Security

Security Theatre For All: NY Lawmaker Pushes for Metal Detectors Everywhere

"Something has to be done" is generally an indicator of a bad, reactionary policy.

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Not one to let a good tragedy go to waste, New York State Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) is working on legislation which would require theaters, malls, and stadiums to install metal detectors.

Avella told WINS-AM that in the wake of last week's movie theater shooting in Lafayette, LA, he decided "something has to be done and when you think about it, it's hard to realize that we live in a different world; but we do."

The senator plans to fund the presumably thousands of new metal detectors through a "public-private" partnership, which naturally means citizens will be on the hook for financing the growing security theater industry through both taxes and the costs that will be passed onto them by the businesses forced to install and maintain expensive machinery. 

As Matt Welch and I have written previously, the now-mandatory metal detectors at Major League Baseball stadiums are not nearly as sensitive as airport detectors, making their effectiveness largely based on deterrence. To Avella, the airport-style misery soon to be bestowed on any experience in which large groups of people are assembled is well worth it if it saves even a single life.

Security expert Walter Enders, who is decidedly not in the "do something, anything" camp, said this about metal detectors at stadiums:

You're trying to get in the door, there's 20,000 people standing around outside. I could do a lot of damage there, just as easily as I could if I brought the thing inside. Maybe even more.

Feelin' so safe out here in this angry mob.
Anthony L. Fisher

I had the same thought a few weeks ago, when I was stuck outside Yankee Stadium for almost an hour after the game had started, among thousands of other hapless fans herding ourselves into something vaguely  resembling an orderly queue, all in the name of our safety. I looked out at the angry, impatient, confused crowd and thought that just one person intent on sowing chaos and mayhem wouldn't even need a gun or an IED; something as relatively innocuous as the explosive pop of a cherry bomb would have caused a stampede, sending people fleeing into the Bronx's busy six-lane Grand Concourse. 

Try to imagine this level of generalized suspicion every time you go to a movie, a mall, a restaurant, a high school graduation, all in the name of "doing something" for our own security.

I would never be cowed by the terrible but highly unlikely prospect that I might be killed by a mass murdering gunman or a terrorist attack, but intrusive and excruciating security theater at the movies might be enough to make me just stay at home and watch Netflix. 

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  1. I say do it. Put a goddamn metal detector in every public doorway. Maybe people will finally rise up and say enough of this shit.

    1. Understand your point. We’ll see.

  2. We could just put ’em at home front doors. With a guard.
    Walk out with something metal? Pop! Into the slammer with you!

    1. I’ve joked about that becoming the standard for trips to the airport, but it’s clear that’s the next step for everything.

    2. Excellent! Thank you, citizen.

  3. Well, there’s that one Glock that’s completely invisible to metal detectors, so WHAT ABOUT THAT??!!1

    1. Tupperware terrorist plastic cop-killer!

      1. Ice-T’s new album?

    2. Ah, the infamous Glock 7. Costs more than you make in a month!

      1. WAY more

    3. I can see the headline now…

      RUBBERMAID RUGER REKZ RETIREES AT RECITAL!!!!111!!1!

  4. I suggest a portable metal detector that everyone wears. Anyone with metal on them beeps all day long.

    1. I’ve met some people that made me think it would be nice if they beeped when they backed up.

  5. might be enough to make me just stay at home and watch Netflix
    .
    Where the NSA can keep a careful eye on you. See, it’s not just security theater, everybody’s safer this way!

  6. Why stop at just metal detectors? Why not also greatly expand the TSA so that everyone gets thoroughly groped and has their shoes checked before entering ANY public place?

    This way we can all be assured of complete safety while also reducing unemployment to zero because of the demand for millions and millions of new government gropers. It will be like Krugman’s UFO invasion preparation idea, but with a more practical purpose!

    /sarc

    1. “Why not also greatly expand the TSA so that everyone gets thoroughly groped and has their shoes checked before entering ANY public place?”

      I know! It’s such a hassle to have to drive down to the airport when I want to be publicly groped by The Man.

      If we can have a chicken in every pot, why not a Groper on every street corner?

      1. Why not have half of us monitor the other half, and alternate days? We could have subsidies for gov’t service too! That way, everyone is employed at least half time, and with the multiplier Pelosi told us about, we’d actually make money! Sort of a societal perpetual motion security machine; or just another massive government circular reach around.

        I was however, surprised to not have the “If we don’t do this the terrorists have won.” stamp at the end. Give it up. The terrorists won the day ‘we’ decided to create the DHS/NSA/TSA monstrosity.

        1. I agree. In that manner each of us can truly be his “brother’s keeper.” Great insight.

  7. “something has to be done and when you think about it, it’s hard to realize that we live in a different world; but we do.”

    Keeping people from defending themselves and their families through those bullshit NY gun laws is “something that needs to be” repealed! How folks believe politicians should be protected by armed guards, but everyone else should have to give up their right to self defense is ludicrous. Shall not be infringed has turned into shall not be issued unless a person can show they are “worthy” of protecting themselves or their family.

  8. We need a detector which will tell us which politicians have heads of solid biscuit.

    1. That’s easy. All of ’em, except for the ones whose heads are hollow biscuit.

    2. BEEEEEEEEP!

      1. What about a rubber biscuit?

        And why the hell cant they spell it biskit? Like wtf were they drunk?

        1. +1 ‘nuthin

  9. but intrusive and excruciating security theater at the movies might be enough to make me just stay at home and watch Netflix.

    What the in hell is wrong with Netflix, Fisher?

    Also, this is just a job creator for New York’s burgeoning out-of-shape security guard unemployed, so I am all for it.

    New York’s new slogan: “Welcome to New York: empty those pockets and take off that belt.”

    1. In the Village, that’s an effective pickup line. NTTAWWT.

  10. “intrusive and excruciating security theater at the movies might be enough to make me just stay at home and watch Netflix.”

    I am sure NY State Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) and his US Senate clone Chuck Schumer have plans to require Netflix to install metal detectors and other monitoring equipment (the latter to ensure you are not watching ‘inappropriate’ material.

  11. “You’re trying to get in the door, there’s 20,000 people standing around outside. I could do a lot of damage there, just as easily as I could if I brought the thing inside. Maybe even more.”

    I think that’s what they found in Iraq. The bombers would blow up everyone standing in line to get through the security checkpoint.

  12. when I was stuck outside Yankee Stadium for almost an hour after the game had started . . .

    What could possibly have been happening inside the stadium that would have been worth doing that for?

    I won’t stand in line for an hour for just about *anything*, let alone an hour after the event has already started.

  13. New York, New Jersey, California, D.C.: I consider them American no-go zones.

    1. Well, that easy to say when you have a freakin clod buster.

  14. If the focus got taken off the theater of it all and moved to actual security, this approach might make sense. I have a feeling that if affordable passive detection systems for large crowds were developed, potential high risk targets such as malls and movie theaters might voluntarily invest in them. But since politicians have to get involved, the focus moves from actual prevention of violence towards forcing everybody to stop and submit to an invasive and useless procedure. Politicians are in the business of making people submit to power, not passively increasing well being, so when they get involved the focus tends to move that way.

  15. You’re trying to get in the door, there’s 20,000 people standing around outside. I could do a lot of damage there, just as easily as I could if I brought the thing inside. Maybe even more.

    Subpoena incoming.

  16. I see a number of good suggestions here. The one I don’t see is forcibly putting a metal detector up Tony Avella’s ass. Or maybe his ass in a woodchipper?

  17. Not sure what this really means, but security theater could be worse: when I was in Turkey off and on between 2 and 5 years ago, on of the striking things is that nearly every mall has metal detectors and the old style bag x-ray machines at every entrance. American-branded hotels, too.

    When I asked my colleagues what it was for, I assumed they’d answer like I expected: PKK and other internal terrorism. They laughed and said “no, it’s because of 9/11. When we first went to the States, we were shocked that there was NO security to speak of at malls and other public areas. We thought you guys would have ultra-security at the mall. The Turkish government encouraged their installation immediately after 9/11. Most of them don’t work well or at all.”

    We had a good laugh.

    It is rather creepy. All purses or bags of any size go through the bag scanner, and pocket metal should be emptied (but that part is usually what isn’t working well). Stern-looking Turkish private security guards watch you and lecture you if you don’t comply.

  18. Hell, just yelling “He’s got a gun!” in the stadium scenario would cause a stampede.

  19. While he may claim this is in response to Lafayette, it sounds more like retaliation against the citizens of NY telling their betters to go pound sand by ignoring the SAFE act.

  20. You guys don’t get it, do you. They are attempting to create more gun free zones, where lots of unarmed people can be killed. How difficult is it simply walk through the metal detector at the door of the mall and start shooting folks? Can a firearm be tossed through the air (in the space around the metal detector) to a waiting accomplice inside? How many armed guards will be stationed at each metal detector? This is all such nonsense; any idiot can find numerous flaws in this stunningly simplistic thinking.

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