Will Gun Scanners Create a Market for Anonymous Objects?

27c1nypd gun scanner image 1 Will Gun Scanners Create a Market for Anonymous Objects?

Last week, as
noted on Reason 24/7, The New York City Police Department
announced that it’s rolling out portable terahertz scanners that
will let police “see” if people on the street are carrying metal
objects, like firearms. It’ll give the cops yet one more reason to
hassle people going about their business — a practice that’s
raising judicial eyebrows. Of course, the scanners are premised
on the idea that the items people carry are necessarily
recognizable, but their very existence may create demand for
versions of forbidden, suspicious or valuable goods that aren’t so
easy to spot.As CNet
described the new scanners:
The scanner is a device small enough to fit in a police van or
set up on a street corner that reads terahertz radiation, which is
energy emitted by both humans and inanimate objects. When aimed at
a person, it’s possible to see anything that is blocking the
specific energy coming off the human — such as a gun.
“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for
example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” Police
Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, according to the New York Daily
Since anything metal will block the radiation,
police will be looking for recognizable outlines. Specifically,
they’re assuming that a gun will look like a gun. That’s
traditionally been a safe assumption, since disguised weapons are
generally categorized as Any Other Weapons under the National
Firearms Act and subject to strict regulation. But guns that
don’t look like guns were a bit of a craze in 19th century America,
and there’s a market — usually illegal — for them elsewhere. Pen
guns are old hat, and European headline writers worked themselves
into a frenzy a decade ago when officials discovered that somebody
in the Balkans was manufacturing four-shot
.22 pistols that looked like cell phones.With
desktop manufacturing coming to a workshop
near you, and eager activists already hard at work to
circumvent gun controls, it’s easy to imagine Defense Distributed,
or somebody similar, creating downloadable plans for guns that
don’t look at all like guns, the better to befuddle the snoops in
blue.But gun-toters aren’t the only people who might not be
comfortable with the idea of law-enforcement officers lifting the
veil, so to speak. Journalists have long had a … strained
relationship with the powers-that-be, and they may not want police
so-easily identifying them by the cameras and recording equipment
stuffed in their pockets. Neither would activists monitoring police
behavior at a demonstration or during an arrest. Most of this gear
has been miniaturized in recent years anyway. So why not anonymize
it, too?
Sunglasses that record video and audio have already been
developed for the upload-my-skydive-to-Youtube set, so we’re not
far off.Even people who usually consider themselves to have nothing to
hide from the police may begin to feel uncomfortable revealing
their possession of expensive watches or high-end electronics to
public employees who aren’t always on the up-and-up. Or, for that
matter, public agencies seeking new applications for their toys.
Why, of course, scanners would never
be used to reveal the ownership of valuables that might contradict
the claims made in a tax return.Unless scanner-blocking metal-mesh clothing comes into wide
vogue (limited use would just advertise a suspicious sense of
modesty), we may soon live in a world in which  many items are
designed to be unidentifiable.

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Will Gun Scanners Create a Market for Anonymous Objects?

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