, any initial security was irrelevant. The two gunmen cut through a fence to gain access, officers said. One assailant is dead. As of this writing, the other is on the loose.

This was at least my fourth time at the event. It’s always been fun. So much incredible food, most infused with a hefty dose of garlic. No vampires coming near me. Saturday was wonderful. We were there for the inaugural evening concert, where Grammy-winner Colbie Caillat with band Gone West delighted thousands.

I escaped a potentially life-altering experience by one day. The journalist in me is glad I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t have been running with the crowds to escape the gunfire. (Easy to say from a safe distance.) I would have tried to get photos; after all, I had a media pass and was there in the capacity of a photographer. Like any media at the festival, we thought we were there to immortalize this pungent vegetable and those who consume it, along with all of the fun that was going on. We were there like all other patrons – to enjoy ourselves.

No sane person opens fire at a crowd of strangers (or people they know). When is the United States and all countries going to put more resources toward mental illness? When are we going to make it more difficult to obtain guns? Clearly, not everyone is stable enough to own one.

“Thoughts and prayers” won’t solve the continual shootings in the United States. This is a country where about 40,000 people are killed by guns each year.

No one expects to go to any festival to be shot, to run from gunfire. No place is sacred. We know that. When places of worship and schools are fair game for gunmen we are no longer living in a civilized world.

Children participating in active shooter drills is a sad commentary on our society. This isn’t going to stop a shooter. This isn’t addressing the problems. Guns and mental illness are the issues. How many more people have to die, be wounded and have their lives changed forever before real change happens?

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