As scary as the New Year's Eve shooting in Old Sacramento was, there also is a danger in overreacting. Ending the annual fireworks celebration there would fall into that category.
It's not at all clear whether there's any real link between the event and the shootout that killed two people and wounded three, including the suspect and a security guard. The gunfire started with an argument in a bar two blocks away, and 40 minutes after the 9 p.m. family-oriented fireworks show, but the altercation could have easily happened another night.
In fact, you could make the case that precisely because it was New Year's Eve a big public event with a heavy police presence the chaos was brought under control with less bloodshed.
With nearly 100 police officers on patrol in Old Sacramento for the festivities, several officers on horseback and in cars responded within seconds to the shooting. They apprehended the suspect almost immediately after he went outside the bar, as well as the security guard who exchanged fire inside the bar and was confronting the suspect on the crowded street. Thanks to the professionalism of police officers, no one else got hurt.
Moving forward, city officials should of course look at prudent ways to improve security, just as they did following a fatal shooting in midtown shortly after Second Saturday in September 2010. Just as they found ways to increase safety yet preserve that event, they should do the same now.
While there are hundreds of public events on Sacramento's calendar each year, New Year's Eve presents unique challenges. The crowds are big (20,000 to 40,000, depending on the weather), the event goes late into the night and it includes alcohol. Requiring revelers to pass through checkpoints would be a deterrent but could require far more personnel to control access to the 27-acre district.
The city rejected a permit for a Times Square-like "diamond drop" on K Street on New Year's Eve, in part because of city resources being stretched thin with two simultaneous major events. Sacramento's only ball drop, in 2008, drew 25,000 people and overwhelmed police.
While officials aren't ruling anything out, it seems clear that the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, which produces the Old Sacramento fireworks, wants to keep them.
Steve Hammond, the bureau's president and CEO, told The Bee's editorial board on Wednesday that he doesn't believe one isolated incident the first serious violence in 12 years of the event should cancel it. If Sacramento wants to be a big-time city, he said, it has to have big-time events.
He's basically right. We should do everything we reasonably can to keep the public safe. What we can't do is let one reckless young man with a gun determine what kind of city we'll be.