Backscatter technology to detect guns in Las Vegas casinos is not the panacea it seems to be. The device works as basically radar that identifies “gun shape” signatures. We discussed this in an earlier post.
Scanning customers is fraught with business pitfalls. Just imagine the first time a high-roller with a CCW gets tackled and disarmed on the casino floor. He’s probably not coming back. Regular joes who carry for self-protection will likewise be alienated if they are treated like potential terrorists for simply wanting to be prepared for the ordinary mayhem that occurs on the Strip.
Casinos don’t care about your safety; they care about money and liability. Those security measures are not there for your protection. You can thank those billboard and TV commercial attorneys for their part of that. Mass shootings and robberies look bad, but are extraordinarily rare. One faces a greater chance of being raped, beaten, murdered, or robbed than killed or injured in a terrorist attack. Yet some executive who knows no one will mess with him for carrying is focused on the bottom line and share price.
There is a beneficial use to these devices that could improve safety without alienating the legally armed public or accidentally detaining or accosting a tourist because of a false positive.
Hotel security could benefit from using backscatter devices as a identification and surveillance tool. The manufacturer and the hotel probably has no clue how they are going to use it. We tend to think of weapon detection devices as screening tools to identify who is armed and to get the weapon (and person) out of the environment. Think of a gang member trying to get his pistol through a metal detector and into a rap concert. In upscale casinos where few are likely to start blasting, such an approach is generally unnecessary and has the pitfalls I’ve explained previously.
Imagine you really do have an effective radar scanning the crowd. Individuals could be identified and a realistic threat assessment made. A man in a suit who looks like a cop probably is one and the older guy in a Hawaiian shirt with a revolver on his hip headed for the high-limits table isn’t going to start shooting. But the drunk guy, stumbling in the door and yelling with a Glock in his pocket might warrant a security response. A potential terrorist or robber could be tailed or intercepted at this point. A security check and extra visits to the room could be made for the guy with the rifles who might be here for SHOT or might not be.
Fancy electronics that promise to be the answer to all crime and terror problems fail again and again. Human failures to properly respond to identified threats (or to identify them at all) plague TSA, which is almost entirely reliant on wonder-technology. Magic detectors can’t scan for intention or control what goes on beyond the detection perimeter. The Brussels airport attack concentrated on the passengers outside the security perimeter. How difficult would it be to simply walk down the Strip and start shooting outside the doors or shoot one’s way inside the hotel?
Yet even if a "smart" approach is used, the only persons who are safe to approach would be those legally armed citizens who are not going to use their weapons to begin with. A terrorist or dangerous criminal who is suddenly approached by security will likely react violently. Consequently, security will probably do nothing and call police, hoping they arrive before whatever unfolds. So, like all security theater and gun control, backscatter will target non-threats and disarm the honest.
Security’s options for deal with an “armed” subject are limited. Legally, they cannot detain you or put their hands on you for simply possibly having a gun. All they can do is ask something like “Do you have a firearm?” (or 20 AR-15s in your suitcases) You have no duty to answer or even stop. Assuming you tell them to pound sand, at that they can ask you to leave. If you fail to leave at that point, then you would be trespassing. And if you and they are cool about it, what are they going to do, ask you to check your gun? How will that make anyone safe?
Concealed carriers aren’t the type to worry about, but some idiot anti-gun executive is too stupid and unconcerned to know that. Last time I checked, there wasn’t an issue with people being shot on casino floors or in hotel rooms, especially by legally armed citizens. Rather it’s pimps and drug dealers getting into gun fights on the sidewalks and bridges or criminal victimizing unarmed citizens in parking garages or other dark places. If the person security detains doesn’t have a CCW, will they call Metro? I suspect it won’t even get that far before the crook either runs or shoots security.
And what exactly will hotel security do when/if they detect a terrorist with an AK under his jacket? I would be frankly shocked if any hotel has a security team that can credibly dispatch an actual terrorist threat. I know some crack security guards, but will they be on duty and able to respond in time—or allowed to? And let’s face it; given the events of October 1 no one should bet their lives on Metro’s SWAT team arriving in time or making tactically sound decisions.
There is always going to be a way to defeat or counter whatever security measures are in place. A layered, intelligent approach is better than a one-size-fits-all policy. Israeli airport security involves the human factor; does that passenger look and act like a threat, rather than the American, TSA style security theater of “Did that go ‘beep’ when he went through the machine?” Rather, our planes are safe, in part, because after 9/11, terrorists know the passengers and crew will beat you to death.
Casinos need to understand armed citizens are part of the solution to violence and terror, not a liability. On October 1, concertgoers tried to steal police shotguns to fight back. So to the gaming industry, give us a little credit and worry about the freaks, the pimps, and the drunks.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West