In all the recent talk about gun control and weapons laws, a new device being tested by the New York City Police Department won’t likely get much resistance. It’s a high-tech gadget that scans through your clothes and can apparently identify whether or not you are carrying a gun. It’s called a T-Ray machine, and despite some pretty obvious privacy concerns, even the New York Civil Liberties Union thinks it might have some redeeming qualities.
The Wall Street Journal reports the T-Ray detects something called terahertz radiation, a natural energy that is emitted by people and can pass through some materials (like clothing). It can’t pass through everything, however. So guns will show up on the T-Ray screen as a black silhouette.
The way the machine is set up, it could conceivably be mounted on the back of a truck and sent into neighborhoods with known gun violence, says the WSJ. In other words, the radiation-detecting privacy-invader will largely be used in inner-cities.
There are obvious privacy concerns about the machine. Sure, it could identify a weapon, but what else will it identify and how will the police use this information. Also, how would they approach someone who the T-Ray identified as having a weapon—with guns drawn? And how likely is it that the police watching the machine would mistake a smartphone (about the same size as some smaller handguns) for a weapon?
Still, the New York Civil Liberties Union sees it as a possible solution to the overuse and abuse of “stop and frisk” by the NYPD—a practice known to disproportionately target minorities and make suspects out of law-abiding citizens.
Unfortunately, the NYCLU may be missing the point—wouldn’t a better alternative be policies and procedures that protect the civil liberties of New Yorkers, rather than swapping one abuse for another?
Also worth noting, the machine is being paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense—yes, the governmental agency that funds wars. The NYPD won’t reveal the cost of the machine or the trial program but has said it’s a multimillion dollar device.
The U.S Government has no qualms with spending millions to better control the citizens of the country. All under the guise of protection– local, state and federal authorities walk a thin line between keeping us safe and keeping us under their thumb.